Professional Biography

Dr. Davinah Sharnese Smith is a postdoctoral fellow in the Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Division. Her fellowship with Dr. Janine Remillard centers on working with teacher education programs and conducting research on teacher education. In 2017, Dr. Smith earned her doctorate from Temple University’s Urban Education program, where she was awarded the Future Faculty Fellowship. Her dissertation uses multilevel modeling and the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, a nationally representative study of American high schoolers. The dissertation examines the role of math identity and mathematics learning opportunity on racial differences in students’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career aspiration, advanced math course enrollment, and math engagement. Dr. Smith’s work details the limitations of math identity as a pathway to STEM; highlights the need for multilevel modeling in our understanding of racial equity in STEM; and calls for policymakers and practitioners to consider the structure of school and how it impacts racial differences in students’ STEM-related outcomes.

Dr. Smith is a first-generation college student, Gates Millennium Scholar, and former middle-years math teacher. Her passion for education stems from her personal experiences of being pushed out of school and into the school-to-prison pipeline as a K–8 student in Philadelphia. In addition to her doctorate degree from Temple University, Dr. Smith holds degrees from the Wharton School and Penn Graduate School of Education.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Smith’s research and teaching interests can be sorted into two core strands: (1) preparing teachers to effectively serve in urban contexts and (2) organizing schools to meet the needs of Black and Brown students. Across the strands, Dr. Smith applies critical race theory (CRT), a perspective that calls for researchers to consider the social significance of race in America when examining how students gain access to learning opportunities. Dr. Smith leverages multilevel modeling to examine concurrently how student and school-level traits impact racial differences in students’ academic outcomes.

Currently, Dr. Smith is publishing her dissertation, designing studies that examine how components of Penn GSE’s teacher education programs (e.g., mentoring) contribute to novice teachers’ developing practice, participating in the project team that is charged with teacher education program redesign, and teaching social foundations of education courses to novice teachers and undergraduates. 



Ph.D. (Urban Education) Temple University, 2017

M.S.Ed. (Elementary Education) Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 2011

B.S. (Economics) The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2009

Areas of Expertise

Critical race theory (CRT) in education
Access and equity
Multilevel modeling
Teacher education

Urban education

Selected Publications

Childs, D. S. (2017). Effects of math identity and learning opportunities on racial differences in math engagement, advanced course-taking, and STEM aspiration (Order No. 10270092). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. 

Cucchiara, M., & Childs, D. S. (2014). [Review of the book Readings for Diversity and Social justice (3rd ed.), by M. Adams, W. Blumenfeld, C. Castaneda, H. W. Hackman, M. L. Peters, & X Zuniga]. Teachers College Record