Meet Social Science Scholar Hannah Justus

For my Social Science Scholars project, I conducted research on the relationship between COVID-19 education policy in Florida and Elementary student performance. This comparative analysis focused on how the method of delivery of classroom instruction – remote, hybrid, or traditional – affected the outcomes of student test scores in individual Florida schools in the 2020-2021 school year. I also served as a child advocate volunteer for the Guardian Ad Litem program in the 2nd judicial circuit of Florida.  

This project collected data on the pass rate of three standardized test subjects: English Language, Math, and Science. We collected data on the pass rate in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade on these subjects from every Florida elementary school for the past 7 years and compared this established trend with the pass rate of the 2020-2021 school year. We then will evaluate how this was affected by the percentage of students in each school district that used distance learning methods compared to those who completed their instruction in-person. We also looked at how this impacted typically disadvantaged student populations, particularly low-income populations, students with disabilities, and English as Second Language learners. The outcomes of this project are still to be determined as the data on how learning delivery method impacted student performance still needs to be analyzed. After the thesis is finalized, this data will be shared with the Florida Department of Education so they can better understand how each county using their methods of education delivery performed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I also worked with the Florida Guardian Ad Litem program as a court-appointed volunteer for four siblings who were placed in the foster care program. I visited them and their caretakers at least once a month and provided testimony in court hearings on their well-being. In this process, the children were placed in multiple different homes, and I had to navigate the difficulties that came from conducting visits over Zoom calls rather than in-person in trying to ensure the children were living in a healthy and stable environment. Eventually, the children were adopted by their paternal grandparents, and I was able to attend the adoption hearing on November 19th.

Overall, this summer experience had a significant impact on my life as I was able to recognize the importance of education policy and how advocacy makes a significant impact on those who are at a disadvantage. After graduating, I hope to attend law school and pursue a career in education law to be able to advocate for better standards and reduce education inequity. Working with the Guardian Ad Litem program and the Florida Department of Education made me realize that the law and policies that come from it are powerful tools to solve the injustices that still exist within our public systems. The Social Science Scholars program and the project that I completed under it gave me the necessary leadership development and skills I’ll need to be a successful future advocate, and I plan to use what I’ve learned my summer experience to make a difference in the lives of others.

Hannah is a junior from Naples, FL. She is earning a dual degree in political science and English literature with minors in psychology and French. As a Presidential Scholar and Institute of Politics Fellow, Hannah is passionate about human rights and education advocacy. During her time at FSU, she has conducted research at the College of Education on autism spectrum disorder, and she presented her findings on virtual reality as an autism intervention method at the President’s Showcase for Undergraduate Research Excellence. She has also spent significant time working on education policy as a legislative affairs intern with the Florida Department of Education. She is currently a volunteer with the Guardian Ad Litem program, where she advocates in the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court for the rights and needs of children in the foster care system. After graduation, she hopes to attend law school and to continue advocating for equitable education laws and policy in the United States.

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