Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Basic Mathematics Education and Graduation from Community College: An Interpretative Study

    Author:
    Eric Fuchs
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This research examines the relationship between basic mathematics courses and educational attainment at a City University of New York (CUNY) community college in the Bronx, where graduation rates hover at 25% or less even after students have attended classes for seven or eight years. Three-quarters of students leave college within the first three years after their original enrollment. This research examines the extent to which failure in mathematics basic courses is associated with the high dropout rate, low graduation rate, and length of time-to-degree. The students in this study are primarily low-income Hispanics or Blacks. This research documents that the failure in basic mathematics contributes significantly to failure to graduate from a CUNY community college and offers a critique of the system that maintains this state of affairs. It also presents concrete steps for changing this situation. This research is an interpretive study that employs mainly qualitative data and descriptive analyses, though quantitative data are also used as part of the overall analysis. The fields of investigation included my practice in a basic arithmetic course at Highland (a pseudonym) Community College, other basic mathematics courses at the college, and mathematics achievement data from several CUNY community colleges. The theoretical framework encompasses sociocultural theory, the sociology of emotions, and educational psychology. The data resources included college and CUNY retention and graduation rates, autoethnography, students' autobiographies, questionnaires, and interviews with students and faculty. The research also examines community college structures, including policies, mathematics curriculum and mathematics pedagogy, and sociocultural and socioaffective factors that potentially mediate the graduation rate. The study finds that quality teaching and implementing innovative structural changes in community colleges will increase the retention rate, improve the graduation rate, and shorten the time-to-degree without diluting the quality of academic content.

  • Alternatively Certified Teacher and Technology: Agency|Structure Dialectic - Integration of Technologically Mediated Instructions to Improve Literacy by Creating Comic Books in a Special Education learning Community

    Author:
    Eydie Wilson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    The United States Department of Education is increasingly looking toward technology as a means to improve student academic achievements in schools. This auto/ethnographical and auto/biographical brings to the foreground issues of identity, culture, and equity as it documents my collaborative journey as an alternatively certified, highly qualified teacher with Brock and Stewie, students educated in a general education class and receive special education services in a socio economically challenged New York City District 75 school, as they integrate technologically mediated instruction through the creation of comic books as a teaching tool to improve their literacy. By describing and exploring patterns of cultural enactment (and contradictions to those patterns) within our comic book research dialogue group (CBRDG) and school, this study examines how our agency and identity re/construction were afforded or limited by communities of practice and school structures. Our experiences were analyzed on the micro, meso, and macro levels using data sources including videotapes, audiotapes, written reflections, and various other artifacts. In response to two broad questions, I learned that examining technology integration meant addressing the very core of what it meant to be an alternatively certified special education teacher and students labeled with a disability in an urban public school. At times, Brock, Stewie, and I found it difficult to re/construct our identities in settings where we were pulled in different directions at once. As the teacher with strong technology knowledge, skills, and a community of computer users for support, I needed to address urban schooling issues of outdated computer equipment and access to it. As inclusion students, Brock and Stewie had to navigate and function in more than one school to be active members of CBRDG. By utilizing CBRDG (dialogue discussions and technology instructions) as tools for cultural enactment, I show how Brock and Stewie transform and emerge as coteachers. I also began to see CBRDG's members in a new light as they interacted with technology practices to support both personal and collective learning.

  • Two Tales of One City: A Political Economy of the New York City Public High School Admissions Process

    Author:
    Madeline Perez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    Increased choice about which public school to attend is advocated by policy makers as a strategy for urban education reform and for improving school quality (Fuller & Elmore, 1996). This strategy cannot be effective if only families who already have multiple educational options are able to utilize these opportunities. This dissertation addressed the process of NYC Public High School Admissions and how this is experienced differently by families and school staff across race and class lines. This study utilized a multi-sited qualitative approach with a focus on ethnography and interviews to study two middle schools. Questionnaires were also used to gain a larger picture of how families experienced school choice. Central to the research design and analysis was MADRES, an advisory group of mothers of color who, themselves, has recently undergone the high school application process with their own children. The data show that families' familiarity and comfort level with navigating the school system was linked to class-based experiences and the resources and support they received from their middle school. Parents' ability to intervene effectively in a way in which their actions influenced the school applications process was shaped by the social, cultural, and economic capital that they had been provided or denied. The Department of Education often misrecognized families' capital for competence and caring about their children's education. Middle Schools were the most important link between eighth-grade families and the high school admissions process, and their ability to support families heavily relied on the amount of resources, time and expertise that staff members have available. Moreover, the political economy creates the conditions in which the DOE is dependent on white middle-class families for their dominant capital, and caters to them without seeming to do so. The data illuminate what it is like to navigate a system that is already set up to privilege those who already have resources. Ultimately, high school admissions will only fulfill its espoused theory of ensuring choice and equity when educational administrators cease to operate a process that serves a majority of low-income people of color based solely on white middle-class assumptions and redesign appropriately.

  • Youth Engagement: A Study of the Impact of Students' Beliefs and Attitudes towards Civic Participation

    Author:
    Ramón Robles-Fernández
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    This dissertation studies the impact of after school clubs and service learning activities on students' beliefs and attitudes towards citizenship (civic participation in a democracy), civic engagement, and political and social participation. This study focuses on two different organizations: Spectrum, a Gay-Straight alliance; and AMIGOS, a service learning program. Both environments presented students with opportunities to engage in civic activities, while informing their understanding of citizenship (civic participation). The purpose of this study was twofold. First, I wanted to better understand the impact of after school clubs and service learning activities on students' beliefs towards civic participation and civic and political engagement. Second, using as my lens such issues as empowerment, inequality, oppression, domination, and alienation, I sought to gauge whether participation in programs like the ones above altered preconceived ideas students held about others. A mixed-methods approach (quantitative/qualitative) was used to examine the impact of participation in AMIGOS and Spectrum. Data sources included participant interviews, surveys, field notes, observations of training/meetings, and documents. Data were first analyzed separately and then triangulated to investigate consistency in the findings. Data from the observations were analyzed at three different stages: (1) analysis done as an on-going process while reflecting on what was observed; (2) analysis after the study was completed; (3) analysis performed over the summer, after some time and at some distance from the study. AMIGOS provided volunteers with ideal opportunities to build a sense of civic and political engagement in youth. AMIGOS integrated key elements identified by current research: it provided opportunities for teaching about civic and political engagement, and provided opportunities for reflection. In addition, it incorporated real activities: students spent from six to eight weeks in a host community trying to effect positive change. Finally, their efforts were supported, recognized and praised by family members, the communities they come from, and the communities they were assisting. Spectrum also had the potential to build a sense of civic and political engagement in their members. However, they faced challenges that risked lessening their potential impact. The club engaged in "teaching" about civic and political and engagement and provided the members with opportunities to engage in real activities. However, they did not always receive the support and recognition of their communities (school) or families, and often faced opposition to achieving their goal of equal LGBT rights.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Teacher Candidates of Color in Teacher Education Programs

    Author:
    Conra Gist
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Terrie Epstein
    Abstract:

    This dissertation study uses culturally responsive pedagogy as a conceptual framework for exploring how teacher educators structure content, pedagogy, and classroom communities for teacher candidates of color at two model teacher education programs. Using multiple data sources including interviews, focus groups, classroom observations, faculty and teacher candidate logs, and course syllabi and assignments, this study found that the content knowledge and learning experiences of teacher candidates of color was enhanced by pedagogy that was culturally and linguistically raced, gendered and couched in a critical analysis of inequality. "Critically conscious" teacher educators were more likely to integrate "sociocultural consciousness" into their pedagogy, which resulted in the following changes in teacher candidates of color: 1) facilitated among teacher candidates of color an empowered view of their academic abilities and resources; 2) equipped them with critical epistemology to be "change agents" in public schools; and 3) provided them with a cultural and linguistic toolbox for instruction for all students. Findings suggest that "critically conscious" teacher educators may increase the likelihood of teacher candidates of color becoming highly qualified and effective teachers in the future. A theoretical framework for cultivating and identifying "critically conscious" teacher educator pedagogy for teacher candidates of color is also provided, in addition to a discussion of the implications for accountability measures in teacher education policy.