Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • College Students with Learning Disabilities in New York City: A Mixed Methods Study of Social Class and Success

    Author:
    Ashleigh Thompson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    This study explores ways in which socioeconomic status and disability shape the academic experience of New York City college students with learning disabilities. Despite laws and policies designed to provide them with accommodations, college students with disabilities do not attain higher education at rates equal to their nondisabled peers (NCES, 2000). This mixed methods study examines policies, practices and perceptions at four-year institutions in New York City, and explores how the socioeconomic class of students affects their experience in schools and indicators like attendance patterns, persistence and graduation. Administrative data compiled and analyzed for a sample of baccalaureate-granting institutions in New York City (n=44) show that 43 percent of students city-wide qualify for and receive need-based federal grant aid. Colleges with lower percentages of Pell-usage (higher student body SES) have higher percentages of students with disabilities. Numbers of students with disabilities in New York City are largely underreported at about 3 percent, falling short of state and national averages. Survey data from Disability Services Officers at these institutions (n=21) and interviews with staff and students (n=19) provide supporting quantitative and qualitative data to demonstrate the ways colleges create environments that enable or hinder student success. Theoretical considerations of political economy and meritocracy interrogate the notion of how students are judged to be academically successful. Informed by these data and perspectives, recommendations for policy and practice focus on constructive ways to identify and support all students with disabilities in order to help them succeed in higher education and realize stronger economic futures.

  • Where's the Staying Power? Factors Influencing Dropping Out Among Black Students

    Author:
    Judy Touzin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Juan Battle
    Abstract:

    Abstract WHERE'S THE STAYING POWER? FACTORS INFLUENCING DROPPING OUT AMONG BLACK STUDENTS by JUDY TOUZIN Advisor: Professor Juan Battle Statistics show that the odds of transitioning from school before graduating are much higher for Black students than their white counterparts (NCES, 2011). In 2006, the national high school graduation rate for Black students was 51% with females at 58% and males at 44%. Such dismal figures speak to the need to study the various factors that influence the likelihood that Black students will drop out of school. This study considers several demographic, aspirational, and school culture variables and their value in predicting whether Black students will drop out. The data used in this study are taken from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS) conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Multiple regression analyses were utilized to determine which independent variables have the greatest impact on predicting dropping out among a nationally representative sample of Black students. The theoretical framework for this study will include discussions of structure versus agency, social and cultural capital theory (Bourdieu), as well as psycho-social aspects of individual and collective identity development (Bronfrenbrenner and Ogbu). For Black students overall, aspiration level variables were the greatest predictors, with students' expectations for themselves being robust throughout. For Black males, urbanicity was also a significant factor in predicting drop out, along with school level variables for "not being put down" and knowing rules. The findings from this study will increase an understanding of the factors that affect the academic achievement of Black students and other vulnerable populations. This dissertation will inform intervention strategies as well as future policy initiatives designed to improve those outcomes.

  • Education Policy and the Mathematics Curriculum in New York City Middle Schools, 1958-2002

    Author:
    Joseph Valley
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Gold
    Abstract:

    Education Policy and the Mathematics Curriculum in New York City Middle Schools,1958-2002 This study investigates how mathematics education policy and curriculum in New York City changed over the period from 1958 through 2002. It looks at the events leading up to the ¯new math era, the back to basics movement, and the Standards movement initiated by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in 1989. Since this period is bounded by two important pieces of legislation, the National Defense Education Act (NDEA),1958, and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) 2001 an assessment of the arguments for and against the federal intervention in education is essential. The research methodology used for this study is the investigation and analysis of primary sources and secondary data. The primary sources consisted of archival data containing records of mathematics education policy decisions, reports of meetings of officials of the New York City Department of Education, and curricula reforms over the last fifty years. The secondary sources of data came from previous mathematics education studies in the research community, including national studies that had selected New York City as a local site. Also, major pieces of relevant scholarly work on mathematics education were consulted. After a thorough review of the relevant literature and a careful study of the data obtained from the various source documents, it could be argued that notwithstanding the best efforts of many chancellors: a) the decline of the mathematics scores as students move from the elementary to the middle grades was never fundamentally better; b) the overall mathematics scores in grades 3 through 8 are still unsatisfactory; c) the achievement gap between students in poor neighborhoods and their more affluent counterparts is still cause for concern; and, d) there is still a persistent shortage of mathematics teachers in New York City schools. I further argue that since these problems have defied all attempts to solve them under the present system, it is obvious that a more concerted effort need to be made to understand the reason for these failures in the interest of the city`s children.

  • Educational and Occupational Aspirations of Undocumented Youth

    Author:
    Alejandra Varela
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT Educational and Occupational Aspirations of Undocumented Youth by Alejandra Maria Varela Advisor: Dr. Nicholas Michelli This study explored the educational and occupational aspirations of a group of undocumented Mexican youth by using quantitative and qualitative methods. A total of 125 participants, 62 documented and 63 undocumented, participated in the quantitative part. From this overall total of participants ten, (five males and five females) participated in in-depth interviews. The results of the quantitative phase indicated that the undocumented youth aspire to acquire a post-secondary education at almost the same rate as the documented youth despite the fact that they are unauthorized, have spent an average of ten years in the States and are not fully proficient in English. The fact that they are undocumented and face serious barriers in accomplishing these dreams did not act as a major barrier in precluding from having high aspirations. Consistent with the quantitative analysis, the qualitative data also showed that the undocumented youth are highly confident in their belief that having a higher education would eventually lead them to obtain the jobs they want even though they face such structural barriers. Time and time again during the interviews the youth explained the importance of education in their lives and asserted the fact that they want to have jobs where they are respected and where they can make enough money to support their own families. In the interviews, the youth demonstrated an awareness of how their condition of illegality might prevent them from reaching their goals, and while this is a source of great distress, confusion and uncertainty, they still continue to persevere in looking for any educational and employment opportunities available to them.

  • Children First Reforms, Fair Student Funding and the Displacement of Accountability in the New York City Department of Education

    Author:
    Daniel Voloch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Anthony Picciano
    Abstract:

    During the first decade of the 21st century, Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg oversaw a radical transformation of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) into a portfolio management district in which the primary responsibility of the NYCDOE was not to develop the capacity of school leaders or teachers, but instead to create a marketplace through which strong schools could be created and failing schools could be closed. Central to these reforms was a focus on the individual school as the site of both reform and accountability. In a 2006 interview with William Ouchi (2009), Joel Klein declared, "The school is the unit that matters" (p. 104). As Ouchi goes on to explain, "New York City's strategy was to improve student performance by allowing each school to elevate itself in its own unique way. The basic theory was that every school, given proper freedom and accountability with skilled leadership from the principal, will improve" (p. 104). As Leslie Santee Siskin (2012) notes, the mantra that was repeated throughout the Department of Education during the early years of Chancellor Klein's tenure was that the goal was to create a "system comprised of great schools, not a great school system" (p. 188). In order to hold individual schools accountable for results, the NYCDOE needed to restructure its school funding process to account for differences in student need. In announcing the proposal for Fair Student Funding, which would differentiate funding based on student characteristics, Chancellor Klein explained, "I think it's important to the city that we can say that we are being equitable, we are being transparent, and we are treating kids who are in a similar situation the same" (Foley, 2010). In theory, Fair Student Funding provides every school with the resources needed to educate its specific student population, and thus a principal has everything that he or she needs to meet specific, quantifiable outcomes. Yet despite the intention of Fair Student Funding to create a transparent and equitable system, the percentage of Fair Student Funding that a school receives varies anywhere from 81 percent to 134 percent. Of the 451 high school budgets examined, 8.5 percent (n=38) were fully funded, with the median funding amount being 86.19 percent. Furthermore, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between the percentage of Fair Student Funding a school receives and its percentage of low-income students, percentage of English language learners and the size of the school. That is, the higher the percentage of low-income students, the higher percentage of English language learners, or the larger the school, the lower the percentage of Fair Student Funding the school receives. Despite the pretense of transparency throughout the Children First reforms, Chancellor Klein made a number of policy decisions that privileged some schools over others and that ultimately reinforced some of the very funding inequities that Fair Student Funding was intended to address. Perhaps no decision was more important to the success of small schools, and to instantiating certain funding inequities, than the decision to bring in new schools at 100 percent of Fair Student Funding as opposed to the citywide average. In order to understand why Chancellor Klein made this decision, and why Fair Student Funding did not live up to its promise, it is important to contextualize its implementation within the following educational trends: 1) neoliberalism and a focus on individual schools as sites of reform; 2) the development of a portfolio management model that focuses on accountability as opposed to capacity building; and 3) the implementation of mayoral control and the neoliberal myth of political neutrality.

  • Educating Desire: Auto/bio/graphical impressions of addiction in/and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

    Author:
    Peter Waldman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is an attempt to connect the personal with the socio-historical--addiction with Addiction, respectively. It is also an attempt to demonstrate that knowledge production can be generated through radically non-traditional means. What follows is an interpretive, impressionistic, exploratory narrative about addiction in/and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It is also a narrative about Narrative. I `tell' a semi-fictional auto/bio/graphical tale of one `open' AA meeting in order to disclose what it's like to be an addict and a newcomer in AA. In the `notes' sections after all but one of the chapters the sober researcher takes over. These `made-up' aspects of the narrative--the multi-tracked narrator's voice, shifts in point-of-view, playing with time, and the semi and sometimes totally imagined "characters" I encounter at the meeting and elsewhere--are all part of the fiction I've made of my personal history as an addict and newcomer in AA. This complicates the relation between knower and known while enriching and enlivening the narrative, which is the rationale of the methodology: to draw the reader in. Full disclosure: While I've never been an AA member, I've attended at least twenty meetings in earnest in attempts to (re)mediate a serious addiction to prescription painkillers. The standards of my impressionistic auto/bio/graphical tale are literary, not disciplinary. Like the novel, autobiographical writing allows for the psychological and the phenomenological, i.e., for description alongside glimpses into the processes of consciousness, the author/researcher taking the part of the student, and the narrative as a whole leaving the impression of something having been learned. The idea that AA is a formal institution of education in its own right was the birth of the meeting narrator's skeptical pupillary voice. The study's design is emergent and contingent as the framework and methodology changed radically during its several iterations. I came to rely on already existing data including: (1) audio files of an AA circuit speaker downloaded from the Internet, (2) autobiography, biography, fiction, poetry, and films on drugs and alcohol and on addiction/alcoholism (simply `addiction' for this study), (3) current academic literature on addiction and AA (and AA's own literature), and (4) autobiographical memory of the lived experience of addiction and of being a newcomer in AA. In the `notes' sections some of the history, literature, and philosophy of AA and of addiction are related, e.g., both addiction's socio-historical construction and its literary deconstruction. Two impressionistic bio/graphical tales--of Bill Wilson, cofounder of AA, and of Bob D., an AA circuit speaker--are used to disclose other lived experiences of addiction and of AA besides my own, to explore the notion that we are also not the stories we tell others and ourselves about ourselves, and to reveal Bob D's `primary purpose' ethics as a productive analog toward understanding the ethics of alterity (otherness). In a third person autobiographical epilogue, AA's philosophy of spiritual transformation is pitted against the hegemonic bioscientifc logic of total medicalization. I make no claims for generalizability except at the level of theory and methodology, i.e., the storied nature of reflected upon lived experience, or an interpretive narrative phenomenology; and of the role of institutions like AA in grafting onto lived experience new narrative structures, or, new ways of guarding time; and in so doing, helping members to structure and maintain, through time, sober bodies and positively valenced notions of self and identity that emerge and are recursively disclosed in AA's unique form of narrativity.

  • In Their Own Right: Immigrant Adolescents Research the Global City

    Author:
    Daniel Walsh
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Stacey Lee
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this dissertation research project is to explore how recently-arrived immigrant adolescents who are English learners (ELs) experience New York City during an era of unprecedented globalization and neoliberal social and economic policies. It explores immigrant adolescents' experiences in the global city (Sassen, 2001) through a qualitative study that incorporates the tenets of both critical ethnography and participatory action research. The study has two overarching questions: 1. How does the context of the global city shape the conditions of the lives of immigrant adolescents who are learning English? 2. How do they understand and respond to these conditions? To explore these questions, I collaborated with a group of immigrant adolescents who are ELs for one year and assisted them with the design and implementation of their own research projects. Their research questions reflect both their lived experiences as immigrant adolescents in the global city and topics about which they desired to effect change. Such a research design ensured that the co-researchers would receive some degree of reciprocity for their role in the study and that I did not simply "mine" a community for data. Four young women from Haiti, Guinea, Senegal, and Togo completed research projects that addressed the following questions of their own design: 1. What is the nature of cultural, linguistic, and racial conflict at a high school for immigrant youth? 2. How do immigrant students in International and traditional schools feel about their school experiences? 3. How do immigrant adolescent girls negotiate their home culture and culture of the U.S.? 4. How do undocumented high school students negotiate the transition to college and/or work? The nature of their provocative questions is only the beginning of the insight that this study provides into the lives of immigrant adolescents learning English in the global city. The research findings indicate that legalistic notions of citizenship fail to capture the complexity to citizenship and belonging, that cultural identity in global times is hybrid and unresolved, that a discourse of tolerance depoliticizes the nature of inter-group conflict, and that language-in-testing policy has both cultural and economic implications for immigrant youth. In addition to contributing theoretical and methodological insights about immigrant adolescents learning English, these findings have implications for educational pedagogy and policy as well as broader social and economic policies in global cities.

  • Stability and Change in New York State Regents Mathematics Examinations, 1866 - 2009; a Socio-Historical Analysis

    Author:
    Robert Watson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Susan Semel
    Abstract:

    This dissertation illuminates relationships between micro-level practices of schools and macro-level structures of society through the socio-historical lens of New York State Regents mathematics examinations, which were administered to public school students throughout the State of New York between 1866 and 2009, inclusive. Fundamental research questions involved in this study are: 1) How has the classification, framing, and assessment of Regents level mathematics curricula in the public schools of New York changed since 1866?: and 2) How has popularization influenced the contents, structure and academic rigor of Regents mathematics examinations? Basil Bernstein's theory of educational transmissions provides a theoretical framework for the study, as does the lens of credentials theory. Expectations and beliefs based on theory and historical narrative are subjected to critical and empirical analyses using a longitudinal research sample containing 204 Regents mathematics examinations with 5,508 individual problems, representing the entire population of extant Regents mathematics examinations administered in the years 1866, 1870, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1909, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2009.

  • Social Capital and High School Graduation Rates

    Author:
    John Wenk
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    Social capital theory, and to a lesser extent, cultural capital theory, have become popular theoretical constructs for understanding the replication of SES both in and out of schools. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated connected a student's stock of social and cultural capital and academic success. Fewer studies, however, have analyzed the various dimensions of social capital to gain a more nuanced understanding of how it may contribute to academic success, and fewer still have gone beyond the individual to study social and cultural capital at a school-wide level in order to understand it as the communal property of a group the way that Bourdieu and Putnam have theorized. This mixed method study uses pathway, multiple regression analysis to evaluate the interrelationships between various forms of social and cultural capital and measure their relative power to predict urban high school graduation rates. This meso-level study uses the school as the unit of analysis and considers school size, income levels and racial and ethnic mix. The qualitative portion of the study then reports on subsequent interviews of students from a school with robust levels of social and cultural capital in order to explore how these resources were transmitted, generally through extracurricular activities, to the students and how they may have used them to facilitate their graduation. The results of both the quantitative and qualitative portions of the study support the hypotheses that extracurricular activities facilitate the attainment of peer and institutional social capital, and that the presence of these forms of social capital, along with teacher social capital and robust information networks, predict a school's level of norms and sanctions (safety) which, in turn, is a strong determinant of graduation rates. The demographic analysis indicated that small schools tend to be more successful in building the social capital of its students and teachers, and that social capital is a more significant predictor of graduation in schools with high levels of minority students.

  • Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning in an Adult Basic Education Program Using Cogenerative Dialogues

    Author:
    Felicia Wharton
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This study explores the use of cogenerative dialogue (cogen) in an Adult Basic Education (ABE) program located in New York City, and the ways in which students and teachers collaborated to cogenerate resources that afforded a positive and equitable learning environment built on solidarity and new perspectives on teaching and learning of mathematics. Cogen was introduced to understand how certain structural characteristics within the classroom environment enable or constrain students' agency and understandings of mathematics. The research presented in this study focuses on improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in a General Education Development (GED) mathematics class from the perspectives of the students--the immediate stakeholders. The theoretical frameworks employed in this critical ethnography are cultural sociology, sociology of emotions and hermeneutic phenomenology, which are used to describe and interpret students' experiences within GED mathematics classrooms and their associated computer-assisted instructed class. Cogen and conversion analysis were used to gather data and process multiple data sources such as observations, interviews, video and audio recordings. Findings from this research depicts that cogen created learning environments that fit the needs of adult learners in which they were afforded the opportunity to co/plan, critique and implement curriculum and instructional practice that value how they learn mathematics as adult learners. Thus, students engaged in the process of evaluating, analyzing and interpreting their mathematical knowledge in the form of sharing, coteaching, and helping each other understand ideas regarding problem solving in a collaborative setting. This research has salient implications for the teaching and learning of mathematics in urban ABE programs, the use of computer-assisted instructed programs and provides insight on how collaborative approaches among math teachers and their students improve and enhance mathematics teaching and learning.