2014 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows

Michael Bowman, University of Washington

Michael Bowman is a doctoral candidate in Social and Cultural Foundations of Education at the University of Washington. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Macalester College and an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington. His research interests include: the historical role of schools in neighborhood planning and development; spatial policy history; and place-conscious teacher education. Michael is proud to be one of the developers of the “Community-Family-Politics” strand in the University of Washington’s Teacher Education Program; a curricular thread that forges collaborations between urban educators and community organizers with the goal of creating more just, humane, and responsive schools and neighborhoods. Michael was one of two doctoral students at the University to receive the ‘Excellence in Teaching’ award in 2012.

Planning School Neighborhoods in an American Cosmopolis: A Spatial Policy History of School District, Housing, and City Planning Collaborations in Seattle, 1930-1980

A growing literature in the history of education illuminates the mutually constitutive nature of schooling and housing as drivers of differential access to resources and social goods. This literature shows that school siting, construction, and assignment policies have worked in tandem with housing policies and markets to structure race in highly racialized northern and southern cities with substantial black populations in the post-war North and the pre and post-Brown South. However, no study yet takes a substantially spatial approach to the history of education in the multi-ethnic, multi-racial, metropolitan U.S. West. In addition, earlier studies have been slow to see how both education and housing policy were part of broader social and physical planning movements that arose during the New Deal and continued for decades. This dissertation addresses these gaps through a focused analysis of five decades of collaboration between school district, housing, and urban planning professionals in Seattle, from 1930 to 1980.

Throughout this period, an urban design philosophy of ‘neighborhood unit planning’ guided inter-agency collaborations. Drawing primarily on evidence from school district and municipal archives, this dissertation will examine both the claims by professionals that neighborhoods were the most rational and just units in which to organize and distribute education and counter-claims by advocates of a more participatory planning process who by the 1970s understood ‘neighborhood unit planning’ as a tool for ethnoracial and class segregation. I argue that this history is especially needed now as districts across the country return to neighborhood school models of educational provision.

Amanda Butz, University of Kentucky

Amanda Butz is a doctoral candidate in the department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology at the University of Kentucky. Amanda serves as the graduate student coordinator for the Motivation and Achievement in Rural Appalachia project (MARA), which investigates contextual factors that influence student motivation and achievement. Her current research interests involve exploring the relationship between potential first-generation college students’ information networks and their college-going beliefs. In addition, Amanda has conducted research on the sources of self-efficacy in mathematics and reading. She has previously served as the graduate research assistant for both the P20 Motivation and Learning Lab under the direction of Dr. Ellen L. Usher and the Robinson Scholars Program, which serves first-generation college students from eastern Kentucky. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Amanda obtained an MA in Adult and Higher Education from Morehead State University.

Connecting The Dots: Social Capital and the College-Going Beliefs of Rural Appalachian Students

First-generation students (i.e., students whose parents have not attended a four-year college) and students of lower socioeconomic status often prepare for postsecondary education without the benefit of college information provided by their families (Lundberg, 2007). This lack of information can result in lower levels of college-access for those students who might benefit most from a college education. Although this lack of information has been identified as a problem in the literature, few researchers have sought to understand how potential first-generation college students might go about obtaining the necessary information for a successful transition to college. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between students’ college information networks (i.e., those individuals with whom students talk about college) and students’ beliefs about college (i.e., college-going self-efficacy and educational aspirations). Participants will be middle and high school students from a rural Appalachian school district in eastern Kentucky (n = 500). Information on students’ college information networks will be collected to better understand the relationship among first-generation college students’ access to social capital (i.e., information and resources acquired through social ties), their college-going self-efficacy, and their educational aspirations. Findings will be interpreted within the framework of social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986, 1997) and capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986). A better understanding of the availability of college information to potential first-generation college students will help researchers and practitioners to design interventions that could help to increase college attendance and persistence among first-generation students and other at-risk populations.

Toni Cela, Teachers College, Columbia University

Toni Cela was a 2013-2014 Fulbright Scholar at the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED), a research institute based in Haiti, and a 2013-2014 Council of Anthropology and Education Presidential Fellow. She holds a master’s degree in Comparative and International Education from Teachers College, Columbia University where she is currently a doctoral candidate in the International Education Development program. Her research interests include: diaspora and homeland development; diaspora engagement in higher education; the internationalization of higher education; higher education policy and reform; education in emergencies; migration and development; migration and education. Her dissertation research examines how diaspora engagement in higher education is influencing institutional capacity for recovery and reconstruction in post-disaster Haiti and contends that diaspora engagement in post-crisis and post-conflict settings is embedded in larger transnational processes that require serious examination and analysis. Toni has held various research and educational posts in countries including: the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, and Senegal. Her most recent publication titled, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?: Haitian University Students in Senegal,” can be found in the edited volume, Lives in Motion: Migration and Education in Global Perspective which received the 2014 Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award from the Comparative & International Education Society.

(Re)Conceptualizing the Role of Higher Education in Emergency Contexts

In post-disaster and post-conflict societies critical threshold events trigger or intensify diaspora mobilization and engagement in their homelands. Taking the 2010 earthquake as a “critical event” that has transformed the course of Haitian society, this study builds on existing research on diaspora influence on homeland development by examining how diaspora engagement in higher education is shaping Haiti’s capacity for recovery and reconstruction. With national rebuilding efforts in Haiti largely dependent upon international assistance, the diaspora emerges as an important but complex actor that engages national and international entities in rebuilding efforts in a way that requires serious examination and analysis. This study will answer the following research question: How is diaspora engagement in higher education influencing institutional capacity for recovery and reconstruction in post-disaster Haiti? This study contends that diaspora engagement in national recovery and reconstruction is embedded in larger transnational processes that involve multiple agents with competing agendas, acting from different institutional power positions. Drawing on practice theory and a post-structuralist notion of power, this study will generate an ethnography and analysis of sites and contexts of engagement where the Haitian diaspora negotiate their cultural understanding of higher education with local practices, within larger competing transnational paradigms that define higher education.

Christopher Chambers-Ju, University of California, Berkeley

Christopher Chambers-Ju is a doctoral candidate at the University of California Berkeley in political science. He earned his B.A. at Amherst College and holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago. His research looks at the development of teachers’ unions in Latin America and the political strategies they adopt to influence education policy in the wake of democratic transitions. He has conducted research on teachers and public schools in Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. His research has appeared in edited volumes as well as in the journal PS: Political Science & Politics.

Teachers’ Unions in Comparative Perspective: Networks of Electoral Mobilization and Influence

In developing democracies, teachers have become politicized and teachers’ unions have become powerful structures of mobilization. My research examines why teachers’ unions in Colombia and Mexico developed networks of electoral mobilization and influence, while the union in Argentina did not. I examine whether teachers came together as a cohesive voting bloc, whether teachers organized political campaign activities, and how politicians and parties linked to the union influenced education policy. I use a multi-method approach to build and then test a theory of teachers’ electoral participation. Triangulating between qualitative and quantitative data, I seek to identify and assess the causal weight of variables that help to explain teachers’ electoral participation. Data was collected during 18 months of field work in three countries. In interviews I asked politicians and union leaders how they mobilized teachers as voters. I gathered databases of candidate recruitment, the territorial vote share of candidates and parties linked to teachers’ unions, as well as teacher survey data on individual level political attitudes and behavior.

This research is significant for education because teachers’ unions are one of the strongest interest groups in the education sector. Examining how teacher’ preferences are aggregated and transformed into political representation helps to shed light on the organization of the public education sector. Moreover, too much political engagement by teachers could hinder efforts to professionalize the teaching profession and distract from classroom instruction and pedagogical work. The electoral participation of teachers in developing countries is a crucial research question that deserves greater analysis.

Mariah Contreras, Tufts University

Mariah Contreras is a Ph.D. candidate in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University. She holds a B.A. from Colgate University in Educational Studies and Art and Art History and a M.A. from Tufts in Applied Child Development. At Tufts, Mariah’s program of research studies linguistically and ethnically diverse populations in the U.S. Her scholarship maintains substantive focus on understanding normative and adaptive parenting processes within immigrant and ethnic minority families, as well as on examining how these processes link to well-being across early childhood. Grounding her research through sociocultural perspectives, she is particularly interested in integrating theory and knowledge across disciplines of developmental science, early childhood education, and public health and policy.

The Role of Young Mothers’ Early Ethnic-Racial Socialization in Children’s School Readiness

Disparities in school competencies between children of adolescent and older parents are pervasive even as children enter U.S. schools. Unequal foundations set the stage for persistent learning gaps that are well-documented throughout early years of school, highlighting the need to understand how diverse family processes of early childhood link to young children’s school readiness. Within a sample of young mothers of pre-school age children, my dissertation study seeks to understand young mothers’ diverse parenting behaviors, i.e., ethnic racial socialization, and investigate the extent to which these early behaviors are adaptive in promoting school readiness for children. The study is embedded in the Massachusetts Healthy Families Evaluation at Tufts University, a statewide randomized control trial of Healthy Families Massachusetts (HFM), an adolescent parent home visiting program. Given its place within a program evaluation, the study will also seek to understand whether these behaviors help explain the relation between home visiting program and distal program goals of child well-being. Specifically, I will 1) examine early ethnic-racial socialization behaviors across individuals, their children, and neighborhoods. Then I will employ confirmatory factor analyses and path models in a structural equation modeling framework to 2) test the measurement and structural invariance of the central ethnic-racial socialization instrument across multiple groups; and 3) also examine the direct and indirect paths among HFM parenting program, early ethnic-racial socialization, and children’s school readiness. This study is the first examination of ethnic-racial socialization in young mothers and aims to provide HFM and other programs with new knowledge of young mothers’ adaptive parenting behaviors worthy of promoting in program implementation.

Jeffrey T. Denning, University of Texas at Austin

Jeff Denning is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. He is working on several projects examining the effects of college costs on student participation and outcomes in higher education. He utilizes both quasi-experimental approaches and randomized controlled trials to answer questions about higher education. One of these projects uses a randomized controlled trial to disperse information about tax credits for college and will track take-up of tax credits as well as college enrollment. Other work focuses on student decisions in college such as persistence and major choice as well as decisions to enroll in college. He received a BA in Economics and Mathematics from Brigham Young University.

Student Financial Incentives and Constraints: Evidence from Grants and Tuition

This dissertation examines how the costs of college influence student behavior and success. In particular, I explore how college costs such as tuition and federal grant programs influence students’ college enrollment, major choice, credits attempted, graduation, and labor market success. I first examine the effect of community college tuition on college enrollment using student data in Texas. Texas public community colleges are partially financed through local property taxes and students who reside in areas that pay property taxes to support community colleges are charged less for tuition. I use over twenty expansions in the boundaries of community college taxing districts and the attendant decreases in tuition to explore the effects of reduced tuition on community college enrollment. After establishing that students did respond strongly to cheaper community college tuition, I explore the effect of increased community college attendance on ultimate educational attainment and labor market success. I next examine the impact of direct financial incentives for college major arising from the Federal SMART Grant. The SMART Grant was designed to induce students to major in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) fields by offering money to STEM majors as juniors and seniors. To accomplish this, I use student level data on all students at public universities in the state of Texas and a regression discontinuity design to uncover the causal effect of institutional financial incentives for major. This allows me to shed light on how financial incentives impact major choice.

Jessica Dunning-Lozano, University of Texas

Jessica Dunning-Lozano is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology, a Center for Mexican-American Studies portfolio student, and Ethnography Lab Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley in Sociology and Geography and an MA from the University of Chicago in the Social Sciences. Her research interests are focused in the intersections of education, incarceration, race, and class inequality. Jessica’s research broadly examines the micro effects of large-scale social and economic policies on low-income communities. Her current project scrutinizes the extension of the punitive arm of the state into social institutions not traditionally affiliated with the criminal justice system, such as public schools. Jessica’s work has been published in Sociological Forum and Race Ethnicity and Education.

This dissertation investigates the school-level impact of punitive zero-tolerance education policies through an ethnographic study of the daily practices in place at a 6th – 12th grade Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) in Texas. This is the first ethnography of a public DAEP in Texas, a product of zero-tolerance policy designed to punish and secondly to educate. The analysis draws from a rich set of data consisting of 27 months of participant observations, 12 of these months as a substitute teacher, 82 in-depth interviews with program personnel, students, parents, and an archive of student disciplinary documents. The study addresses four research questions: 1) How does the penetration of the carceral arm of the criminal justice system into public schools affect the quality of education? 2) How is discipline accomplished in this program, specifically, what are its forms, how does it vary, what is the extent of its operation, and what are its effects? 3) How does this experience vary by race, gender, class, and citizenship status? And 4) How do these disciplinary practices impact teachers, students, and families? DAEPs have little state oversight, a dropout rate five times higher than mainstream schools in Texas, and have become a more common academic transition point for boys, Latinos, Black, and low-income youth. An in-depth study of DAEPs contributes to our understanding of the micro-effects of punitive school policies on children, their families, and school authorities. Additionally, it provides the knowledge needed to improve the educational experiences of the most vulnerable youth populations.

Removal, Isolation, and Discipline in Texas Schools: An Ethnographic Study of a 6th – 12th Grade Disciplinary Alternative Education Program

This dissertation investigates the school-level impact of punitive zero-tolerance education policies through an ethnographic study of the daily practices in place at a 6th – 12th grade Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) in Texas. This is the first ethnography of a public DAEP in Texas, a product of zero-tolerance policy designed to punish and secondly to educate. The analysis draws from a rich set of data consisting of 27 months of participant observations, 12 of these months as a substitute teacher, 70 in-depth interviews with program personnel, students, parents, and an archive of student disciplinary documents. The study addresses four research questions: 1) How does the penetration of the carceral arm of the criminal justice system into public schools affect the quality of education? 2) How is discipline accomplished in this program, specifically, what are its forms, how does it vary, what is the extent of its operation, and what are its effects? 3) How does this experience vary by race, gender, class, and citizenship status? And 4) How do these disciplinary practices impact teachers, students, and families? DAEPs have little state oversight, a dropout rate five times higher than mainstream schools in Texas, and have become a more common academic transition point for boys, Latinos, Black, and low-income youth. An in-depth study of DAEPs contributes to our understanding of the micro-effects of punitive school policies on children, their families, and school authorities. Additionally, it provides the knowledge needed to improve the educational experiences of the most vulnerable youth populations.

Elizabeth Dyer, Northwestern University

Elizabeth Dyer is a doctoral candidate in the Learning Sciences program at Northwestern University. Her research interests focus on understanding how mathematics teacher learning and development lead to changes in teachers’ classroom practices and ultimately student learning. She received her BA in Mathematics and Astrophysics from University of California at Berkeley. After graduating, she was a research associate at Horizon Research, Inc. working on research studies and mixed-method evaluations of projects targeting large-scale math and science education improvement and teacher development. She has also worked as a college-level physics tutor and study group leader, as well as a calculus and chemistry instructor for first generation high school students in an Upward Bound program. At Northwestern, Elizabeth was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship in Mathematics Education. Her dissertation looks at how secondary mathematics teachers learn through experience to become more responsive to student thinking.

Learning through Teaching: An Exploration of Teachers’ Feedback Systems in Support of Responsive Teaching in Mathematics

The reform movement in mathematics education, most recently supported by the new Common Core Standards, calls for a new approach to instruction that is a significant departure from widespread teaching methods. In particular, teachers are expected be responsive to student thinking by noticing and building upon students’ emerging understanding. The primary way through which we have attempted to bring about these changes in teaching has been through multi-year ongoing professional development. However, some exemplary teachers undergo these changes just through learning from their classroom experiences to become more responsive. This little-studied phenomenon has the potential to be an extremely powerful way to change teaching practice because it opens up the possibility of shifting the focus of professional development toward preparing teachers to learn from their everyday teaching experiences. In this study I first investigate how secondary mathematics teachers use their classroom experiences as feedback to make their teaching more responsive to student thinking by uncovering teachers’ in-the-moment sense-making. These results will inform the design of a professional development sequence for secondary mathematics teachers focused on enabling teachers to learn from their teaching experiences in similar ways. This design will be piloted and studied in the final stage of this study, consisting of an initial cycle of design-based research. This study will contribute to our understanding of how teachers’ sense-making of classroom experiences supports growth towards responsive teaching. At a large scale, this study will inform the ways we support reform-oriented teacher growth and propose a new model of professional development with greater potential efficiency and scalability.

Shani Evans, University of Pennsylvania

Shani Adia Evans is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed a BA in anthropology at Amherst College and a MS.Ed. in education policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to beginning doctoral study, Shani worked at Research for Action, a non-profit educational research firm, where her projects focused on high school reform and community organizing for education. Shani’s research and teaching interests include education, inequality, race, and qualitative methods. In addition to her dissertation work, Shani studies school choice in urban communities. She conducted an ethnographic study of the admissions process at an academically selective public school and is collaborating on two papers about school choice processes among urban middle class parents.

Daily Lessons: Teacher-Student Interactions and the Development of Educational Trajectories

Most students aspire to complete a college degree, regardless of their social class background or race. However, students from low-income families are less likely to graduate from college compared to their peers from higher earning families. Research shows that resources available in a high school affect the likelihood that its students will enroll in a 4-year institution. However, few studies have considered how students’ everyday interactions with teachers might shape their educational trajectories.

The questions motivating my dissertation are: How do teachers communicate with students about their postsecondary options? What role do interactions with teachers play in shaping students’ educational trajectories? To examine these questions, I am conducting an ethnographic study in two selective-admission public high schools. The two schools are similar in many respects. They both serve high achieving students who are primarily black and low-income. However, the schools vary in their post secondary outcomes. Eighty percent of one school’s graduates enroll in a four-year college immediately after graduating, compared to fifty-five percent in the second school. Moreover, only the first school has a history of sending some graduates to highly selective colleges.

I conceptualize the knowledge, skills, and expectations that facilitate matriculation in a selective college as a form of cultural capital. I propose that cultural capital can be produced in the day-to-day interactions of high school students. The degree to which adults in different educational settings can, and will, share cultural capital with their students is important for understanding processes of social reproduction and college choice.

Cécile Evers, University of Pennsylvania

Cécile is a joint doctoral candidate in linguistic anthropology and educational linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Following her B.A. in development studies and linguistics at UC Berkeley (2007), she worked as a facilitator for Modern Standard Arabic teaching conferences in Washington D.C., then for an NGO in Dakar localizing software into Senegal’s national languages, and also as a high school Spanish teacher in San Francisco, her native town. Since she began her doctorate in 2009, she has been working on a project among heritage speakers of Maghrebi dialects of Arabic in Marseille, France. Aside from language teaching and learning, Cécile enjoys being outside in Northern California and taking care of her tropical fish!

Paradise on earth or stepping stone: Muslim second-generation youth speak and unspeak Marseille

Over the past years of the debate on France’s national identity, the French State and popular media have often grouped youth whose parents hail from France’s African ex-colonies into the broad category of “Muslim.” This dissertation, however, endeavors to show how youth born in Northern Marseille to parents from North, West, and East African countries figure themselves in ways more complex than simply “Muslim.” Faced with differing neighborhood histories and school choices, Muslim youth pledge allegiance to highly localized urban sub-cultures. This research highlights how these sub-cultures, on the one hand, form individually around place and activity routines, imagined life trajectories, and particular ways of speaking, dressing, and being Muslim, but also how they, on the other hand, arise through significant interactions between these Muslim micro-communities and French society more broadly.

Moreover, insofar as various youth micro-communities are observed to coexist in Marseille, behaviors displayed by youth (e.g., language use, bodily hexis, clothing, routines) only become legible or acquire coherence in reference to the overarching aspirational trajectories or life-worlds to which youth have anchored these practices. This dissertation endeavors to show that marginalized, diasporic youth micro-communities produce their identities in a way profoundly consistent with the French social puzzle, whereby people in dynamic contact with one another—marginalized and mainstream, local and global, racialized and normalized, French and diasporic, young and old, pious and secular— cannot but rub shoulders in finding space for their own piece.

Jeremy Fiel, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jeremy Fiel is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and a pre-doctoral fellow at the Interdisciplinary Training Program in Education Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After earning a BS in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Jeremy was a high school science teacher and coach in Mississippi, which motivated his interest in educational inequality. He received a pre-doctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation to support his research contemporary school segregation, some of which is published in the American Sociological Review. In addition to this ongoing work, Jeremy is studying socioeconomic disparities in processes of child development and the consequences for long-term educational and socioeconomic attainment.

Stratification and Resilience: Understanding and Promoting the Educational Success of Disadvantaged Youth

Education is a key determinant both of individuals’ life chances and of national productivity and inequality, and the route to educational success is contingent on children’s intellectual and socioemotional development. Researchers have spent decades probing developmental and educational inequality and seeking to inform efforts to promote the success of youth, particularly disadvantaged youth. Yet much of this research overlooks heterogeneity in the ways children of different socioeconomic backgrounds achieve healthy development and educational success, and in how families and schools can help them do so. Children are presented unique obstacles, opportunities, and resources depending on their socioeconomic background. As a result, the skills necessary to succeed likely differ across socioeconomic groups, as do the ways these skills are cultivated by families and schools. I use quantitative analyses of national longitudinal survey data to examine socioeconomic heterogeneity in the effects of intellectual skills and personality attributes on children’s academic performance and educational attainment. This sheds light on an overlooked dimension of inequality and identifies traits critical to the resilience and upward mobility of disadvantaged youth. I use similar methods to examine heterogeneity in the ways families influence the development of particular skills and attributes in children from different backgrounds. This elaborates sources of developmental and educational inequality and informs efforts to help disadvantaged youth. Third, I use experimental evidence to assess the ability of a school-based intervention to promote healthy development and academic success among youth from different backgrounds by building families’ social resources.

Rachel Fish, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rachel Fish is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a fellow in the Interdisciplinary Training Program in Education Sciences. Her research focuses on the role of school context in the reproduction of inequalities. Rachel’s dissertation research asks how school-level factors affect whether students are placed in special education and gifted services. Other research projects include a randomized controlled trial to test the effect of social capital on child outcomes, and a mixed-methods project on schools’ disciplinary procedures and identification of students with emotional-behavioral disorders. Prior to graduate study at UW-Madison, Rachel taught students with special needs in northwestern New Mexico. She earned her master’s degree in special education at Western New Mexico University and her bachelor’s at Bryn Mawr College.

Supporting Struggling Learners: How Students are Placed in Special Education and Gifted Services

This project examines institutional contexts and mechanisms that affect how students are placed in special education and gifted/talented services. I argue that exceptionality is a social construct, and I ask how educational institutions shape the construction of exceptionalities. My mixed-methods research project 1) tests whether and how school-level factors affect students’ identification with exceptionalities through an experimental survey and 2) investigates the mechanisms creating the construction of exceptionality through interviews with teachers and parents. This research will uncover structural factors that impact the labeling and placement of students in special education and gifted services.

Andrea Flores, Brown University

Andrea Flores is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Brown University. Her dissertation focuses on how Latino youth in Nashville, Tennessee conceptualize the value of higher education and civic engagement for themselves, their families, and their communities. Andrea received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology at Harvard University and her master’s degree in anthropology at Brown University. Her research has been supported by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and a grant from the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund.

Higher Educational Aspiration, Civic Engagement, and Belonging for Latino Youth

After school in Nashville’s crowded classrooms, a group of Latino youth faithfully gathers to learn about higher education from the staff of a college readiness nonprofit called Latino Succeeders. For these students-the Succeeders-the meaning of a college education is clear and more complex than the income-focused narratives offered in the media. For them, college is where “you can make yourself a better person.” In this dissertation, I argue that Latino Succeeder youth link higher educational attainment and civic engagement with the prospect of becoming valued moral actors and ‘good citizens’ of the United States. I draw on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork with learners, teachers, and the program’s staff. Methods included textual analysis, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation in the classroom and in learners’ extracurricular lives as they enacted their values of education and civic involvement in everyday, and exceptional, ways. This research offers critical insight into Latino higher educational access, school-community partnerships, and the interrelation of youth’s civic and educational aspirations.

Maisie Gholson, University of Illinois-Chicago

Maisie L. Gholson (B.S. Electrical Engineering, Duke University, 2001) is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a fellow of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows Program in STEM Education. She is also a former high school mathematics teacher and previously a patent agent in her hometown of Houston, Texas. Her proposed research relates to how a young Black girls’ social network influences their learning mathematics. Within a Black feminist framework, her research seeks to understand how Black children and adolescents’ identity and social development mediate their participation patterns and educational achievement, particularly, in mathematics.

Smart Girls, Black Girls, Mean Girls, and Bullies: The Mediating Role of Young Girls’ Social Network in Mathematical Communities of Practice

Children’s social networks in school are traditionally framed as external to students’ mathematics content learning. My preliminary analyses of student interviews and classroom interactions reveal that social clusters and networks developed by a group of girls in an all-African American third grade classroom were instrumental in shaping learning opportunities for the classroom community. The proposed study seeks to (1) understand the nature and functions of children’s social networks inside the classroom, (2) understand the relationships between children’s social networks and classroom-based communities of practice, and (3) understand how identities and positions emerge in learning activities as students negotiate these social networks and classroom-based communities of practice. Preliminary analysis suggests that children’s positions and identities were constructed in complex ways that were intimately connected various sources of power and privilege, including physical, social, gendered, and racial.

Nurhaizatul Jamil, Northwestern University

Nurhaizatul Jamil is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Northwestern University. She has a BA in Political Science and an MA in Sociology from National University of Singapore. She is a native of Singapore, where she spent one year engaged in fieldwork with upwardly mobile Muslim women who attended Islamic religious education classes that referenced an eclectic blend of sources such as the Quran, exegetical treatises, and American self-help rhetoric. She is interested in the intersections among postcolonial theory, semiotic theory, gender and sexuality studies, urban studies and religious studies. She is passionate about community-oriented research and opportunities for engagement with civil society. She has received numerous university-level grants. Her fieldwork was funded by the Northwestern University Graduate School fellowship and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Marketing Manners Makeover: Sufism, Self-help, and Women’s Religious Education in Contemporary Singapore

In recent years, Singaporean graduates of Egypt’s Al Azhar University have been at the forefront of the nation-state’s Sufi and Self-help oriented Islamic religious educational movement that emphasizes an individual’s socio-economic mobility through pious actions. These Al-Azhar returnees offer seminars for young Muslims that focus on a range of topics from virtuous mannerisms and religious rituals to effective Islamic business strategies. To distinguish themselves from more conventional preachers, they heavily utilize new media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter extensively and cite a wide range of sources from Sufi theologian Al-Ghazali, to poet Rumi, to New Age self-help guru Deepak Chopra. Like their counterparts in Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, and Egypt, they market their costly religious lessons as opportunities for young ethnic and religious minority Muslim graduates of Singapore’s secular universities to apply new understandings of their faith to everyday spheres. While their seminars attract male participants, the vast majority are professional Muslim women who attend these classes dressed in the latest Islamic fashions, armed with technological gadgets, and virtually archive their participation on Facebook. I investigate the ways in which this class-conscious, technologically savvy, women-centric, Sufi and self-help oriented religious educational movement re-defines what it means to be a Muslim minority in a wealthy, Asian, secular-oriented nation. In proposing this research, I highlight the importance of understanding a new generation of women preachers within Muslim minority states who possess transnational linkages, and have the authority to forge ideas about Islamic modernity, citizenship, and piety within non-institutionalized religious educational spaces.

Nicholas Juravich, Columbia University

Nick Juravich is a doctoral student in US History at Columbia University studying education, social movements, labor organizing, and urban development the twentieth century. In addition to his dissertation, Nick has written and presented on tenant organizing in public housing and the rise of gentrification as urban policy in New York City. He is interested in the interplay between communities and institutions, and the ways in which knowledge, resources, and opportunities are defined and transmitted between them. Nick holds a BA in History from the University of Chicago and an M.Phil. in Economic and Social History from the University of Oxford. Before coming to Columbia, Nick worked as a health and fitness educator with New York Road Runners in the schools of New York City.

“An Education in Democracy”: Paraprofessionals in Schools, Communities, and the Labor Movement, 1965-1980

My dissertation analyzes the creation and development of programs that brought hundreds of thousands of working-class mothers into public schools as paraprofessionals in the 1960s and 1970s. The project is focused on New York City as both a case study and a hub for the promotion of paraprofessional programs nationwide. In the mid-1960s, school districts across the United States began hiring local residents – primarily the mothers of schoolchildren – to work in public schools. Community activists advocated for these positions, and federal legislation funded them. “Paras” provided pedagogical and emotional assistance in classrooms, worked to improve school-community relationships, and trained to become teachers. Seeking better pay, job security, and improved training opportunities, paras unionized with locals of the American Federation of Teachers, beginning in New York City in 1969. “An Education in Democracy” seeks to illuminate the lives and labor of these parent educators and the ways they shaped, and were shaped by, relationships between schools and school systems, community politics, and public sector unions.

This qualitative history of paraprofessionals relies on archival and oral histories, and will offer fresh perspectives on three topics in the history of education: social protest, teacher unionism, and the relationship between education and poverty. Paras worked to integrate the teaching corps and promote community participation in schooling, but also joined unions and fought to make their locals equally responsive to community needs. Like many War on Poverty initiatives, para programs focused on education and training, but they also created jobs and redistributed resources to communities. Preliminary research suggests that paras remade schools, communities, and unions (and the relationships between them) in ways that improved public education in this era, and might inform current debates about the role of communities and unions in schools.

Holly Kosiewicz, University of Southern California

Holly Kosiewicz is a Ph.D. candidate in the Urban Education Policy program at the University of Southern California. Her research interests center on issues related with college access, persistence, and completion, and specifically focus on students who are first-generation, low-income, and of color. More specifically, she conducts research that evaluates the effectiveness of developmental education policies and practices on improving academic success among community college students. She is also interested in understanding and identifying the conditions that stifle or promote the successful reform of developmental education. She employs quantitative and qualitative methods to conduct her research. As a doctoral student, she also mentors college bound, low income minority students to successfully apply to college and receive financial aid.

Before pursuing doctoral studies, she conducted education policy analysis for Editorial Projects in Education, home of Education Week. Holly has also conducted education research in Colombia and Peru, and worked as a development worker in Jordan and El Salvador. She has an M.A. in International Development from the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis University, and a B.A. in Government and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin.

Giving community college students voice: The effects of mathematics self-placement on student success

Most community colleges use a placement test to assign students to developmental education, even though there is increasing evidence suggesting that these tests misdiagnose a student’s need for additional academic preparation. To correct misdiagnoses, some advocate for Directed Self-Placement (DSP), a placement approach that forces a student to decide if and the extent to which they need developmental education to succeed in college. Even though we know little about the benefits of DSP on improving the success of underprepared college students, some states and community colleges, nevertheless, have adopted it to sort students into developmental versus college-level coursework. Using a mixed model design, I employ quantitative and qualitative data from two California community colleges to advance our understanding of the effects and benefits of DSP for developmental math in several ways. First, I estimate the causal impact of DSP versus a test-based placement regime on scholastic achievement. Second, I explore whether information typically provided to aid decision-making (e.g. course descriptions, problem sets) increases math self-awareness, and helps students make more informed math placement decisions. Third, I study how students of different demographic backgrounds not only engage in decision-making under DSP, but also consider adopting behaviors that promote their engagement in college. Results from these analyses will inform state policymakers and local community colleges if and how DSP adds value over current placement regimes on scholastic achievement, and about the limitations of DSP implementation practices.

Holly Link, University of Pennsylvania

Holly Link is a former bilingual, two-way immersion teacher and a Ph.D. candidate in educational linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her master’s degree in bilingual education at Bank Street College of Education and returned to graduate school to pursue a PhD in education after conducting teacher research through a three-year fellowship in the Leadership Institute at the San Francisco Education Fund. While pursuing her PhD she has taught education courses at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and served as managing editor of Anthropology and Education Quarterly. Her research interests include the communicative practices of young people from minoritized backgrounds, multilingualism and multiliteracies, and the schooling experiences of children from immigrant families in communities of the new Latino diaspora. More broadly she is interested in ethnographic and collaborative research methods as well as teacher education that emphasizes practitioner inquiry and teacher research.

Doing Well in School: Repertoires of Success at the End of Elementary School

In spite of over a decade of U.S. school reform emphasizing test preparation and performance, minoritized students continue to underachieve on standardized testing. With an abundance of research on the achievement gap, we are now more than ever aware of this problem. But to avoid reproducing longstanding school inequities, testing practices and achievement measures need rethinking. This dissertation does just that by investigating how children from Mexican immigrant and African American backgrounds develop ideas about school success. Based on long-term, collaborative ethnographic research in a recently established Mexican immigrant community, I study how children think and communicate about school success. I show how, rather than simply accepting or rejecting school-based notions of success, children take up these notions in dynamic, heterogeneous, and unexpected ways. In an era when high-stakes testing is central to school life, examining how children respond to a new emphasis on testing in the elementary years will shed light on their later orientation to school success and engagement. I also consider how, in light of this emphasis, children are sorted according to a hierarchy of categories of success, a process that has persistent effects on their social identification. Without understanding these phenomena as new forms of testing aligned with the Common Core come into play, we risk further reifying schooling inequities. This dissertation will contribute new methods for studying and theorizing achievement by drawing on children’s underrepresented perspectives and point the way to utilizing their communicative practices for increased school engagement and more equitable assessments of achievement.

Nicole Louie, University of California, Berkeley

Nicole Louie earned a master’s degree in Education and a teaching credential from the Stanford Teacher Education Program, then taught middle school math for four years at a charter school in Chicago. Her experiences as a teacher led her to pursue a PhD in Education. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology program at the University of California, Berkeley, just a few miles from her home town, San Francisco. In addition to researching the construction of hierarchies in mathematics education, she has worked as a teacher educator and instructional coach in the San Francisco Unified School District, trying to bring the same collaborative, strengths-based approach that she has learned to use with students to professional development. She is fortunate to have the support of many communities of learners, including the Research in Cognition and Mathematics Education program at UC Berkeley, of which she is a fellow.

Pushing the Boundaries of “Good at Math”: How Mathematics Teachers (Re)Define Their Subject in Everyday Practice

What does it mean to be “good at math”? Traditionally, schools have valued getting the right answer, fast–a practice that has excluded important aspects of mathematics, as well as many students. Recent decades have seen many efforts to reform mathematics education, but change has been elusive–in no small part because of the complexity of the learning that reform demands of teachers. This case study investigates how teachers work together to redefine mathematics and mathematical competence, focusing on teachers with an explicit commitment to serving all students, especially students from non-dominant backgrounds. The study involved over a year of ethnographic observations and interviews at two urban high schools in Northern California. I find that teachers struggled to reconcile their abstract belief in all students with their day-to-day observations of deficits in students’ knowledge and skills, but that two teachers succeeded in enacting teaching practices that supported all students to engage with mathematical challenges and develop identities as mathematically competent people. I examine the resources that these two teachers leveraged against the ideological and structural challenges that they and their colleagues faced. In particular, I explore the role of teachers’ professional communities, both school-based and not, in building teachers’ capacity to redefine who and what is “good at math.” This research contributes to understandings of how teachers engage in equity-oriented learning, with important implications for policies and practices that target such learning.

Kelsey Mayo, University of California, Berkeley

Kelsey Mayo is a Ph.D. candidate in the Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program within Berkeley Law at the University of California, Berkeley. She studies education law from a sociological perspective, focusing on school choice and charter school legal environments as well as mobilization for educational rights. She has an M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Mississippi, where she served as a member of the Mississippi Teacher Corps in Jackson, and holds an A.B. in Classics from Princeton University.

Law and Institutional Competition in Charter School Authorization

This dissertation examines the role of law in shaping the context and conditions of charter school authorization in California, the state with the largest and most diverse population of charter schools in the nation. Although there exists a well-developed literature on the performance and place of charter schools in market-based education reforms, there have been few empirical studies of how parties relevant to charter school governance encounter, invoke, and use the law in the vital moments of authorization and renewal. The underlying argument guiding the project is that relevant educational law both shapes how actors view charter authorization and is shaped through contestation with alternative understandings of charter operation and mobilization during the bureaucratic process of charter authorization. The study employs a multi-method approach with two distinct phases: 1) quantitative analysis of the current and historical population of California charter schools to reveal patterns and types of school establishment, challenged or denied renewal, closure, and legal appeal, with a specific focus on legal action and the participation of legal professionals, and 2) qualitative inquiry that includes content analysis of charter petitions and authorization documents, semi-structured interviews of the parties to authorization, and several in-depth case studies of specific authorization actions.

Meghan McCormick, New York University

Meghan McCormick is a PhD candidate in the department of Applied Psychology at New York University, specializing in education and quantitative methods. Meghan’s research examines how relationships between students, teachers, and peers in elementary and middle school settings influence children’s social-emotional and academic development. She is particularly interested in how school-based programs that aim to enhance students’ social-emotional competencies can impact children’s academic development, reduce achievement gaps, and promote well-being for children from low-income families. Meghan’s work has been featured in several academic journals (e.g., Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of School Psychology, Elementary School Journal) as well as non-academic outlets. She is the recipient of various fellowships including a four-year predoctoral fellowship from the Institute of Education Sciences and an American Psychological Foundation Koppitz Fellowship. Prior to beginning doctoral work, Meghan conducted social policy research as a research assistant at MDRC. She was awarded an AB in public and international affairs from Princeton University in 2007.

Insights into Social-Emotional Learning and Achievement: An Approach for Strengthening Causal Inference

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs aim to support social-emotional skill development (e.g., behavioral/emotional regulation, attention) to improve children’s academic achievement. Given research showing that children growing up in poverty start school with lower levels of social-emotional skills, integration of SEL programs into traditional instruction may help close achievement gaps. Yet, evaluations of SEL programs have had mixed results, with some programs showing positive impacts and others having no effects on achievement. It is difficult to understand these mixed findings because few studies have examined how SEL programs work, and the types of settings and conditions that best support their implementation. Using the SEL program INSIGHTS as a case study, this dissertation will employ causal modeling to test not only whether the program effected academic achievement, but also how, where, and under what circumstances. The project uses a) instrumental variables and principal score matching to test classroom level mechanisms of INSIGHTS on achievement; b) multi-level modeling to examine differential effects of INSIGHTS by dimensions of school climate; and c) principal score matching to test program dosage effects. Given recent efforts by policymakers, practitioners, and parents to integrate social emotional skill development into schooling, there is more investment in SEL programs than ever. However, sustainable educational change must be built on rigorous research that allows for causal inference. Given the climate of limited resources, this dissertation will help policymakers identify effective programs, determine outcomes that measure program efficacy, and target critical conditions for change in school contexts.

Adrienne Mundy-Shephard, Harvard University

Adrienne Mundy-Shephard is a doctoral candidate in Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on identity and school climate issues impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, particularly youth of color, including the impact of peer attitudes on the school experiences of sexual minority youth. Adrienne also researches in-school supports for LGBTQ youth, such as gay/straight alliances, and how race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status impact participation in these groups. She is a recipient of the Harvard University Presidential Scholarship and a past recipient of the Face Value Fellowship, funded by the Ford Foundation, whose mission is to promote understanding of the roots of anti-LGBT bias and develop tools to address this bias. Adrienne received her A.B. from Harvard College and her J.D. from Georgetown University. She is currently a board member of the Harvard Gender and Sexuality Caucus and formerly served on the Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth and the New York City Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Committee. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Adrienne practiced litigation and corporate law in New York.

Empathy, Perspective-Taking and the Mere Exposure Effect: Understanding Adolescent Attitudes About Sexual Minorities and Reducing Prejudice Against Sexual Minority Youth

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning (LGBQ) youth are at heightened risk for a number of negative academic and mental health outcomes based on the discrimination they face because of their sexual orientation. One strategy to improve outcomes for these youth is to design interventions aimed at reducing prejudice against sexual minorities, and to assess how well these interventions work with adolescents. For my dissertation, I assessed baseline student attitudes about homosexuality and gender non-conformity at a racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse high school (N=821). Initial findings revealed statistically significant differences in attitudes based on race, sex, religion, parents’ country of origin, and ESL enrollment. I then conducted large-scale randomized experiment investigating the impact of two interventions that may be especially promising because they require little time and expense, but have the potential to significantly improve school climate. The first intervention involved offering students the opportunity to engage in one-on-one discussions in order to develop empathy and perspective-taking towards sexual minorities, for which the participation rate was approximately 30%. The second intervention, based on research indicating that multiple exposures to a stimulus increases a subject’s liking for that stimulus, involved repeated exposures to a questionnaire. I hypothesize that students who participated in either of the interventions will show increased tolerance for homosexuality and gender non-conformity compared to those students who did not participate in one of the interventions.

Julie Nurnberger-Haag, Michigan State University

Julie Nurnberger-Haag is a Ph.D. candidate in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology Program at Michigan State University, specializing in mathematical cognition. She taught secondary mathematics for seven years and earned an M.A. in Educational Studies focused on learning disabilities at the University of Michigan. Julie then spent the next ten years working in research and K-12 teacher professional development, as well as teaching college mathematics and education courses at Salt Lake City and Owens Community Colleges, Bowling Green State University, and Michigan State University.

Julie became a teacher to help all students, particularly those who struggle, learn mathematics. Her research investigates how to improve learning of specific mathematics topics that students, Pre-K to adult, find most difficult. She primarily approaches this goal by focusing on initial learning of particular topics (at whatever age this occurs) and analyzing instructional models in order to design models that better fit the ways human brains work. As a teacher she analyzed and designed models of teaching that considered how students’ physical motions aligned with the mathematical ideas they were learning (e.g., the ways students move different base-ten blocks or tools for integer arithmetic, or move their whole-body to act out the order of operations, integer operations, geometry, etc.). She began a doctoral program in order to learn more about how to leverage cognitive science research to analyze and design better methods for learning. Her prior, current, and near future research includes improving learning and instruction of base-ten number, integer arithmetic, and geometric shapes.

To Walk the Path or Collect the Chips: The Impact of Metaphors and Motions on Learning Integer Arithmetic

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning (LGBQ) youth are at heightened risk for a number of negative academic and mental health outcomes based on the discrimination they face because of their sexual orientation. One strategy to improve outcomes for these youth is to design interventions aimed at reducing prejudice against sexual minorities, and to assess how well these interventions work with adolescents. For my dissertation, I assessed baseline student attitudes about homosexuality and gender non-conformity at a racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse high school (N=821). Initial findings revealed statistically significant differences in attitudes based on race, sex, religion, parents’ country of origin, and ESL enrollment. I then conducted large-scale randomized experiment investigating the impact of two interventions that may be especially promising because they require little time and expense, but have the potential to significantly improve school climate. The first intervention involved offering students the opportunity to engage in one-on-one discussions in order to develop empathy and perspective-taking towards sexual minorities, for which the participation rate was approximately 30%. The second intervention, based on research indicating that multiple exposures to a stimulus increases a subject’s liking for that stimulus, involved repeated exposures to a questionnaire. I hypothesize that students who participated in either of the interventions will show increased tolerance for homosexuality and gender non-conformity compared to those students who did not participate in one of the interventions.

Richard Patterson, Cornell University

Rich Patterson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. Rich’s research utilizes behavioral economics and applied econometrics to answer questions in education. Several of his current projects investigate the impact of technological innovations on student academic outcomes. Rich received a B.A. in Economics from Brigham Young University.

Understanding and Addressing Self-Control Problems in Computerized Learning: Evidence from the Field

In recent years there have been an astounding number of computer-based innovations in education. Many of these innovations seek to provide students with high-quality, self-paced instruction at very low costs. However, insights from behavioral economics caution that many individuals may struggle to realize the benefits offered by computer-based learning. Motivated by these findings, I have worked with a time-management software company to develop software treatments that are designed to address potential sources of self-control problems including time-inconsistent preferences and inattention. In this study, I randomly assign students enrolled in a major university’s online course program to receive versions of this time-management software. This study will inform the relative influence of different behavioral mechanisms in online student outcomes and provide insights into scalable computer-based interventions that may improve academic outcomes, including course participation, performance and completion.

Leilani Sabzalian, University of Oregon

Leilani is a Sugpiaq descendant and mother of two from the Eugene/Springfield area. She is a PhD candidate in Critical and Sociocultural Studies in the Department of Education Studies at the University of Oregon. She has served as a Special Education and Project Teacher at a Hawaiian-centered charter school, an Educational Consultant in the Peace Corps, and as the Native Youth Group Coordinator for Springfield School District. She has also taught teacher education courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, including Language and Power, Curriculum Studies, and Autobiography of Schooling. Her work has focused on equity in education with an emphasis on decolonizing education for Indigenous students.

Beyond “Business as Usual”: Reaching for an Educational Practice that Interrupts Colonization and Promotes Healthy Indigenous Identity and Communities

This dissertation will present a field study of an urban Title VII program in Oregon, exploring both the constructive aspects of this program, as well as the complex, unintended consequences it (re)produces. Of particular concern in this study will be the insider/outsider dynamics that are generated by Title VII enrollment criteria. The study will identify what educators need to understand in order to work with Indigenous students and families to minimize the cultural and personal costs of those dynamics. Data collection will include participant observation at Title VII sponsored events including tutoring sessions, craft and drumming nights, youth group meetings, and family gatherings, as well as in-depth and focus group interviews with students, families, and Title VII service providers. The goal is to develop case studies that highlight the intelligent and courageous ways Native students, families, and culturally responsive service providers navigate cultural dynamics created by Title VII program implementation. The study will draw upon contemporary Indigenous studies and educational ethnographic literature in the analysis of the macrosocial influences on student experience of these programs. Additionally the study will draw upon the contemporary literature on culturally responsive teaching and teacher practical knowledge in the documentation and analysis of the insights that enable educators, students, and families navigate these influences. The study will have implications for the preparation of teachers and administrators who serve Indigenous students, as well as national and state policies such as Title VII programs intended to serve Native students and families.

Ashley Taylor, Syracuse University

Ashley Taylor is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University, specializing in philosophy of education and disability studies. Ashley’s research focuses primarily on educational justice and differences of ability, especially the relationships between citizenship, social belonging, and democratic education. She has taught in educational foundations and women’s and gender studies, and currently serves on a number of accessibility advisory committees and is active in on and off-campus research and advocacy for increased accessibility and cultural inclusion of people with disabilities in higher education. Before pursuing graduate studies, Ashley worked as an employment counselor and caregiver to people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Ashley holds an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University and a B.A. in Contemporary Studies and Philosophy from the University of King’s College in Halifax, NS, Canada.

Beyond Able-Minded Citizenship: Embracing Intellectual Ability Differences in Democratic Education

Within philosophical literature on democratic education, philosophers of education embrace the existence of cultural, religious, racial, gender, and other social differences as important to a thriving democracy. However, they frequently ignore or sideline the potential significance of ability differences, especially those associated with intellect and reasoning ability. There is therefore an unchallenged assumption that those who experience significant difficulties in reasoning are unable to perform the tasks of citizenship. My dissertation investigates this assumption by asking whether students’ assessed intellectual disabilities ought to disqualify them from participating in education aimed at the development of democratic knowledge and skills. Current models of democratic education are ill equipped to answer this question. Drawing on interdisciplinary literature from inclusive education, disability studies, and philosophy, I consider how the recognition of existent intellectual ability differences alters our philosophical theorizing about democratic education and suggests the need for alternative frameworks of democratic participation and the education that supports it. This places demands on our educational policy, schooling practices and teacher education because it suggests the need to examine curricula, teaching practice, school-community partnerships and, importantly, ideas about how civic knowledge is acquired and put into practice in light of varying abilities. Answering the question of whether individuals with intellectual disabilities are owed an education that prepares them to participate in democratic citizenship not only concerns the extent to which we embrace differences of ability within education in general, but also hinges on whether we regard individuals with intellectual disabilities as members of the political community.

Eric Taylor, Stanford University

Eric Taylor is doctoral student studying the economics of education at Stanford University. Eric’s research addresses questions in labor and personnel economics of the education sector. His recent publications include “The Effect of Evaluation on Teacher Performance” and “Information and Employee Evaluation: Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in Public Schools.” Prior to Stanford, Eric worked at the Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, and at the Los Angeles Education Partnership. Eric received an MPP from UCLA and a BS in Economics from Brigham Young University.

New Technology and Teacher Performance

The job of classroom teacher, like most occupations, has changed and will continue to change as new computer tools and software become available to enhance or replace labor. I study the effects of a labor-replacing computer technology on the productivity of classroom teachers. I examine teachers’ own decisions about how to educate students in their classrooms, measure how those decisions change when a new technology is introduced, and estimate the net effect on the variation in teacher performance. Data for the study come from a series of field experiments in which teachers were given computer-aided instruction (CAI) software to use in their classrooms. Preliminary results suggest that, in math classes, CAI reduces the variance of teacher productivity, as measured by student test score growth. The change in productivity partly reflects changes in teachers’ level of work effort and teachers’ decisions about how to allocate class time. How computers affect teacher decisions and productivity is immediately relevant to both ongoing education policy debates about teaching quality and the day-to-day management of a large workforce.

Miriam Thangaraj, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Miriam Thangaraj is a doctoral candidate in Comparative and International Education at the Dept. of Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research considers global education and development discourses of schooling, childhood and vulnerability, as they shape national policy, as well as intervene in the daily lives of children and families in their particular contexts.

Rescuing childhood in Kanchipuram: Consequences of India’s ‘No Work, More School’ policy

Miriam’s dissertation draws on over 20 months of fieldwork, to offer a fine-grained ethnographic account of the situated effects of compulsory education and child labor prohibition policies in a weaving community in southern India. In it, she maps the trajectories of child apprentices as they are “rescued” from the loom and “rehabilitated” in school – but in the process, also dislocated into other work spaces, including the unregulated Special Economic Zones that epitomize neoliberal economic development in the area. Framed as a conversation between Anthropology of Policy and Childhood Studies, the dissertation is a critical analysis of schooling policies and practices as they enforce particular constructions of education and childhood, in turn, inextricable from particular modes of economic development.

Cathy Tran, University of California, Irvine

Cathy Tran is a Ph.D. student in the Learning, Cognition, and Development specialization. Her research applies theories from motivation and cognition to the design of learning environments for science and math. She is particularly interested in the mechanisms of how motivation affects cognitive processes, especially in game-based contexts. From a design perspective, she looks at the unique affordances that technology provides in assessment and regulation of learning. Her current projects include designing for productive confusion with the MIND Research Institute, assessing how design features of a game at the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology provide affordances for different information-seeking behaviors, deriving motivation design principles from the MacArthur and Digital Media and Learning badge projects, and developing an iPad game to teach kids about the digestive system.

Cathy received a B.S. in biopsychology and a minor in professional writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara. For several years, she dabbled in journalism and wrote for the journal Science, Scholastic’s Science World, and The Orange County Register. Shortly after journalism life, she received a master’s degree in Technology, Innovation, and Education from Harvard University. While in graduate school, she worked with an educational consulting company to evaluate the first season of Sid the Science Kid, a preschool TV show developed by The Jim Henson Company. More recently, she was a producer at Scholastic, an educational publishing company, where she developed and carried out formative and summative evaluations for math products.

Designing for Productive Persistence After Failure in Education

My dissertation explores how to design digital learning environments that embrace failure and the deliberation and experimentation that learners undergo to learn from that failure. A challenge that arises for designers of learning environments is how to promote the perception that incidents of failure are opportunities for learning rather than simply markers of inability in learners. My research tackles this issue in two projects that bridge prior work done in academic motivation, emotions, cognition, and game design. Games create artificial tests in which players can fail, providing a schema in which challenge and confusion are positive attributes that inspire persistent effort. In applying game design elements to academic learning, an understanding of the reasons for persistence or lack thereof is crucial. Deep and continuous learning does not depend only on amount of persistence but also reasons for persistence. For example, learners can be motivated by their goals for content mastery, personal progress, and/or outperforming others-each of which has different learning implications. Using science and math games, I identify design features that support and hinder the pursuit of different types of goals by analyzing questionnaires, interviews, and videos of learner gameplay. Through experiments that induce confusion from failure, I assess whether displaying learners’ errors that were made with high confidence of correctness can promote persistence and deeper, conceptual understanding of the material. This work highlights the underlying elements that promote persistence in games and identifies promising avenues and challenges to extending this knowledge to more formal learning environments.

Ilana Umansky, Stanford University

Ilana Umansky’s (Stanford University) research lies at the intersection of education, immigration and language. Bringing together policy analysis and sociological theory, she studies the educational opportunities, experiences, and outcomes of immigrant and English learner (EL) students. Using rigorous quantitative methods, her work has examined topics including course access, language of instruction, reclassification, and the impact of the EL label. She works in close partnership with school districts, grounding her research in questions and responses that support greater educational equity and excellence for immigrant and EL-classified students. Ilana holds a BA in Sociology from Wesleyan University, an MEd from Harvard University, and an MA in Sociology from Stanford University. She is currently working on completing her dissertation for a PhD in Sociology of Education from Stanford.

Peeling Back the Label: Studies of Educational Opportunity Among Students Learning English

This dissertation examines the educational opportunities and resulting outcomes of the fastest growing official subgroup of students in U.S. schools, students learning English. Using quantitative methodologies, longitudinal data from a large, urban school district in California, and drawing upon sociological theory on educational stratification, immigration, language, race and ethnicity, and labeling, the dissertation is comprised of three main analyses. The first analysis examines the reclassification patterns of Latino English learner students, identifying not only the median amount of time it takes to reclassify but, importantly, what proportion of students reclassify by the end of elementary, middle, and high school, and how these reclassification patterns differ based on students’ linguistic instructional environment. The second analysis examines English learner students’ course-taking both descriptively and quasi-experimentally. The third analysis turns to look at the long-term effects of classification as an English learner on achievement. In summary, this dissertation addresses an issue of urgency in education today: the highly inequitable outcomes of students learning English. The dissertation explores key aspects of the educational opportunities afforded to English learners, the causal outcomes of those opportunities, and, importantly, the malleable factors that can improve the opportunities and outcomes of students learning English.

Anisah Waite, University of California, Berkeley

Anisah Waite is a Ph.D. candidate in the Policy, Organization, Measurement and Evaluation program in the Graduate School of Education at University of California, Berkeley. Prior to coming to UC Berkeley, she worked at the RAND Corporation in Pittsburgh, PA, and was a high school science teacher in New York. Anisah earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from Rutgers University and a Master of Science in Teaching degree from Fordham University. Her scholarly focus is on education reform and policies that target schools in large urban districts and settings where students are traditionally underserved. Research interests include school organization, charter schools, organizational theory, social network analysis and causal inference in education research.

Teacher Social Networks and Professional Community in Small Autonomous High Schools

The expansion of charter schools and other decentralized forms of schooling has gained substantial support across the nation, yet we know little about the social organization of work inside these schools. Emerging research indicates that certain social relations, such as trust in one’s fellow teachers and collective responsibility for student achievement, may contribute to increased student achievement. But do small autonomous high schools host such favorable social-organizational conditions? How do the cohesion and social networks of teachers vary among small schools? And do network features and individual position in networks help to account for between-school and between-teacher variation in teacher trust and collective responsibility? To examine these core questions I draw on survey data from 436 teachers situated in 20 schools, along with in-depth qualitative data on three schools.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This