Co-Construction of Power, School Choice, and Desegregation: A multi-level analysis of a white and/or privileged parent led school desegregation effort
Talia Leibovitz

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

Second Language Learning/Bilingual Education
At the 65th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision, scholars bemoaned that there has been no meaningful federal government effort devoted to voluntary integration of the schools, and it has been decades since federal agencies funded research about effective strategies for school integration (UCLA Civil Rights Project, 2019). The abdication of responsibility from the Supreme Court and the federal and state governments generated the need for individuals and communities to organize for school desegregation. The emphasis on remedying educational inequity through local level organizing, in combination with the recent ?racial awakening? among white liberals, has resulted in white parents grappling with the consequences of their school choices, their egalitarian beliefs, and desire for an anti-racist identity. As an interdisciplinary education policy scholar interested in the politics of school desegregation, I utilize theories of learning to understand white and/or privileged parents? sensemaking of race, racism, and the social construction of ?good schools?, and investigate how these parents organize for school desegregation. This study illuminates how and why white and/or privileged families engage in school desegregation efforts and identifies the political implications of their organizing. I do so through a three-year qualitative case study using critical ethnographic methods to examine a group of white and/or privileged parents organically organizing for school desegregation in Oakland, California. I consider the current sociopolitical landscape and utilize analytical tools from the learning sciences and social psychology to capture the contradictions, tensions, and organic nature of the participants? school desegregation organizing across the individual, interactional, organizational, and structural levels. Preliminary findings demonstrate how the neoliberal local political economy, pro-privatization parent projects within Oakland, and ideologies of school choice inform the parents? organizing and illustrate how parents often work in tension with one another and their ideals for a democratic vision of education. This study expands and complicates understandings of white and/or privileged parents? organizing for school desegregation by paying attention to how the sociopolitical context, structural ideologies, and individual and collective work of parents simultaneously inform one another and ultimately impact and constrain their efforts.
About Talia Leibovitz
Talia Leibovitz is a doctoral candidate in the Berkeley School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research agenda explores how white and/or privileged parents? conceptualize notions of educational equity and how these conceptions inform their school choice and community organizing efforts to sustain and/or interrupt racialized inequities in schools. Her dissertation utilizes theories of learning to understand the tensions and contradictions in white and/or privileged parents? ability to organize towards racial integration and (dis)engage in racial discourse within the current sociopolitical context. Specifically, Talia?s dissertation is a three-year qualitative case study using critical ethnographic methods to examine a group of white and/or privileged parents organizing for school desegregation in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), California. Talia received a M.A. in Education from UC Berkeley and a B.A in both Political Science and Communications from San Diego State University. While at UC Berkeley, Talia has taught graduate and undergraduate students in the Critical Studies in Education course. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked as a researcher for UC San Francisco and supported families with children with developmental disabilities at the Autism Center of Northern California.

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