Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Teachers Working With Families: Natural Enemies or Necessary Allies?

    Author:
    Kirsten Cole
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Susan Semel
    Abstract:

    The complex and crucial connection between families and schools is embodied in relationship between individual teachers and their students' families. Research findings demonstrate that high levels of family engagement lead to greater success for students. Such findings drive policy mandates that hold individual teachers accountable for cultivating this relationship. However, not enough is known about how such mandates are enacted on the ground. In an era when teachers are required to adhere to the standardization of curriculum and the uniform recommendations of "best practice" pedagogic models, teachers must still draw on their whole, complex, human selves when seeking to foster relationships with families. The strengths and challenges that teachers bring to this work are developed throughout their entire life histories; from early family and educational experiences, through pre-service teacher preparation, through mentoring and in-service professional development. This study was framed by a desire to understand how teachers' life and professional experiences shape their approach to working with their students' families. In order to address this question, the life histories of five teachers were gathered, documented, and analyzed to identify and explore the patterns and the tensions in how the teachers made sense of their lives and work. The life history method of research was chosen to address the purpose of this study as it offered the most apt match for illuminating the complexities of how teachers approach their work with families. The teachers selected to participate in this study all worked at the same urban, public, progressive, elementary school whose mission included a vision for a high level of family engagement. In the analysis of the teachers' life histories, issues of language, culture, race, and gender emerged. Analysis of the teachers' stories revealed that teachers' draw on the perspective of their own experiences as they develop strategies for in the very nuanced process of forging relationships with families. Additionally, this study explored the ways that teachers' work with families can be supported or thwarted by the range of conflicting perspectives and policies regarding the impact of the teacher and her knowledge on the practice of teaching.

  • TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE AT THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK: 1990 - 2010

    Author:
    Erin Croke
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines demographic changes at The City University of New York (CUNY) between 1990 and 2010, including changes in the age profile and racial/ethnic composition of enrolled undergraduates. Data from the CUNY Institutional Research Database (IRDB) shows the undergraduate student body has changed over the last 20 years. Most undergraduate enrollment growth has occurred in the community colleges, while growth has been more limited in the senior colleges. The number of students age 25 and older declined 12.5 percent in the senior colleges, while remaining stable in the community colleges. The number of Black students declined 15.3 percent over the 20-year period in the senior colleges. Changes at CUNY are partly symptomatic of demographic changes within New York City (NYC), rising NYC high school graduation rates, and the expanding for-profit higher education sector. Low-income, minority, and older students increasingly enroll in for-profit colleges. Data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) shows that student enrollment growth in the for-profit sector vastly outpaced growth in the private and public sectors. While the percentage of older students and Black students has declined at CUNY, there has been substantial enrollment growth of such students in the for-profit sector. CUNY's own policies and practices have also played a role in the sorting of particular student groups across the university. Data from the CUNY Application System (CAS) shows that the number of applicants listing a community college as their first-choice has declined. A stronger preference for the senior colleges has occurred while admissions requirements at the senior colleges have increased and larger proportions of students have instead been allocated to community and comprehensive colleges. Over the study period, CUNY senior colleges showed an increase in the average credentials of allocated students, while the average SAT scores of students allocated to community colleges showed little change.

  • SCIENCE IDENTITY TRANSFORMATIONS THROUGH PLACE-BASED TEACHING AND LEARNING IN THE NATURAL WORLD

    Author:
    Amy DeFelice
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jennfer Adams
    Abstract:

    This dissertation includes three main components related through a sociocultural lens of identity transformation. The first component describes the Field Studies program for ninth grade students at Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE High School), and explores how outdoor settings and place-based pedagogies can be used to enhance urban students' science identities. Student researchers took digital photographs of their Field Studies experiences and met in cogenerative dialogues with me, their teacher, where we shared our reflections. The second component explains students' experiences and reactions to a week-long place-based geoscience program held over spring break at Prospect Park. This program was offered to BASE students through the Opportunities to Enhance Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to Brooklyn College. Student researchers completed pre and post surveys, participated in focus groups, and wrote written reflections in their science journals to reflect upon their experiences completing authentic science research projects with undergraduate students and college faculty. Survey results were paired with students' journal responses to understand students' science identity transformations. The third component focuses on a case study that emerged from the Field Studies research. The dialogues between a female Caribbean American high school student and myself, a female white science teacher, are explored using the lenses of critical race theory and identity to focus on themes of stereotyping, whiteness, and science interests. This research adds to the body of knowledge describing how outdoor settings and place-based pedagogies can be used to increase urban students' interest in science. Additionally, this research investigates how in multicultural urban schools it is important for teachers to understand not only their students of color, but their own identities, and the relationships between them, in order to appropriately support their students' interests and desires to enter Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

  • Open Admissions and Remediation: A Case Study of Policymaking by the City University of New York Board

    Author:
    Suri Duitch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    An open admissions policy for the City University of New York was approved by the University's Board of Higher Education in 1969, ushering in a new era of greater access to college for the city's poor and working class Blacks, Latinos, and white youth. This policy change was made in response to demands from students, civil rights organizations, minority elected officials, and civic organizations for access to higher education for historically underserved populations in the city. It also satisfied the political exigencies of the time, allowing the city and Mayor John Lindsay, who was seeking to tamp down civil unrest, to support open admissions as a response to the demands of the civil rights movement. As part of the implementation of open admissions, CUNY developed an infrastructure to support remedial work for students starting college without adequate academic skills. Almost thirty years after the open admissions proposal was approved, in a markedly different political climate, the CUNY Trustees voted to end remediation at the system's baccalaureate degree-granting colleges, bringing the era of open admissions to an end. This time, the decision was made in response to the demands of the Mayor and Governor and strong advocacy on the part of some of the City's media. The debate took place within the context of a shift away from programs for the disadvantaged and back toward the focus on quality and prestige that had been CUNY's hallmark before 1969. Both the vote to institute open admissions and the vote to remediation came at the end of a highly visible, highly contested policy debate in which internal and external constituents weighed in, the mainstream media highlighted the debate, and city and state elected officials played a significant role. As well, both policy debates were highly ideological in nature, with Board members and other participants acting on deeply held beliefs regarding the mission and purposes of public higher education. This comparative case study discusses both decisions within their larger social context, considering how they were shaped by politics and the ideologies of the respective CUNY Boards and key constituencies.

  • Open Admissions and Remediation: A Case Study of Policymaking by the City University of New York Board

    Author:
    Suri Duitch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    An open admissions policy for the City University of New York was approved by the University's Board of Higher Education in 1969, ushering in a new era of greater access to college for the city's poor and working class Blacks, Latinos, and white youth. This policy change was made in response to demands from students, civil rights organizations, minority elected officials, and civic organizations for access to higher education for historically underserved populations in the city. It also satisfied the political exigencies of the time, allowing the city and Mayor John Lindsay, who was seeking to tamp down civil unrest, to support open admissions as a response to the demands of the civil rights movement. As part of the implementation of open admissions, CUNY developed an infrastructure to support remedial work for students starting college without adequate academic skills. Almost thirty years after the open admissions proposal was approved, in a markedly different political climate, the CUNY Trustees voted to end remediation at the system's baccalaureate degree-granting colleges, bringing the era of open admissions to an end. This time, the decision was made in response to the demands of the Mayor and Governor and strong advocacy on the part of some of the City's media. The debate took place within the context of a shift away from programs for the disadvantaged and back toward the focus on quality and prestige that had been CUNY's hallmark before 1969. Both the vote to institute open admissions and the vote to remediation came at the end of a highly visible, highly contested policy debate in which internal and external constituents weighed in, the mainstream media highlighted the debate, and city and state elected officials played a significant role. As well, both policy debates were highly ideological in nature, with Board members and other participants acting on deeply held beliefs regarding the mission and purposes of public higher education. This comparative case study discusses both decisions within their larger social context, considering how they were shaped by politics and the ideologies of the respective CUNY Boards and key constituencies.

  • The Comprehensive High School in Transition: A Study of Small Learning Community Reform

    Author:
    Mark Dunetz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    For over forty years, the dominant secondary high school model in urban school districts was the comprehensive high school. As various attempts to turn around failing high schools in the 1970s and 1980s failed, increasing numbers of educators, researchers, and policy makers began to question whether the comprehensive high school model was viable. The history of small school reform over the last two decades represents an ambitious attempt to remedy the perceived disconnect between school structures and desired outcomes. But while hundreds of small schools have been created in New York City over the last two decades, small high school reform as an exclusive response to underperformance has increasingly been seen as untenable. As a result, there has been renewed interest in structures which allow for more personalized educational experiences while maintaining large schools intact. Small Learning Communities represent one such structure and this study examines an attempt to create semi-autonomous institutes within a comprehensive high school. The data analyzed for this research were generated during the planning phases of this project (2005-2006) and during the first two years of implementation (2006-2008). The quantitative data analyzed included standardized exam scores, demographic indicators, class lists and course offerings, course passing rates, credit accumulation patterns, the results of diagnostic tests, and attendance rates. In addition, this research involved an analysis of a range of qualitative data generated by the reform process including organizational charts, meeting minutes, and memos. Finally, the researcher conducted observations of a wide range of school settings and interviewed key stakeholders. Findings indicate that the creation of semi-autonomous institutes were related to positive shifts in school culture for teachers and created the potential for increased academic performance. These shifts in faculty perceptions of school culture were related to improved communication, expanded professional opportunities, and more robust relationships between adults and students. Involving broader segments of a school's faculty in decision-making was found to generate broader investment in collective goals and more effective problem solving but was not in itself sufficient to generate consensus around contested goals or to result in changes to instructional practice.

  • The Comprehensive High School in Transition: A Study of Small Learning Community Reform

    Author:
    Mark Dunetz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    For over forty years, the dominant secondary high school model in urban school districts was the comprehensive high school. As various attempts to turn around failing high schools in the 1970s and 1980s failed, increasing numbers of educators, researchers, and policy makers began to question whether the comprehensive high school model was viable. The history of small school reform over the last two decades represents an ambitious attempt to remedy the perceived disconnect between school structures and desired outcomes. But while hundreds of small schools have been created in New York City over the last two decades, small high school reform as an exclusive response to underperformance has increasingly been seen as untenable. As a result, there has been renewed interest in structures which allow for more personalized educational experiences while maintaining large schools intact. Small Learning Communities represent one such structure and this study examines an attempt to create semi-autonomous institutes within a comprehensive high school. The data analyzed for this research were generated during the planning phases of this project (2005-2006) and during the first two years of implementation (2006-2008). The quantitative data analyzed included standardized exam scores, demographic indicators, class lists and course offerings, course passing rates, credit accumulation patterns, the results of diagnostic tests, and attendance rates. In addition, this research involved an analysis of a range of qualitative data generated by the reform process including organizational charts, meeting minutes, and memos. Finally, the researcher conducted observations of a wide range of school settings and interviewed key stakeholders. Findings indicate that the creation of semi-autonomous institutes were related to positive shifts in school culture for teachers and created the potential for increased academic performance. These shifts in faculty perceptions of school culture were related to improved communication, expanded professional opportunities, and more robust relationships between adults and students. Involving broader segments of a school's faculty in decision-making was found to generate broader investment in collective goals and more effective problem solving but was not in itself sufficient to generate consensus around contested goals or to result in changes to instructional practice.

  • Street Smarts, School Smarts, and the Failure of Educational Policy in the Inner City: A Multilectical Approach to Pedagogy and the Teaching of Language Arts

    Author:
    Gene Fellner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    Abstract STREET SMARTS, SCHOOL SMARTS AND THE FAILURE OF EDUCATIONAL POLICY IN THE INNER CITY: A MULTILECTICAL APPROACH TO PEDAGOGY AND THE TEACHING OF LANGUAGE ARTS by Gene Fellner Adviser: Professor Kenneth Tobin Over the past five years, I have mentored language arts teachers, and their students, in one of the poorest cities in the United States. Though official transcripts stigmatize most of these students as failures, their written and spoken words, and the ways they interact, show them to be intelligent, thoughtful, witty, and inquisitive. How could policymakers and school officials be so inept at assessing the students they are authorized to serve? In this dissertation, I explore why educational leaders ignore, suppress, and are oblivious to the incredible vibrancy and brilliance of the students I've worked with. I examine the disastrous consequences that result from official policies, mediated by the inadequacy of the theoretical lenses and the methodologies they employ. I suggest alternate lenses and pedagogical methods that welcome students in their multi-dimensionality, focusing particularly on practice in language arts classrooms. These facilitate the creation of an environment in which learning is an adventure rather than a chore, and writing a tool to explore students' ideas rather than an exercise in drudgery. Central to the inability of the educational establishment to evaluate my students is its fixation on measuring knowledge and enforcing standards that reflect dominant ways of perceiving and quantifying worth. I propose alternate "multilectical" lenses that are able to see students in their rich complexity. Multilectics makes visible the immeasurables on which student knowledge rides. These include curiosity, exuberance, thoughtfulness, and collaborative engagement. Because these qualities can't be measured in any static way, they are excluded as conveyers of knowledge by educational policymakers. Moreover, since these attributes are manifested through language in its fullest sense (speech, gesture voice), and student language is often suppressed because it threatens dominant discourse practices, the very tools students have to communicate are shut down. When schools prohibit the tools of expression that students have available to them, they censure the very essences of who these students are. Schools then become terrains of hostile encounters in which the values of academia clash relentlessly with the values of home and street. In the language arts classroom, the mania to enforce dominant standards and to quantify achievement at every level facilitates formulaic teaching and the prioritization of spelling and grammar over ideas and passions. Even though ten years of such enforced practices have not raised academic achievement, schools continue to dull down the curricula, taking the art out of language arts and turning it into a series of task-intensive exercises. In the final section of the dissertation I view a group discussion of a 7th grader's poem through a micro analytic lens. Perceiving students close up and in slow motion offers a new way to reveal their strengths and some pedagogies that serve them.