Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Assessing Emergent Bilinguals: Teacher Knowledge and Reading Instructional Practices

    Author:
    Laura Ascenzi-Moreno
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    Assessments are viewed as primary vehicles for improving the educational outcomes of all students since they can lay the foundation for effective teaching practices. However, assessment can only achieve this effect of supporting student learning if the knowledge that teachers gain from using them is put into direct use in classrooms. This process of administering assessments, analyzing them, learning from the results, and subsequently tailoring instruction based on what has been learned about students is referred to as the assessment-instructional cycle. The assessment-instructional cycle is critical for all students. Yet, assessments of emergent bilingual students, in this case those students who are becoming bilingual by developing English language and literacy (often referred to as English Language Learners or Limited English Proficient students), most often do not accurately capture these students' knowledge. The problem lies in that for these students, assessments in English measure content knowledge as well as language (Abedi, 2009; GarcĂ­a 2009). This obscures teachers' understanding of what these students know and may steer the assessment-instructional cycle off course. Using interviews and surveys, this mixed-methods study focuses on how teachers of emergent bilinguals view and use summative and formative assessment. The study also attempts to ascertain the kinds of knowledge that these teachers gain from the use of assessments, as well as the consequences that acquired knowledge has on their practices to teach reading. In the climate of test-based accountability, teachers are caught in a cycle of ritualized assessment practices. Ritualized assessment practices direct teachers to sort and group students under the guise of "analysis," and do not engage teachers in a solid examination of bilingual students' reading development. Ritualized assessment practices ultimately do not yield teacher knowledge that is meaningful to instruction. Furthermore, these ritualized practices change the character and use of these assessments - summative assessments are used formatively and formative assessments become summative. This study provides evidence that both summative and formative assessments are missed opportunities for teacher learning and do not fulfill the potential of providing teachers with a solid knowledge base of their bilingual students' reading development so as to meaningfully direct instructional practices.

  • Beyond the scores: Mathematics identities of African American and Hispanic fifth graders in an urban elementary community school

    Author:
    Paula Fleshman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    As mathematics identity affects students' learning and doing of mathematics, it is critical to understand the mathematics identities of African American and Hispanic students as the mathematical performance and pursuits of far too many continue to lag behind. Further, as community schools have been shown to positively impact students in urban communities, it is also critical to understand how mathematics identities are developed within community schools. This study explores the culture, structures, and processes of an urban elementary community school including its afterschool archery program relative to fifth grade students' mathematics identities. It also explores students' math positioning, enactment, and perspectives in the classroom and archery. The theoretical framework encompasses multiple theories and perspectives: identity theory, cultural-historical activity theory, ecological systems theory, and culturally responsive pedagogy. Ethnography of one urban elementary community school was conducted over one school year plus summer camp using mixed methods. In total, 33 fifth graders and 13 adults participated in the study. In addition to school and community agency artifacts collected, observations inside and outside of the classrooms were conducted along with student brainstorming exercises and student and adult interviews. State math assessment scores were collected for 2009 and 2010 and pre- and post-surveys on students' mathematics beliefs and attitudes were conducted. While 7 out of 10 fifth graders favored mathematics and considered themselves as mathematicians, as defined in a broader sense that reflects habits of mind as opposed to simply skills, less than four out of 10 saw themselves in careers considered math- or science-related. Interestingly, students who had heard the word "mathematician" scored significantly higher on state math assessments than their peers who had not. In the classroom, students positioned themselves in different ways relative to their mathematics identity such as leader, helper, independent, math smart, social learner, and agent of their own learning. Outside of the classroom, the afterschool archery program bore positive relevance in students' mathematics identities, including a student with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, through culturally responsive instruction, a culture of respect, and goal-setting. Study results can inform community school processes, cultures, and structures as well as children's media.

  • 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.

  • Art Museum Educators: Unveiling Perceptions of Theory, Method, and Preparation

    Author:
    Marcos Stafne
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The aim of this dissertation is to contribute to the body of knowledge about art museum educators within the larger ecosystems of art and museum education. This study reveals museum educator perceptions about preparation and professional development experiences, their work with student groups in art museums, and how their understanding of educational theory and method shapes student interaction. A phenomenological qualitative inquiry was conducted with 10 interview participants and a larger survey was administrated with 123 respondents. Personal accounts were combined to create a narrative of the museum educator experience and were cross-referenced with broader survey data to complete an analysis of the landscape of experience. Following analysis and synthesis of the survey data and interview responses, four meaningful statements were uncovered: art museum educators are educationally and professionally experienced; art museum educators come from diverse educational and professional experiences; art museum educators must adapt to the circumstances of their working environments; when visiting museums, art museum educators prefer open-ended experiences that can promote social interaction. This type of experience is evident in the educators' enacted pedagogy with students in art museums. Exploring how museum educators understand their experiences unveiled how they perceive and practice educational theories and methods while working with student groups and how their preparation aided or hindered their abilities. Exemplary examples of art museum education preparation and professional development experiences were revealed through both survey and interview data. To strengthen the field of art museum educator preparation, recommendations for academic and alternative professional development as well as institutional collaboration were identified.

  • Racialized Identities in a Colorblind Context: Filipino American Youth Negotiating Discourses of Race, Identity, and Diversity in School

    Author:
    Erica Chutuape
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is an ethnographic study that examines the discursive process by which 1.5 and second generation Filipino American students construct racial and ethnic identities in the context of school. Using a theoretical framework that focuses on the racialization of immigrant students, this study investigates some of the underlying assumptions about race, ethnicity, culture, and diversity that impact the institutional discourses in a large, northeastern high school. It explores the discordance between a context in which race is not supposed to matter and students' experiences with race everyday. Findings suggest that at the institutional level, race is viewed as polarizing, rooted in bias and prejudice, and a threat to community. Thus, discourses are aimed to defuse and downplay race by calling for students and faculty to put racialized differences aside. In contrast, race proved to be a significant factor in youth participants' daily school experiences. They participated in activities bounded and defined by race, and dialogued with their peers about ethnic and racial categorical meanings, which manifested in conversations as cultural stereotypes, yet verged on outright racism. Findings also show how Filipino youth found innovative ways to offer alternative representations to dominant perceptions of culture. Traditional notions of culture and identity as fixed were challenged and instead are shown to emerge as socially-embedded systems of meaning. Importantly, this study provides a deeper understanding of the interracial connections not just between non-whites and whites, but among non-whites. Filipino American youth in this study contended with a dominant bipolar racial discourse that marginalizes the racialized experiences of Asians and Pacific Islanders. However, instead of feeling invisible or marginalized data point to how they negotiated a black-white racial discourse to decide when and how they enter dialogues about race. Youth reconceptualized this racial binary to position themselves on a continuum to form the racial "middle ground" between blacks and whites. Importantly, rather than a racial hierarchy that places whites at the top, youth used discursive strategies to place themselves on a racial continuum that emphasizes the interconnectedness among racial minorities.

  • From Nation-States to Neoliberalism: Language Ideologies and Governmentality

    Author:
    Nelson Flores
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    Building on Foucault's concept of governmentality this research study examines the ways that current language ideologies marginalize the language practices of language minoritized students. The first half of this study examines the emergence of nation-state/colonial governmentality and its accompanying language ideologies as part of the European modernist project. It examines the emergence of nation-state/colonial governmentality in early US society with a particular focus on the early debates on language policy in the new nation. It then analyzes the impact of nation-state/colonial governmentality on contemporary US society through an exploration of the language ideologies utilized by both sides of the current debate over bilingual education. The second half of this research study engages with recent insights from poststructuralist theory to examine the emergence of neoliberal governmentality and its accompanying language ideologies as part of the spread of global capitalism. It argues that dynamic language ideologies such as those used in the first half of this study reflect new understandings of language that are complicit in the production of flexible workers and life-long learners that lie at the core of neoliberal governmentality. Specifically, this study offers a reading of the concept of plurilingualism developed by the Council of Europe through the framework of neoliberal governmentality and argues that the movement in political and academic circles toward more dynamic understandings of language marks an epistemological shift that is mutually constitutive with the corporatization of society occurring as part of neoliberal governmentality. The study then examines the ways that nation-state/colonial and neoliberal governmentality are begin to converge in contemporary US society in ways that maintain US hegemony within the new global order through three interrelated frameworks: (1) Global English, (2) the securitization of bilingualism, and (3) the commodification of bilingualism. Finally, the study explores implications of the critiques of nation-state/colonial and neoliberal governmentality through a conceptualization of language education policies that subvert both forms of governmentality through language minoritized students in developing meta ethnolinguistic subjectivities. It argues that the fluidity of these subjectivities challenges nation-state/colonial governmentality while the "meta" aspect empowers language minoritized students to resist the corporatization of their fluid language practices.

  • YOUNG PAKISTANI MUSLIM WOMEN'S REFLECTIONS ON DIFFERENCE, FUTURE, AND FAMILY

    Author:
    Sara Zaidi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Stacey Lee
    Abstract:

    This dissertation employs data collected from multiple sites in Southern California over a period of nine months. Several in-depth ethnographic interviews and participant observations were conducted with Pakistani Muslim women (age 17-22) and their parents in an effort to better understand the influence that parents and ethno-religious communities had on their lives, academic choices, and aspirations. This dissertation explores the ways that seemingly paradoxical stereotypes, as members of a model minority and the victims of their parents, Pakistani culture and Islam, have informed the ways young Pakistani Muslim women identify themselves and are identified by others. As the children of immigrants and members of an ethno-religious community consistently marked by difference, I examine the varied and often conflicting ways participants define themselves and the ways they are defined by others through the processes of differentialism. Using a critical reconceptualization of agency, one that delinks the concept of agency from secular progressive politics, this work explores the varied modes of agency embodied by young Pakistani Muslim women. Findings confirm the idea that the lives, experiences and perspectives of immigrant youth are complex and multifaceted and that their identities are always in flux and ever changing. Importantly, this research contradicts the cultural clash theory, which suggests that Pakistani parents are inherently obstructive to their daughter's educational and career goals. This work challenges hegemonic discourses about young Pakistani women that position them as passive recipients of oppressive cultural and religious practices. Findings also complicate our view of agency and choice in relation to young Pakistani Muslim women, deepening our understanding of the roles of parents and ethno-religious communities in the lives of immigrant youth.

  • 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.

  • Real-World Contexts in Urban High School Mathematics Lessons

    Author:
    Andrew Chu
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    This study analyzes the uses of real-world contexts in mathematics lessons in the classrooms of four teachers across two school years at an urban high school. Drawing upon a framework of culturally relevant mathematics pedagogy, this dissertation focuses on how real-world contexts are connected to teaching mathematics for understanding, centering mathematics instruction on students' experiences and classroom participation, and developing students' critical consciousness. Analysis of real-world contexts in lessons focuses on the extent to which they are adapted from curricular sources and the role that lessons play within the lesson. For those real-world contexts which are at the center of a mathematics lesson, the nature of the mathematical modeling in which students engage is analyzed. Finally, the extent to which students and the teacher participate in the process of elaborating key features of the context whether in terms of experiences, perceptions, or opinions, is also considered. These different categories for real-world contexts are then used to compare three different measures of the lesson. These include the cognitive demand of the main mathematical task, different ratings of the instructional environment, and the distribution of class time in terms of the participation categories offered to students. Results point at the promise of real-world contexts as the basis for motivating metaphors to explore noncontextualized mathematical procedures and concepts, the need to structure lessons so that students can develop models rather than apply given models, and the importance of elaboration in supporting student understanding and participation.

  • 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.