Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • Promoting Wellness Through Mindfulness-Based Activities

    Author:
    Malgorzata Powietrzynska
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    The central idea of this dissertation is mindfulness framed as a sociocultural, secular, and multidimensional construct involving attention that is purposeful, in the present moment, and non-judgmental. Mindfulness represents a unification of century-old contemplative Eastern traditions (including Buddhism) and the recent developments of modern, Western science. Hence, supported by the emerging scientific evidence, I argue that mindfulness practices have a potential to offer a wide range of benefits related to wellness. In particular, I report on our hermeneutic-phenomenological studies investigating the centrality of emotions in teaching and learning. Our findings confirm that when adopted in education, mindfulness may mediate positive socio-emotional and cognitive changes stretching beyond the immediate school environments and their narrowly defined outcomes. In my discussion of methods and methodologies used in our research, I highlight theory and practical applications of mindfulness-based interventions. I specifically address two such interventions-breathing meditation and reflexivity-boosting heuristics-that were developed and enacted in our studies. Considered in ontological terms, the interventions are meant to afford shifts towards enactments saturated with focus, open awareness, and the ability to detach from thoughts and emotions. Axiological considerations point to compassion towards all sentient beings and the non-animate world as a highly valued component of a mindful disposition. The principles of authentic inquiry we practice stipulate that research participants benefit from the study. Accordingly, my engagement in this research afforded ontological changes towards more mindful ways of being. In addition, I was able to witness and contribute to similar transformations in people occupying different fields of my social life. When viewed through an epistemological lens, wellness-mediating mindful enactments constitute knowledge that is profoundly desirable and distinct from a canonical tradition that continues to be privileged in education. As a researcher, I consider it an ethical obligation to persist in mindfulness-promoting activism towards achievement of ontological, educative, catalytic, and tactical authenticity. The relationships with like-minded scholars that emerged in the course of my research open up new possibilities for the collaborative work to continue.

  • 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.

  • Playing on Two Courts: Factors that Facilitate and Constrain Teacher Learning in a Lesson Study Group

    Author:
    Rebecca Rufo-Tepper
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    This purpose of this study was to explore the question "What are the factors that facilitate and constrain teacher learning in a lesson study group?" through an ethnographic case study of five teachers involved in a lesson study group at a Manhattan middle school. This study had two specific goals: (1) To contribute to existing theories on how and why lesson study leads to a sense of instructional improvement and (2) To examine the larger institutional and personal factors that may contribute to or present obstacles to instructional change. Data was collected over the course of two school years, and consisted of observation notes from lesson study meetings; observation notes of teachers in their classrooms; field notes; interviews with participants and school leaders; a variety of documents, including artifacts from the lesson study group, emails, student work, and memos; audio recordings of lesson study meetings and interviews, which were transcribed, and a pre-lesson study questionnaire and survey. In order to examine the factors inside and outside of the lesson study group that affected the learning of the participants, data was coded based on factors that facilitated a sense of growth and factors that constrained a sense of growth. A framework for data analysis emerged out of the data and consisted of four main elements: structural features of lesson study, foundational features of the school and larger system of schooling, experiences within lesson study, and teacher characteristics. Analysis suggests that lesson study can create a sense of growth in teaching practice, yet lesson study in itself does not always lead to instructional change. It appears that teacher characteristics, structural and experiential features of lesson study, foundational features within the school, and larger institutional factors both facilitate and present obstacles to change in teaching practice. Findings indicate that though teachers may feel a sense of growth in their practice, they still may not change their instruction or curriculum. The implication from these findings is that lesson study alone - at least for a short period of implementation - is unlikely to create long term change in instruction.

  • Death of a Dropout: (Re)Theorizing School Dropout and Schooling as a Social Determinant of Health

    Author:
    Jessica Ruglis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    In this dissertation I posit that schooling is a social determinant of health. Employing a mixed method, participatory action research design, this study examines and offers original theorizing on the ways in which schooling affects educational and health outcomes. This research explores how and why education is the most significant predictor of lifetime health. Grounded in critical race theory, this dissertation spans conceptual frameworks from critical theory, participatory action research, political economy, social and environmental psychology, social epidemiology and public health as a way to understand the relationship that education level has to health. It offers a detailed analysis of the relationship between education and health, the current graduation rate crisis and its historical origins, school dropout and the costs of diploma denial. I describe the research process of the youth participatory action research collective called ProjectDISH (Disparities in Schooling and Health) formed for this study. ProjectDISH created the research questions, methodology, design, protocol and methods of analyses for this mixed-method (mapping, focus groups, and survey) research study. The purpose of our research was to investigate and document the ways in which schooling and health are related, and how racialized urban educational inequities and outcomes correlate with health disparities. Supporting literature and policy suggestions are woven throughout the findings chapters. I end this dissertation by introducing a new theory of school dropout, called school non-completion, as a way to speak back to, reframe and move forward the discourse, research, policy and practices concerning school dropout. The concluding chapter also provides methodological considerations and policy recommendations for this work.

  • Fostering solidarity and transforming identities: A collaborative approach to elementary science teacher education

    Author:
    Christina Siry
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Tobin
    Abstract:

    This study explores the use of coteaching and cogenerative dialogue in pre-service elementary teacher education, and the ways in which sharing responsibility for learning and teaching can afford the development of solidarity and new teachers' identity transformations. Specifically, the research detailed in this dissertation focuses on learning to teach science in a field-based methods course taught partially on a college campus and partially in an urban elementary school. I used critical ethnography guided by the theoretical frameworks of cultural sociology and the sociology of emotions. The lens of phenomenology provided the contextual aspects of the individual experience, and design experiment was utilized as the research unfolded, affording continual redesign of the work. Issues of identity and group membership are central to this research, and I have explored connections between the emergence of solidarity within a group of teachers and the individual identity transformations supported through a collective sense of belonging. A key component of this study was an analysis of the co-responsibility nurtured through coteaching and cogenerative dialogue, and thus the dialectical relationship between the individual and the collective is critical to this research. At the individual level, I examined identity development, and individual participation in a field-based methods course. At the collective level, I considered the ways that participants form collective identities and group solidarity. Two of the chapters of my dissertation are coauthored with students, as I have sought to dismantle teacher-student hierarchies and replace them with complex relationships supported through polysemic and polyphonic approaches to research. In examining identity and solidarity as they emerged from this approach, I make the following contributions to science teacher education; (1) identify resources and practices in elementary science teaching that surface in a collaborative field-based framework, (2) investigate identity transformations that occur among participants in a collaborative field-based framework and (3) explore the ways in which this approach helped pre-service teachers and myself develop a sense of community. By fulfilling these connected goals, this research draws implications for teacher education programs and provides insights towards creating collaborative approaches to teacher education courses.

  • 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.

  • The effects of bilingual instruction on the English emergent literacy skills of Spanish-speaking preschool children

    Author:
    Zoila Tazi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    Numerous studies have shown that early childhood education (ECE) contributes to educational attainment particularly for poor children. Nationally, ECE has gained considerable backing as a viable intervention to propel achievement. As ECE comes to the fore, census figures indicate that Latinos are the fastest growing minority in the United States. Latinos have persistently experienced greater rates of poverty and other risk factors that adversely affect educational attainment. Multiple risk factors as well as a "cultural mismatch" with a school system poised to educate white, middle-class, English-speaking students, raise alarm for the educational trajectories of Latino children just entering schools. Racism and linguicism exist as the social backdrop that informs public opinion regarding the education of Latino preschool children. In this context, bilingual instruction for these children may represent a libratory as well as effective pedagogical approach. This quantitative causal comparative study looks at the combined effectiveness of early childhood education and home language instruction on the English emergent literacy skills of Spanish-speaking preschool students randomly assigned to monolingual instruction or bilingual instruction. Over the course of two early childhood years - Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten -- the students' scores on multiple measures of emergent literacy skills were compared and analyzed. Results indicate that bilingual instruction offers key advantages to Spanish-speaking preschool children that mitigate some of the negative impact of poverty on achievement. Patterns emerge in the results that indicate that bilingual instruction can also potentially neutralize the association between a mother's low educational attainment and decreased achievement for the child. The multiple assessments of emergent literacy skills utilized in this study reveal inadequacies in timed fluency measures, common throughout the United States, for a population that is developing English language skills. This suggests the need for appropriate assessments that do not disadvantage second language learners. As a comprehensive analysis of what occurs in the first two years of school, this study presents compelling evidence. Bilingual instruction emerges as a powerful protective factor for young Latinos which neutralizes substantial risks while it produces comparable rates of achievement with emergent bilinguals receiving instruction only in English.

  • 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.