There Goes the Neighborhood School: Towards an Understanding of the Effects of Gentrification on Public Schools
Alisha Butler

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Maryland, College Park

Primary Discipline

Gentrification has transformed the physical, cultural, and demographic landscape of cities across the United States. The increased movement of middle-class parents ? or parent gentrifiers ? to urban neighborhoods and their subsequent investment in urban public schools has raised questions about the meanings and implications of gentrification for public schools. Focusing on Washington, DC, my three-paper dissertation project investigates the following overarching question: How does gentrification shape the culture and climate of urban public schools? First, I investigate the values and processes that guide parent gentrifiers' selection of middle and high schools for their children. Next, I draw on a multisite case study of three elementary schools to examine how gentrification shapes the politics of family engagement. The case study investigates how educators and administrators respond to changing demographics in their school communities and how parent gentrifiers and longtime resident parents negotiate their respective ? and perhaps competing ? interests in urban schools. Through this project, I seek to amplify stakeholder perspectives that are underrepresented in the literature on school gentrification, including parent gentrifiers with middle and high school-aged children, school administrators and teachers, and longtime resident parents. Moreover, the dissertation aims to challenge narratives that position school personnel and longtime families as passive recipients of school gentrification's benefits or displaced victims of the process. In sum, the papers' central contribution will be to reveal the transformative promises and challenges of gentrification for urban schools to inform strategies to build inclusive communities for students and their families.
About Alisha Butler
Alisha Butler is a Ph.D. Candidate in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a mixed-methods researcher whose work draws on interdisciplinary perspectives to interrogate the overlapping ecologies of schools, neighborhoods, and cities that shape students' and families' experiences with schools and education. Her dissertation uses qualitative methods to investigate gentrification's effects on urban schools, with a focus on how middle-class families in gentrifying communities select secondary schools for their children, how administrators and educators respond to changing school demographics, and how gentrification shapes the politics of family engagement in urban schools. Her broader research portfolio includes evaluations of after-school programs, teacher and administrator evaluation systems, school turnaround, and initiatives to bolster family and community engagement in schools. In addition to research, Alisha enjoys long-distance running, cycling, and photography. She earned an MA in education policy from the University of Maryland, College Park and a BA in political science from Yale University.

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