Race, Class, and Belonging: Desegregating Schools in Gentrifying New York
Alexandra Freidus

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



New York University

Primary Discipline

My dissertation closely examines questions of race, class, and power in gentrifying schools and classrooms in New York City, the “epicenter of educational segregation for the nation” (Kucsera & Orfield, 2014, p. iii). Despite increased scholarly and public interest in school desegregation and urban gentrification, researchers have not yet examined how changes in school demographics affect students, teachers, and classrooms. In this study, I explore how classroom relationships and teacher practices intersect with public discourse and educational policy. My research takes place in two stages. In the first phase, I use observations of public meetings, interviews with community stakeholders, and analysis of local media coverage to examine the shifting understandings, assumptions, and norms underlying debates over school desegregation in rapidly gentrifying areas of New York City. These data provide crucial context for the second phase of the study, which focuses on happens within gentrifying classrooms. Ethnographic case studies of classrooms in two gentrifying schools examine how social interactions, instructional decisions, and labeling and sorting practices relate to broader community discourses of race, class, and academic achievement. By tracing the relationships between the “micro” of everyday social interactions and the “macro” of public policy and discourse, my study offers a new lens for understanding the complex nature of teaching and learning in increasingly diverse schools.
About Alexandra Freidus
Alexandra Freidus is a doctoral candidate in Urban Education at New York University. Alex uses qualitative methods to better understand racially, socioeconomically, and culturally diverse schools. Her research agenda explores how community stakeholders conceptualize student diversity, how school and district administrators enact educational policy, and how these local contexts relate to schools’ central work – teaching and learning. Her dissertation uses ethnographic methods to explore the intersections of educational policy, public discourse, and classroom interactions in gentrifying New York City. Alex’s work is informed by over fifteen years of professional experience working with and in public schools, and in particular by what she learned from her students and her colleagues while teaching untracked social studies classes at Berkeley High School. Her research has been published in Urban Education, The Teacher Educator, and Humanity and Society. Alex holds a B.A. in History from Brown University and an M.A. in Education from Mills College.

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