Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Creating Collaborative Partnerships to Support Teacher Growth: Mapping the Partnership Process

    Author:
    Lynda Kennedy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Philip Anderson
    Abstract:

    The urban setting has tremendous resources for the support of teaching and learning social studies and history but many teachers do not know how to make use of them. Collaborations centered on teacher professional development between cultural institutions such as museums, historical societies, historic houses, libraries, etc., universities and k-12 schools can create wider communities of practice that can support the professional growth of history and social studies teachers from their pre-service education throughout their careers. This qualitative case study - grounded in the social/historical context of teacher education and a century of history/social studies pedagogy both in school and cultural settings - examines the process of learning to collaborate as it was undertaken by a group of five institutions, each with its own distinct organizational culture. Organizational theory is used to develop a working definition of what it means to collaborate and highlight the elements that allowed the collaboration to be successful. This study provides a road map for collaboration that can be used by all organizations dedicated to teaching and learning who would like to reach out across the boundaries of their institutions to work together toward the common goal of developing quality teachers and teaching in the urban setting.

  • ARE BLACK GIRLS THE NEW NUMBER RUNNERS? AN ANALYSIS OF BLACK GIRLS AND HIGH SCHOOL MATHEMATICS

    Author:
    Carolyn KIng
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Juan Battle
    Abstract:

    According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), one out of every 100 employed scientists and engineers in the United States is a Black female. This statistic prompts the examination of Black females and mathematics. How do individual-level (educational aspirations), familial-level (support), and school-level (school characteristics) variables impact Black female students' proficiency in high school mathematics as well as predict their enrollment in postsecondary math courses? Employing four waves from the National Education Longitudinal Study (1988, 1990, 1992, & 1994), this study seeks to add to the discourse on achievement in mathematics by examining factors which impact outcomes in mathematics for a nationally representative sample of Black females. The theoretical framework for this dissertation will include, but not be limited to, social and cultural capital (Bourdieu and Coleman), intersectionality and standpoint (Crenshaw and Collins) theory. Variables from all three levels affected Black females' achievement in high school mathematics. The score on the twelfth grade math exam was significant in predicting the likelihood that a Black female enrolled in a regular mathematics course in a postsecondary institution. The findings from this study will help inform the development of interventions and strategies aimed at increasing the mathematics proficiency of Black females and their enrollment in postsecondary mathematics courses.

  • Navigating the Gaze: Young People's Intimate Knowledge with Surveilled Spaces at School

    Author:
    Patricia Krueger
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The 1980s introduced numerous state and federal policies that created a similar ideology of discipline and punishment in the educational system and the criminal justice system, a phenomenon known today as the school-to-prison pipeline. Several critical elements are involved in the production and maintenance of the school-to-prison pipeline, such as zero tolerance regulations, surveillance technologies, and strengthened in-school discipline practices. In this dissertation I argue that these elements of the pipeline maintain a strong presence and occupy the physical spaces of public schools. Moreover, surveillance cameras and police officers are most often installed in the cities' most under-resourced public schools, and poor, immigrant and students of color are most likely to attend these same schools. In this study I describe the research process of the youth participatory action research collective called Student Supporting Action Awareness formed for this study. Collectively, we document how students navigate through the surveilled spaces of some of New York City public high schools. Through spatial examination and analysis of our citywide youth survey, as well as youth researchers' written and visual narratives, this mixed method participatory action research interrogates the social fabric as produced by dominant social institutions, and it investigates how the criminalization of youth affects student academic motivation and resourcefulness. This study selects methodologies from education, environmental and social psychology, but also relies on critical theory, political economy, and participatory action research to document student narratives, their perceptions of space and place, and their lifeworlds amidst intensified school policing procedures. The data analysis in this dissertation is inspired by the work of geographers Cindi Katz, Henri Lefebvre, and especially by Edward Soja and his theoretical framework of "Third Space" to situate young people's lifeworlds within the constantly redefined, restructured and reshaped spaces at urban public schools. The concluding chapter challenges mainstream epistemologies of the school-to-prison to reframe and change the discourse, research, policy and practices concerning school safety. The last chapter also provides considerations for data analysis, research methods and policy recommendations for this work.

  • Authoring Mathematical Selves

    Author:
    Rachel Lambert
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Wendy Luttrell
    Abstract:

    How do middle school kids develop identifications with mathematics over time, seeing themselves as agents in the figured worlds of their math classrooms (or not)? This ethnographic and interview study followed nine focus Latino/a kids though their sixth and seven grade inclusive mathematics classrooms in a high-poverty urban school. The kids participated in two kinds of mathematical pedagogy that differently constructed ability and disability in mathematics. Individual kids constructed unique self-understandings as math learners over time, using the cultural resources of multiple figured worlds (mathematical, social, special education, friendship). Most of the focus kids used conceptions of competence forged in memorization to understand themselves as learners who either get it fast or struggle slow. Other kids used alternative conceptions of competence such as persistence and creativity in mathematics. Kids narrated the critical importance of relationships and emotions in their experiences in mathematics classes.

  • Resisting Regulation: LGBTQ Teens and Discourses of Sexuality and Gender in High Schools

    Author:
    Darla Linville
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Jean Anyon
    Abstract:

    This dissertation documents a participatory action research project designed to understand discourses of sexuality and gender in New York City high schools. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students participated as co-researchers in documenting discourses in popular culture, news reports, youth development reports, and through writing exercises about their own experiences. Together researchers created a modified Q sort (the Queer Q Sort) and surveyed a snowball sample of 21 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) high school students about the discourses of sexuality and gender they encounter in their schools and the ways that they accept or reject discourses as they form their identities. In order to imagine other frameworks for understanding sexuality and gender beyond the discourses of safety, victimization, disease and raging hormones, researchers wrote counter-narratives of their experiences that challenge discourses that reference mental health, physical health, pedagogy and morality. Youth researchers created spatial representations of the ways discourses work I the spaces of their schools by drawing maps showing how the movement and behaviors of bodies are regulated. My analysis triangulates the findings of the Queer Q Sorts, the maps and the discussions and writings of the youth researchers to show that young people create alternatives to the official discourses of sex education materials and much of the media coverage of young people and sexuality. I show that young people make ethical decisions about becoming sexual and fashioning their bodies in certain ways to reflect the gender identity and sexual subjectivity they wish to inhabit. Students advocate for queering schools by creating curriculum and pedagogical practices that allow critical analyses of gender and heteronormativity with the goal of helping their peers understand that binary categories are not givens, but rather social constructions we are often forced to perform. Using Foucault's theory and methods, the researchers challenged assumptions about teens as victimized, rebellious, promiscuous or innocent in conversations about sexuality and gender in schools.

  • Restructuring High School Math Learning Spaces with Interactive Technology and Transformative Pedagogy

    Author:
    Roland Lucas
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    There are three hypotheses for this research: 1. High school mathematics students in urban public schools, who are provided interactive technology resources during normal course work, will experience a multiplier effect of enhanced learning in mathematics. They will have an increase in positive dispositions indicative of their identity development as competent doers of math. 2. Through focusing on solving problems that relate to the life-world of students, students will experience an increase in the levels of solidarity with participants of the course. This will have a positive impact of the learning experiences and achievement of students. 3. Students will develop increased value of using their developing competencies in math to model and analyze issues relevant to their communities. The purpose of this research is to study effective utilization of interactive technologies and math computer programs in public high school mathematics classes. The interactive technologies used in classes are to support graphical, tabluar, verbal and analytical representations of the mathematics in hopes of increasing the learning potential and math fluency of students. The research will serve as a basis for ongoing development of teaching practices that improve student achievement in mathematics. The research design is an interpretive / phenomenological study of evolving attitudes and practices of students as they are engaged with math problem solving. Students will not be asked to produce any data solely for the purposes of the research. All activities that students do, and all data that will inform the research, will emerge from best teaching practices, which are supported by the school principal and have been formally approved by the school board. All methods and strategies employed in this study are ones I have used, over the past six years, in my role as a highly qualified math teacher in Newark public schools. No changes in what happens will occur because of this dissertation study. The research design is an interpretive / phenomenological study of evolving attitudes and practices of students as they are engaged with math problem solving. Students will not be asked to produce any data solely for the purposes of the research. All activities that students do, and all data that will inform the research, will emerge from best teaching practices, which are supported by the school principal and have been formally approved by the school board. All methods and strategies employed in this study are ones I have used, over the past six years, in my role as a highly qualified math teacher in Newark public schools. No changes in what happens will occur because of this dissertation study. Not all teachers are implementing the best practices that this study focuses on. I want to shed light on these practices and show how they can become more common and done in a more collaborative way. Students can opt not to use technologies at all, but it is not likely they would want to since doing so would slow down their progress. Teachers, however, are required to teach math with using various technologies, such as in an advanced graphing calculator or an interactive smart board. This is a case of, students are using technology in classes, gaining advantages with this technology use, and I would just like to analyze it write about my findings in my dissertation. Please see the school issued student calculator contract included with this application. It shows that math teachers are required to teach with school approved technologies, in this case a newer handheld graphing calculator), but that students may opt not to use it. Furthermore, many teachers don't yet know how to use these newer school approved technologies and must be shown the methods and benefits.

  • URBAN MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF CULTURAL LITERACY: A PERFORMATORY APPROACH TO TEACHING, LEARNING AND TECHNOLOGY

    Author:
    Jaime Martinez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This auto-ethnography describes the development of exemplary teaching practices in the context of an urban middle school technology class with a socially and culturally diverse student population. The teaching practice that was studied was situated in a learning community of approximately 250 middle school students in New York City between 2007 and 2008. This study documents, through the use of vignettes, the development of everyday practices of using performance and technology as tools in the creation of technology infused learning environments that support the cultural literacy and social development of students and increases teacher responsiveness and receptivity to students. This account reveals that a performatory approach to teaching and learning creates an environment where learners become aware that they are learners and encourages risk taking, collaboration, creativity, and individual responsibility for supporting learning environment that is created. When enacted through the framework of cultural historical activity theory (CHAT), the teaching activity concerns itself with the activities that the members of the learning community are engaged in, the social relationships that give rise to and are produced by those activities, the historical development that is taking place, and the role that cultural artifacts (language, computer technology, school policies) play in the creation and development of the learning community. This approach achieved positive impact on teaching and learning within urban school settings that include high population density, cultural diversity and other issues that are specific to urban centers that are focal points in globalization. The study used an ethnomethodological analytic lens to view video taped performances, field notes, and artifacts (student and teacher) as resources in giving accounts, providing rationale, and describing activities, and meanings in learning environments that were created.

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

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

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

  • Urban Students in Suburban Schools: A Dialectic of Potential

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

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

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

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

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