Civil rights claims related to standardized testing and the impact of ballot initiatives on minority communities are the subjects of research by two current Harvard Law School (HLS) fellows.
Jennifer Cabranes Braceras – a 1994 graduate of the Law School and this year’s Charles Hamilton Houston Fellow – is examining claims that state exams such as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) have a disparate impact on minority communities.
“The tests are revealing an actual problem,” Braceras argues. “By not administering the tests, it’s almost like a policy of benign neglect. You’re ignoring the evidence.”
In addition to her research on educational testing, Braceras gained local fame last fall when she served as a regular contributor to the Boston Globe’s op-ed page. An outspoken conservative, Braceras was asked by the Globe to add balance to its opinion pages during the suspension of columnist Jeff Jacoby.
After earning her J.D. from Harvard, Braceras served as a judicial clerk for the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She went on to work as an associate for Ropes & Gray in Boston. She is currently on a one-year leave to maximize the benefits of her fellowship at HLS.
Stephen Rich – a graduate of Yale Law School and the Reginald F. Lewis Fellow – is exploring how ballot initiatives, such as California’s Proposition 209, which curtailed affirmative action in public institutions, limit political participation by racial minorities.
“Most of these initiatives represented forms of political exclusion,” Rich says.
In addition to his law degree, Rich also earned a B.A. and M.A. from Yale. At the conclusion of his HLS fellowship, he will serve as a judicial clerk for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Established in 1992, the Houston Fellowship is intended to enhance diversity and bring under-represented perspectives to legal teaching. The fellowship honors Charles Hamilton Houston, the distinguished African-American lawyer and teacher who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1922. He was the first African American ever to serve on the Harvard Law Review.
The Lewis Fellowship is awarded to promising candidates for legal teaching who have shown a strong interest in scholarship and teaching.