Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

Filter Dissertations and Theses By:

 
 
  • KEEPING COUNT OF ALL AND LOSING COUNT OF A FEW: THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT RATE

    Author:
    Shana Henry
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The quality of the construction of the high school dropout rate is the policy issue investigated in this dissertation. This qualitative dissertation explores the constructs necessary to create a high school dropout rate and seeks to unearth complexities in the construction of the high school dropout rate. Every single year, approximately 1.2 million students do not earn a high school diploma. Dropout rates are one method of assessing the magnitude of the problem and helps to shed light on the health of the public school system. A number of researchers have questioned the accuracy of data reported by schools for public information. Current educational procedures regarding non-completion are ineffective with respect to calculating dropout rates. In the absence of clear standardization of student exit codes at any level of government, comparisons across states are arbitrary and therefore invalid and by extension meaningless. It is imperative to examine how the data is collected, reported, and verified. Several factors undermine the comparability that is assumed when educational statistics are reported. This investigation shows different ways by which high school dropout rates are constructed. The quality of the educational statistics should be paramount since they show trends in the health of the public school system and are useful for decision making. The youths that are exempt from counting in the dropout rate will continue to be ignored until this policy issue is addressed.

  • To Educate Feeling: Implementing Social Integration Curriculum in Trinidad and Tobago, 1950 to 2000

    Author:
    Heidi Holder
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Christa Altenstetter
    Abstract:

    In Trinidad and Tobago, a small multiethnic state in the Caribbean, education policies aimed at reducing inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions, and at integrating diverse ethnic and religious groups into a national identity were implemented as content and pedagogy in the social studies curriculum and as structural education policies meant to improve access to secondary schooling and social mobility for disadvantaged groups. Historical institutionalism theory in conjunction with frameworks and theoretical perspectives from comparative and international education, globalization and education, political science and public administration were used to analyze primary and secondary historical documents from the 1851 to 1950 period, semi-structured interviews of government bureaucrats and educators, and policy documents and policy-related documents from 1950 to 2000. Data analysis revealed that rules, routines and procedures from the 1851 to 1950 period were so institutionalized in the Trinidad and Tobago education system that they constrained the behavior of policy actors making it difficult for actors to adjust rules, routines and procedures to do things differently than they had in the past. As such, curriculum and structural education policies aimed at reducing inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions, and at integrating diverse groups into a national identity during the 1950 to 2000 period were often formulated and implemented in much the same way as they were during the 1851 to 1950 period. Data analysis also revealed that the implementation of structural and curriculum policies aimed at reducing inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions and at integrating diverse ethnic and religious groups into a national identity were hindered by several factors, including: the command and control nature of the Trinidad and Tobago bureaucracy; poor coordination between ministry of education agencies; the wording of statues; the knowledge and attitude of teachers; managerial skills; work load at all levels of the education system; as well as other contextual factors that are inherent to the Trinidad and Tobago case.

  • Using Cogenerative Dialogue to Transform the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics in Urban High School

    Author:
    Samuel Jackson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This dissertation focuses on improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in urban schools for African-American and minority students. My students played important roles as co-researchers in this two years ethnographic study conducted in a Queens, New York high school in which I employed cogenerative dialogue and coteaching as the two central research methods for connecting with students socially, culturally, and academically as I believe in a polyphonic and polysemic characterization of our classroom experiences. This is central in understanding how African-American and minority students interact, construct knowledge, and experience learning in urban schools. As such, different theories were utilized at different times to make sense of our practices and understandings as new outcomes are produced, as the study progressed. At the same time, my identity along with students' identities was constantly being transformed by our experiences in the classroom. At different stages of the research, our changing focus, ontology and epistemology dictated the theoretical method that was employed.

  • The Paradox of Concern: Nationalist Discourses and the Education of "Immigrant" Youth in a Danish Folkeskole

    Author:
    Reva Jaffe-Walter
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Stacey Lee
    Abstract:

    This dissertation, drawing from an ethnographic study of the experiences of Muslim first and second generation Muslim youth in a Danish Folkeskolen, examines the conflicting narratives of immigration in Danish society and how these discourses influence the schooling and the identitification processes of Muslim immigrant youth. Prior to 1960, Denmark was, ethnically, a relatively homogenous country that prided itself on its commitments to social equality, humanitarian aid and openness to refugees. However, since the 1990s Denmark has experienced the emergence of nationalist discourses that construct immigrants as racialized outsiders. This dissertation explores how social stereotypes of Muslim identities are produced, circulated and debated within the media and education policies and how they are taken up within everyday school practices of teaching and learning as well as in interactions between different actors in schools. It considers how Muslim immigrant youth position themselves and are positioned within hierarchies of racial and cultural difference that influence their access to resources in school and society. However, it also explores how immigrant youth and teachers create critical counter-narratives that challenge and reframe negative social stereotypes in ways that forward new conceptions of belonging within Danish society. In educational spaces long committed to social equality and child-centered education, teachers expressed desires to help immigrants, to extend the benefits of "democratic" society as they enacted assimilitive practices that were cloaked in the benevolent language of "concern". School was imagined as a site to enlighten and civilize Muslim students. While teachers conceived of school as being "open" and inclusive of cultural and religious differences, findings suggest that school is implicitly a Danish and Christian space where immigrant students were positioned as racialized outsiders. The data presented here reveal how immigration discourses inform the amplification of everyday events and particular moments in adolescence that are understood to be critical opportunities for cultural and national intervention. This work therefore seeks to reveal the complex dimensions of concern that may mask coercive and assimilative practices. Paradoxically, concern may lead to misrecognition and derail the types of authentic student teacher relations that are associated with educational and civic engagement.

  • LEARNING TO STAY: A CASE STUDY ON AGROFORESTRY EDUCATION FOR THE SUSTAINABILITY OF RURAL YOUTH IN DARIEN, REP. OF PANAMA

    Author:
    Fulvia Jordan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Joel Spring
    Abstract:

    Attending and completing upper secondary school in Darién, located on the eastern side of Panama, presents several challenges for the youth; these are largely attributed to: 1) lack of access to upper secondary schools, caused by geographic and socioeconomic factors; 2) poor regional education policies; and 3) inadequate infrastructure (e.g. transportation, potable water and electricity) that supports inconsistent school attendance. The purpose of this dissertation was to learn about an alternative solution to the educational problems in Darién, offered by Colegio Agroforestal de Darién, a boarding school. The research question that guided this study was: in what ways does a school with an agroforestry curriculum contribute to the sustainable development of the youth in Darién? Sustainable development here refers to the prospects for students to improve their socioeconomic conditions as a result of their technical education, while acquiring competencies to support the preservation of their ecosystem (UNESCO, n.d.). Darién is the most sparsely populated region of the country--3.7 inhabitants per square kilometer--and the region with the highest rate of extreme poverty; Darién accounts for 52.7% of the national poverty rate (Contraloría General, 2008). It is also home to a diverse population; 23% Afro-Latino, 30% Indigenous and 47% Colono-Latino (IADB, 2002). Using a mixed methods approach informed by rural development and place-based education (Gruenewald, 2003) conceptual frameworks, the study focused on data from the 2007, 2008 and 2009 graduates and from the 2010 current students. Findings in this study revealed that graduates assessed their training in agroforestry --agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry and land management--as significant in preparing them for employment and motivated many to pursue tertiary education. However, limitations to the continued accomplishments of the school were also found. This study adds to the body of literature that links the practice of agroforestry systems in developing countries with poverty reduction (Garrity, 2004). Moreover, there is a paucity of empirical qualitative literature that speaks to the contribution of education, particularly in rural places, in the livelihood of youth in Panama.

  • Creating Collaborative Partnerships to Support Teacher Growth: Mapping the Partnership Process

    Author:
    Lynda Kennedy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Philip Anderson
    Abstract:

    The urban setting has tremendous resources for the support of teaching and learning social studies and history but many teachers do not know how to make use of them. Collaborations centered on teacher professional development between cultural institutions such as museums, historical societies, historic houses, libraries, etc., universities and k-12 schools can create wider communities of practice that can support the professional growth of history and social studies teachers from their pre-service education throughout their careers. This qualitative case study - grounded in the social/historical context of teacher education and a century of history/social studies pedagogy both in school and cultural settings - examines the process of learning to collaborate as it was undertaken by a group of five institutions, each with its own distinct organizational culture. Organizational theory is used to develop a working definition of what it means to collaborate and highlight the elements that allowed the collaboration to be successful. This study provides a road map for collaboration that can be used by all organizations dedicated to teaching and learning who would like to reach out across the boundaries of their institutions to work together toward the common goal of developing quality teachers and teaching in the urban setting.

  • ARE BLACK GIRLS THE NEW NUMBER RUNNERS? AN ANALYSIS OF BLACK GIRLS AND HIGH SCHOOL MATHEMATICS

    Author:
    Carolyn KIng
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Juan Battle
    Abstract:

    According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), one out of every 100 employed scientists and engineers in the United States is a Black female. This statistic prompts the examination of Black females and mathematics. How do individual-level (educational aspirations), familial-level (support), and school-level (school characteristics) variables impact Black female students' proficiency in high school mathematics as well as predict their enrollment in postsecondary math courses? Employing four waves from the National Education Longitudinal Study (1988, 1990, 1992, & 1994), this study seeks to add to the discourse on achievement in mathematics by examining factors which impact outcomes in mathematics for a nationally representative sample of Black females. The theoretical framework for this dissertation will include, but not be limited to, social and cultural capital (Bourdieu and Coleman), intersectionality and standpoint (Crenshaw and Collins) theory. Variables from all three levels affected Black females' achievement in high school mathematics. The score on the twelfth grade math exam was significant in predicting the likelihood that a Black female enrolled in a regular mathematics course in a postsecondary institution. The findings from this study will help inform the development of interventions and strategies aimed at increasing the mathematics proficiency of Black females and their enrollment in postsecondary mathematics courses.

  • Navigating the Gaze: Young People's Intimate Knowledge with Surveilled Spaces at School

    Author:
    Patricia Krueger
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The 1980s introduced numerous state and federal policies that created a similar ideology of discipline and punishment in the educational system and the criminal justice system, a phenomenon known today as the school-to-prison pipeline. Several critical elements are involved in the production and maintenance of the school-to-prison pipeline, such as zero tolerance regulations, surveillance technologies, and strengthened in-school discipline practices. In this dissertation I argue that these elements of the pipeline maintain a strong presence and occupy the physical spaces of public schools. Moreover, surveillance cameras and police officers are most often installed in the cities' most under-resourced public schools, and poor, immigrant and students of color are most likely to attend these same schools. In this study I describe the research process of the youth participatory action research collective called Student Supporting Action Awareness formed for this study. Collectively, we document how students navigate through the surveilled spaces of some of New York City public high schools. Through spatial examination and analysis of our citywide youth survey, as well as youth researchers' written and visual narratives, this mixed method participatory action research interrogates the social fabric as produced by dominant social institutions, and it investigates how the criminalization of youth affects student academic motivation and resourcefulness. This study selects methodologies from education, environmental and social psychology, but also relies on critical theory, political economy, and participatory action research to document student narratives, their perceptions of space and place, and their lifeworlds amidst intensified school policing procedures. The data analysis in this dissertation is inspired by the work of geographers Cindi Katz, Henri Lefebvre, and especially by Edward Soja and his theoretical framework of "Third Space" to situate young people's lifeworlds within the constantly redefined, restructured and reshaped spaces at urban public schools. The concluding chapter challenges mainstream epistemologies of the school-to-prison to reframe and change the discourse, research, policy and practices concerning school safety. The last chapter also provides considerations for data analysis, research methods and policy recommendations for this work.

  • Authoring Mathematical Selves

    Author:
    Rachel Lambert
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Wendy Luttrell
    Abstract:

    How do middle school kids develop identifications with mathematics over time, seeing themselves as agents in the figured worlds of their math classrooms (or not)? This ethnographic and interview study followed nine focus Latino/a kids though their sixth and seven grade inclusive mathematics classrooms in a high-poverty urban school. The kids participated in two kinds of mathematical pedagogy that differently constructed ability and disability in mathematics. Individual kids constructed unique self-understandings as math learners over time, using the cultural resources of multiple figured worlds (mathematical, social, special education, friendship). Most of the focus kids used conceptions of competence forged in memorization to understand themselves as learners who either get it fast or struggle slow. Other kids used alternative conceptions of competence such as persistence and creativity in mathematics. Kids narrated the critical importance of relationships and emotions in their experiences in mathematics classes.

  • Resisting Regulation: LGBTQ Teens and Discourses of Sexuality and Gender in High Schools

    Author:
    Darla Linville
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    This dissertation documents a participatory action research project designed to understand discourses of sexuality and gender in New York City high schools. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students participated as co-researchers in documenting discourses in popular culture, news reports, youth development reports, and through writing exercises about their own experiences. Together researchers created a modified Q sort (the Queer Q Sort) and surveyed a snowball sample of 21 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) high school students about the discourses of sexuality and gender they encounter in their schools and the ways that they accept or reject discourses as they form their identities. In order to imagine other frameworks for understanding sexuality and gender beyond the discourses of safety, victimization, disease and raging hormones, researchers wrote counter-narratives of their experiences that challenge discourses that reference mental health, physical health, pedagogy and morality. Youth researchers created spatial representations of the ways discourses work I the spaces of their schools by drawing maps showing how the movement and behaviors of bodies are regulated. My analysis triangulates the findings of the Queer Q Sorts, the maps and the discussions and writings of the youth researchers to show that young people create alternatives to the official discourses of sex education materials and much of the media coverage of young people and sexuality. I show that young people make ethical decisions about becoming sexual and fashioning their bodies in certain ways to reflect the gender identity and sexual subjectivity they wish to inhabit. Students advocate for queering schools by creating curriculum and pedagogical practices that allow critical analyses of gender and heteronormativity with the goal of helping their peers understand that binary categories are not givens, but rather social constructions we are often forced to perform. Using Foucault's theory and methods, the researchers challenged assumptions about teens as victimized, rebellious, promiscuous or innocent in conversations about sexuality and gender in schools.