Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Educational and Occupational Aspirations of Undocumented Youth

    Author:
    Alejandra Varela
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT Educational and Occupational Aspirations of Undocumented Youth by Alejandra Maria Varela Advisor: Dr. Nicholas Michelli This study explored the educational and occupational aspirations of a group of undocumented Mexican youth by using quantitative and qualitative methods. A total of 125 participants, 62 documented and 63 undocumented, participated in the quantitative part. From this overall total of participants ten, (five males and five females) participated in in-depth interviews. The results of the quantitative phase indicated that the undocumented youth aspire to acquire a post-secondary education at almost the same rate as the documented youth despite the fact that they are unauthorized, have spent an average of ten years in the States and are not fully proficient in English. The fact that they are undocumented and face serious barriers in accomplishing these dreams did not act as a major barrier in precluding from having high aspirations. Consistent with the quantitative analysis, the qualitative data also showed that the undocumented youth are highly confident in their belief that having a higher education would eventually lead them to obtain the jobs they want even though they face such structural barriers. Time and time again during the interviews the youth explained the importance of education in their lives and asserted the fact that they want to have jobs where they are respected and where they can make enough money to support their own families. In the interviews, the youth demonstrated an awareness of how their condition of illegality might prevent them from reaching their goals, and while this is a source of great distress, confusion and uncertainty, they still continue to persevere in looking for any educational and employment opportunities available to them.

  • In Their Own Right: Immigrant Adolescents Research the Global City

    Author:
    Daniel Walsh
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Stacey Lee
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this dissertation research project is to explore how recently-arrived immigrant adolescents who are English learners (ELs) experience New York City during an era of unprecedented globalization and neoliberal social and economic policies. It explores immigrant adolescents' experiences in the global city (Sassen, 2001) through a qualitative study that incorporates the tenets of both critical ethnography and participatory action research. The study has two overarching questions: 1. How does the context of the global city shape the conditions of the lives of immigrant adolescents who are learning English? 2. How do they understand and respond to these conditions? To explore these questions, I collaborated with a group of immigrant adolescents who are ELs for one year and assisted them with the design and implementation of their own research projects. Their research questions reflect both their lived experiences as immigrant adolescents in the global city and topics about which they desired to effect change. Such a research design ensured that the co-researchers would receive some degree of reciprocity for their role in the study and that I did not simply "mine" a community for data. Four young women from Haiti, Guinea, Senegal, and Togo completed research projects that addressed the following questions of their own design: 1. What is the nature of cultural, linguistic, and racial conflict at a high school for immigrant youth? 2. How do immigrant students in International and traditional schools feel about their school experiences? 3. How do immigrant adolescent girls negotiate their home culture and culture of the U.S.? 4. How do undocumented high school students negotiate the transition to college and/or work? The nature of their provocative questions is only the beginning of the insight that this study provides into the lives of immigrant adolescents learning English in the global city. The research findings indicate that legalistic notions of citizenship fail to capture the complexity to citizenship and belonging, that cultural identity in global times is hybrid and unresolved, that a discourse of tolerance depoliticizes the nature of inter-group conflict, and that language-in-testing policy has both cultural and economic implications for immigrant youth. In addition to contributing theoretical and methodological insights about immigrant adolescents learning English, these findings have implications for educational pedagogy and policy as well as broader social and economic policies in global cities.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • On Becoming a Teacher (or Not): Students of Color's Perceptions of Teachers' Work, Consideration of Teaching as a Career, and Implications for Diversifying the Teaching Force

    Author:
    Amanda Winkelsas
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    The racial/ethnic demographics of the American public school teaching force stand in contrast to the racial/ethnic demographics of the students and families who are served by our public school system. In an effort to understand the racial/ethnic demographic disparities between the teaching force and the public school student population, this study explores the perceptions of students of color as they relate to teachers' work, authority, and power. Utilizing a participatory, mixed methods approach in one public, urban, college preparatory school, I analyze the experiences, cultural models, and knowledges that shape students' perceptions of teachers' work and their own consideration of teaching as a potential career. I reflect on the value and transformative power of a truly diversified teaching force and the relationship between teacher diversity, social justice, and the emerging American democracy.

  • The Social Network of US National Math Education

    Author:
    Mark Wolfmeyer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Joel Spring
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the emerging US national math education, its curriculum and purpose, with respect to the individuals and organizations comprising its social network. National math education means two things: a circumstance in which all students across the US are offered primarily the same instruction from among mathematical topics, and a process whose outcome is in the national interest. The method of inquiry relies on a new perspective of governance in which social networks operate among official governing structures. Upon constructing a representative social network surrounding US national math education, the following interests were found: developing a national math education that enhances the productivity of US workers, advocacy for either a traditional or reform mathematics pedagogy, improving the content knowledge of US math teachers, and a national math education that fuels an education services industry. Taken together, these interests undermine each other and are argued to fail at national math education's purported objective, namely, to increase the knowledge and use of mathematics by persons living in the US.

  • "But what about the other kids?": Linguistic and religious minority youth in a Newcomer high school

    Author:
    Heather Woodley
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Ofelia Garcia
    Abstract:

    To meet the academic and social-emotional needs of recently-arrived immigrant youth, Newcomer high schools have been created in many urban areas. In New York City, these schools are often comprised mostly of Spanish-speaking students (ranging from 80-95%) with a small, yet diverse and growing minority of speakers of lesser-used languages who are also a religious minority. While schools often have Spanish-bilingual staff and resources for the dominant Latino population, educators are often left asking, "But what about the other kids?" the Muslim speakers of Bengali, Arabic, Fulani, Wolof, Kotokoli, and even more languages, who share no home languages with school adults. In order to help schools and teachers meet the academic, linguistic, and social-emotional needs of these "other kids," this study explores the school experiences and meaning-making of recently-arrived Muslim immigrant youth in a majority-Spanish-speaking Newcomer high school in the Bronx. Using arts-based pedagogical research, data is drawn from one year of after-school sessions where youth took photography, created social maps, collages, books, and graphic arts pieces to shape and expand on interviews, whole-group discussions, peer interviews, and participant observation. Major findings reveal how youth translanguage (GarcĂ­a, 2009) throughout the school day, using self-regulated, and self-initiated learning, while also expressing value in multilingual learning, but acknowledging that bilingual education is not a privilege afforded to them. While allowed the space for home language learning, these youth are simultaneously experiencing multiple racisms - personal and pedagogical oppression based on differences in language, homeland, and religion. This duality, and ways of making meaning of it, shape youth's complex educational linguistic identities, or their perceptions of how languages should be used in learning. The voices of these youth speak to the needs of educators and schools working with diverse linguistic and religious populations. The ways in which these youth translanguage in their learning, and conceptualize messages articulated by the school, provide new understandings of effective strategies, school structures, and pedagogical practices for teaching emergent bilinguals, recently-arrived immigrants, and religious minority youth. Lessons are also learned from the methodology of this study itself, as an empowering tool for representation, and a way to expand youth's linguistic repertoires and sharing of ideas through art and creative expressions.

  • Adding Students' Voices to the Discourse on Effective Teaching

    Author:
    Jennie Yi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Urban Education
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Michelli
    Abstract:

    There is tremendous pressure at the national, state, and locals level to improve schools and close the achievement gap of education. In an attempt to solve these education questions, policymakers and education administrators are focusing on quality control of what they consider an essential element in education: teachers. Teachers across the nation are put on the defensive as each state tries to somehow measure and assess teacher effectiveness to ensure their schools have teachers that can yield the highest growth among their students. What has been missing in this inquiry and process, however, are the students' voices. Despite that they are truly the major stakeholders of public education, the students' input and perceptions have not been studied in depth. While some current research includes student surveys, such as studies by the Gates Foundation and the MET (Measurement of Effective Teaching), there is a greater need to focus school and teacher effectiveness studies on student input. This research sought to conduct an inquiry into students' perceptions of education, schooling, and qualities of effective teachers. We conducted our participatory action study with student researchers at a successful suburban high school. A survey targeting 11th grade class of 306 students was administered (N=249). The survey consisted of a self-identified demographic profile, open- and closed-ended responses. The survey was supplemented with10 personal interviews. The interviews revealed a clear understanding on the part of students between school quality/teacher effectiveness and economic variables. The students at this site school have a clear understanding that their families reside in this community for the purpose of their children receiving a high quality education. School and education are instrumental to a common goal: getting into the best college possible and gaining economic benefits, such as high status and or high paying jobs. Academic achievement for students at Eastland High School is quantitative. Scores on local, state, and national exams are a clear measure of academic growth and achievements. The relationship the students perceive between the school and themselves is that of a consumer and producer.