Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • ACCESS AND ENTRY TO HIGH SCHOOL CHEMISTRY IN NEW YORK CITY

    Author:
    Denise McNamara
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this study was to determine quantitatively the impact of various school characteristics on access to and enrollment in high school chemistry in New York City and to identify the issues that may contribute to the inequities in high school education, specifically S.T.E.M. education. The context through which this issue is examined is the restructuring and accountability initiatives that have been underway in New York City public schools as well as the accountability of cohort graduation rates. The issue of social justice and accessibility to high school chemistry was the lens through which this study was conducted. Mixed methodology was used in conducting the research so that a holistic view of the issue could be analyzed. Results indicate that the demographic and socioeconomic status of the students in the school district strongly correlate to the access to chemistry in that district.

  • Urban Students in Suburban Schools: A Dialectic of Potential

    Author:
    Amy Moran
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    City-to-suburb migration has been a leading cause of suburban diversification over the last fifty years. However, the impact of this transition on urban student migrants and the nature of their experiences in suburban schools as youth from the urban diaspora have gone underexplored. This dissertation addresses the processes of suburbanization that urban students undergo when transitioning to a suburban high school, the institutional patterns of reception and rejection they experience within a suburban school upon arrival, and the ways in which those patterns of reception and rejection lead to student attitudes and behaviors that exemplify both engagement with and disengagement from the suburban school habitus. Qualitative research methods with a focus on ethnography and participatory research were primarily used to study a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diversified high school in a northern New Jersey suburb of New York City. Central to the data collection and resulting policy suggestions was the Transitions Project, an on-going focus group of urban student co-researchers who, themselves, had recently transferred to this suburban high school from various communities in nearby New York City. The data show that receptive elements such as an engaging school environment, supportive peers and teachers, interest-based and leveled course content, and a visible connection between schooling and one's dreams for the future, as well as plentiful extra-curricular options, authentic advisement, dedicated participation, and holistic extra-curricular recruitment allowed incoming urban students to become engaged within the suburban school culture. However, various elements of suburban school culture that served to reject incoming urban students led to their consequent academic and extra-curricular disengagement. These data illuminate the ways in which the unexamined, intersubjective, and dialectical relationship between urban students and a suburban school impacts the school's capacity to be a successful transmitter of social capital to its urban student newcomers. Furthermore, the suburban school achievement gap eradication narrative will only be as effective as the extent to which suburban schools critically examine the policies and practices that receive and reject incoming students from the urban diaspora.

  • Think Tank Metrics and Schooling: Implications of Current Education Reform Policy for Democratic Education

    Author:
    Donal Mulcahy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Phillip Anderson
    Abstract:

    In this dissertation, I examine the role of school in society today. Who is determining that role, and what impact are current reforms having on schooling for democracy? Are the needs of the people and the workings of democracy being prioritized or are other goals prioritized even to the detriment of democracy? To engage this question, I examine some of the leading figures in what I term the standards reform movement, and their arguments in support of current standards reform efforts. In particular, I focus on the work of Chester Finn and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Foundation. Since serving under President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Education, William Bennett--co-founder of the Project for the New American Century--Finn has been part of a push that initiated the current trend towards centralized, standardized and results based accountability for schools. He is inextricably linked to the re-envisioning of the federal role in education that emerged at that time. Along with other think tanks such as the Broad Foundation, the Bradley Foundation and individuals such as Steven Adamowski and Arne Duncan, Finn represents the position that rigid national standards and government control of school curricula will lead to the kind of schooling this country needs. My research contextualizes the current standards movement within a historical framework and assesses the social implications of standardization. This context includes considering the thinking of early reformers such as John Philbrick and David Snedden, and scholars such as John Dewey. I apply a critical pedagogy critique to current proposals for school reform policy to better identify structures of power and knowledge production inherent in these reforms. In doing so, I draw on the scholarship of Ira Shor, Joe Kincheloe, Jean Anyon, David Berliner, William Domhoff and others. As part of my critical methodology, I further evaluate how the contemporary media driven public sphere is targeted by reformers and politicians as an arena to both garner support for their proposals and suppress opposition. Ultimately, I consider whether standards reform may better enable or hinder schools to serve students and a democratic society.

  • Transformative Brotherhood: Black Boys' Identity in a Single-sex School for Boys of Color

    Author:
    Joseph Nelson III
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Anthony Picciano
    Abstract:

    This qualitative dissertation is an outgrowth of a multi-site, longitudinal study of single-sex schools for boys of color. Employing a relational case study method for theory development, interviews, observations, and student identity projects were used to explore and describe how a cohort of seven, low-income Black boys construct an intersecting race, class and gender identity within a single-sex middle school for boys of color in New York City.

  • Transforming Liberal Education Through The Imagination: Critical-Creative Thinking In Higher Education Curriculum And Pedagogy

    Author:
    Karla Odenwald
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Philip Anderson
    Abstract:

    THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK ABSTRACT TRANSFORMING LIBERAL EDUCATION THROUGH THE IMAGINATION: CRITICAL-CREATIVE THINKING IN HIGHER EDUCATION CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY By Karla Odenwald Advisor: Professor Philip M. Anderson Taking the work of Maxine Greene and Elliot Eisner as a point of departure, this dissertation will argue that the general education college curriculum today needs to be seriously re-examined and re-evaluated if we are to provide students with the education they need. Students require a curriculum which gives more weight to the arts and humanities, one that will recognize, expand, and develop the cognitive, philosophical, and ethical dimensions of learning. The argument will be made for the implementation of a transformative model of education for the 21st century, one that will recognize young people as multi-dimensional human beings, who can and need to develop multi-modal sensibilities through the releasing of both their intellect and imagination as they strive towards a more fulfilling life and a more just world. It will be argued that the general education curriculum should work to enable students to think both rationally and aesthetically, leading to a more comprehensive education. It is proposed to achieve this end through the introduction of a new, merged form of thinking, critical-creative thinking. The argument will be made that this type of thinking can be cultivated both through the inclusion of more arts and humanities courses in the curriculum as well as through the implementation of teaching methods conducive to the development of critical-creative thinking.

  • Critical Connections: Technology Use That Empowers

    Author:
    Kate O'Hara
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Joe Kincheloe
    Abstract:

    This research employs the use of narrative and auto-ethnography in an examination of the complex relationships that arise when students and teachers use technology as an instructional tool. The story unfolds in an exploration of the significant impact and implications the use of computers and related technologies have on educational and societal spheres. This narrative, drawing from personal experiences in the secondary New York City classroom, also references existing published quantitative and qualitative research that exemplifies the use of technology in urban educational settings. Within a theoretical, hermeneutical framework, and couched in social theory and critical theory, the empowering potential of effective technology use by students and teachers is discussed throughout as well.

  • Teachers at Work: Factors Influencing Satisfaction, Retention and the Professional Well-Being of Elementary and Secondary Educators

    Author:
    Patrick O'Reilly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this study has been to explore the question of how factors in the work lives of teachers influence their experience of workplace satisfaction, and how satisfaction influences retention in the teaching profession. This study had three specific goals: (1) to examine whether five specified factors that teachers' encounter as workers influence their professional satisfaction, (2) to explore whether teacher satisfaction influences retention in the profession and (3) to determine whether school level taught plays a role in degrees of satisfaction a teacher experiences. Data was collected over a period of five months, using a survey administered to 133 teachers, and follow-up interviews with 15, ten of whom also took the survey. Analysis indicates that both intrinsic and extrinsic factors influence teachers at their work, that teaching is a demanding profession yet one that evokes significant loyalty among its workers, and that while school level taught does indeed play a role in professional satisfaction, teachers at elementary and secondary levels are most satisfied with their work when intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is fueled by a love of students, of particular subject areas, and of the teaching profession. External factors, such as mandated testing and teacher performance evaluation systems, seriously erode satisfaction. Teaching is both a highly personal and highly public profession; satisfaction is influenced by the extent to which factors such as school climate and support are oriented to allow for teacher autonomy in the classroom. The value of this study lies in the stories told, both through the survey administration and follow-up interviews, of the daily work-lives of teachers. Teachers are powerful work-agents insofar as they have the ability to shape the lives of succeeding generations. Their success depends on access to resources, appropriate support, and a measure of understanding of the complexities inherent in the teaching profession. It is hoped this study will contribute to that understanding and help enable teachers to translate improved work satisfaction to ever more successful teaching, with the likely outcome of well-educated generations of students.

  • USING COGENERATIVE DIALOGUE TO AFFORD THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF BIOLOGY IN AN URBAN HIGH SCHOOL

    Author:
    Femi Otulaja
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    Abstract The body of research work presented in this dissertation integrates critical ethnography with video and conversation analyses in order to provide ways to articulate and understand the complexities associated with social life enactment as it unfolds during cogenerative dialogues and in the science classroom as the teacher and her students engage in science teaching and learning. The primary goal is to improve the teaching and learning of science in an urban science classroom at a public high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In order to understand what is going on in the classroom and why, I worked with a female science teacher who identify as an African-American and her culturally diversified students in a biology class to examine teacher's and students' conscious and unconscious patterned actions, (i.e., classroom practices, that structure teaching and learning in the classroom. It is my belief that to improve science teaching and learning in the classroom, it is salient to improve science teacher's practices as a precursor to transforming students' practices. In order to ameliorate breaches in the fluency of encounters in the classroom, the teacher and her students need to establish and sustain critical, collaborative and collective conversations through cogen. I employ theoretical lenses of cultural sociology that I triangulate with sociology of emotions and critical pedagogy. I focus on culture as schemas and associated practices layered with the triple dialectics of agency, passivity and structure as new or hybridized/interstitial cultures that are produced get enacted in the science classroom to transform teacher's and her students' encounters with each other. The salient implication is that since encounters are imbued with emotions, teacher and her students learn to generate positive emotional energy during cogen that gets reproduced and transformed in the science classroom. Positive emotional energy creates resources that help to initiate and sustain interaction ritual chains that support synchrony, solidarity, sense of affiliation and identity that are necessary for the teacher to be successful as a science teacher and her students to be successful as science learners. Salient to the findings in this study is the need for teachers to envision teaching and learning as a collaborative and collective endeavor with their students. Teachers need the perspectives of others; and students are in the best position to provide the teacher with the authentic perspectives she needs to improve her practice. By being with and working with their teacher, students and teacher share their classroom experiences with each other, in an environment void of hegemony, in order to achieve their individual goals and collective motives in the urban science classroom. Teacher and her students get to know more about each other socially and culturally and are able to work through their differences to achieve success.

  • Schooled Out: Black male teachers experiences schooling in, teaching and leaving New York City Public Schools

    Author:
    Amber Pabon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    Black male teachers make up less than 2% of the American public school labor force (Brockenbrough, 2008; Dee, 2005; Lewis, 2007). We know little about their life histories and teaching experiences. This qualitative study draws from concepts on languaging (Garcia, 2006) and African oral tradition (Smitherman, 1977) and life history (McAdams, 2008) and critical race theory. I utilize life history interview methods and narrative analysis to examine the narratives of seven Black male teachers. Former students of urban schools and current teachers in New York City public schools, these "inner-city griots" (Freestyle Fellowship, 1993) speak their truths to power.

  • School Closings and Governance Changes in New York City: The Battle over Equity, Accountability, and Community Engagement Across Shifting Terrain

    Author:
    Liza Pappas
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    This dissertation describes and captures the contentious politics concerning school closing proposals introduced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Education (NYCDoE) in years 2010-2011. It analyzes a variety of actors' framings of school closures, as well as respective actions they take to influence policy. Drawing upon interviews, observations, surveys, and documents, this study explores two fundamentally distinct and non-communicative theories of school improvement. The NYCDoE's rationale for school closings is part of a larger school improvement framework built on the pillars of choice, accountability, and a new management and governance structure, what can be understood as neo-decentralization. The Coalition of Educational Justice (CEJ), a parent-led education coalition, challenges the rationale and implementation of school closure policy, and proposes an alternative vision and set of actions for schools to improve. Utilizing interpretative policy analysis (Yanow, 2000) across data and settings helped focus on how the meanings of policies are communicated to and "read" by various constituencies. Analysis revealed a sharp contrast between philosophies and practices promulgated on how schools improve. Other findings point to strategies for those school communities engaged in the phenomenon of school closings, contesting specific school closing proposals or proposing viable alternatives. The central finding of this dissertation is the role that delocalized centralism plays as part of the Portfolio Management Model (PMM), and the challenges it presents to the communities it purports to serve. PMM offers more than a new approach for restructuring the delivery of education services; it remaps the school district into an open marketplace and reshapes schools' relationships to neighborhoods and student and families' relationships to their neighborhood schools. Delocalized centralism extends the notion of decentralized centralism (Karlsen, 2000) by emphasizing the geographical aspects of governance arrangements. Delocalized centralism explains how accountability is removed from local agents, leaving families without actual places to go with their questions and concerns about their children's education. The NYCDoE's new management structure serves a function of conflict management and appears to buffer the Central Office from the needs and input of students, parents, and teachers. The remapping of the school governance terrain poses significant new challenges not only to families, but also for education organizing.