2015 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows
Eleanor Anderson, Northwestern University
Eleanor Anderson is a doctoral candidate in the Learning Sciences department and was a pre-doctoral fellow of the Multi-disciplinary Program in Education Sciences at Northwestern University. After receiving her B.A. from Yale University, her work with youth-serving non-profits in New York City inspired an interest in how researchers might work with educators, social service providers, and policymakers to better bridge the “research-practice gap.” Her research interests center on the translation, implementation and scale-up of research-based educational programs and policies, including sources of social and structural support for traditional and reform practices. Her dissertation draws on tools from organization science and program evaluation as well as learning sciences to investigate multi-level processes of continuity and change in school discipline practices.
Cultivating Safe and Supportive Schools: The Implementation of Restorative Justice Practices
Mounting public concern about a school-to-prison pipeline has put schools and districts around the nation under increasing pressure to reduce their use of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests. Many are turning to restorative justice practices (RJP) as a promising alternative tool for addressing school discipline and improving school climate. However, implementing RJP in a high-quality, sustainable way has proven to be a persistent challenge. In this dissertation I address the problem: What would it take for restorative justice practices to meaningfully transform school discipline? I tackle three aspects of this puzzle in three interrelated studies, using data collected in a single urban district. All three are rooted in a conceptual framework of continuity and change drawing on literature from policy analysis, organizational sciences and learning sciences. In Study 1, I map the landscape of school discipline structures in three high schools, using interviews and observations of teachers and administrators to identify sources of support for the use of suspensions and RJP respectively. In Study 2, I focus in on individual educators’ conceptualizations of RJP and other forms of school discipline in relation to student behavior. In Study 3, I take a bird’s eye view of RJP in the district over time, using a multiple interrupted time series design to estimate the effect of external RJP support on school climate. Together, the qualitative and quantitative evidence produced by these studies will offer a nuanced and instructive account of the role of social, cognitive, and material supports in sustaining or undermining transformative school change.
Ariel H. Bierbaum, University of California, Berkeley
Ariel H. Bierbaum, MCP is a resident of Oakland, CA and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California-Berkeley. Ariel’s research interests include urban policy, racial inequality, and public education. Her dissertation examines the relationships between Philadelphia’s public school closures, neighborhood change, and broader patterns of metropolitan inequality. She is currently an Adjunct Faculty member in the Architecture and Community Design Program at the University of San Francisco, a Visiting Scholar in the Urban Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and a consultant with the Social Impact of the Arts Project at the University of Pennsylvania. She also serves on the Oakland Unified School District School Facilities Bond Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee. Originally from New Jersey, Ariel has worked across the country over the past 15 years in the fields of community art, community development, and public policy, and served as Program Director at the UC-Berkeley Center for Cities + Schools from 2006 through 2011. Ariel has a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow Ariel on Twitter at @arielabd.
Shifting Landscapes of Power and Privilege: School Closures and Uneven Development in Philadelphia
Over the past fifteen years, many urban school districts have deployed school closure as part of their market-based education policies. School closures highlight the multidimensional nature of public education – as educational, social, and physical infrastructure – and reveal particular configurations of institutions, politics, and social relationships. This dissertation project aims to understand urban public school closures not only as an education reform strategy, but also as an urban policy that is mutually constitutive with uneven and racialized distribution of risks and resources across cities. Specifically, Ariel’s dissertation asks two interrelated research questions: (1) how do school closures align and conflict with the broader set of policies designed to promote neighborhood revitalization and foster opportunity? and (2) how do residents experience and understand the relationships between school closures and changes in their neighborhoods and city? Her study uses qualitative methods including spatial analysis, semi-structured in-depth interviews, participant observation, and document analysis to interrogate the extent to which policies and resident experiences relate to patterns of residential segregation and inequality in educational outcomes. Scholarship in urban studies has failed to consider public schools as a central actor in urban change; the school closure literature has failed to see how school closures are embedded in these changes. By bringing these approaches together, my research will address the deeper systemic issues and contribute to broader conversations about power, privilege, and racial disparities in the current political and policy context of urban planning and education reform.
Derria Byrd, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Derria Byrd is a doctoral candidate in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Her research interests include institutional change, the outcomes and experiences of marginalized and historically underrepresented college students, and equity and reform in postsecondary education. Derria’s dissertation integrates these interests by examining the interpretation, development and implementation of an equity-focused policy at three universities in the same public system. This research has been supported by a Vilas Research Travel Award and by the Mary Metz Fund. In addition, Derria has been a proud recipient of an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education as well as of the Herbert Kliebard Award for Outstanding Scholarly Achievement in Educational Policy Studies for a manuscript entitled, “The diversity distraction: A critical examination of higher education discourse.” Beyond her B.A. in English and American Literature and American Studies from Brown University, Derria has earned an M.A. in Educational Policy Studies and an M.P.A. with a focus in education policy, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to graduate school, Derria worked in the administration of several national nonprofit organizations that offer supplementary educational support to students from underserved populations.
Inclusion, Ideology, and Institutional Practice: Policy and Change in a Public Postsecondary Education System
Although a small but growing literature examines the contribution of colleges, universities, and the postsecondary education system itself to ongoing inequities experienced by college students from marginalized backgrounds, postsecondary institutions are rarely taken as social actors whose own interests, motivations and practices help to shape students’ experiences and opportunities. As a multi-site critical policy study, Derria’s dissertation responds to this gap by investigating the role of institutional practice and culture in an equity-focused change effort. In particular, this project centers institutional habitus, a theoretical concept grounded in Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of action, to foreground institutional culture and the socially and historically constructed dispositions, norms and practices that structure institutional action and decisionmaking. Derria’s analysis draws on archival records, institutional documents, observations and interviews with administrators, staff and faculty collected during the 2014-2015 academic year from a purposeful sample of three universities in one public postsecondary system.
Sofia Chaparro, University of Pennsylvania
Sofía Chaparro Rodarte is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Linguistics division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving her BA from Stanford University in Psychology, Sofia decided to go into teaching, obtaining first an M.Ed from Boston College in Elementary Education and teaching for five years in dual-language bilingual elementary schools in Boston, MA and El Paso, TX – her hometown. Her dissertation research focuses on the ways in which two-way immersion programs emerge out of larger social, demographic, and ideological processes – such as immigration and gentrification – that come together in the same social space to produce both a desire and the necessary conditions for these programs to exist in the first place. Sofia is passionate about issues of language diversity and inequality, and the education of minoritized and racialized children in the US and internationally.
Language and the Gentrifying City: Circulating discourses about languages, speakers, learning and public schooling in a Two Way Immersion program
Language and the Gentrifying City: Circulating discourses about languages, speakers, learning and public schooling in a Two Way Immersion program Two-way immersion programs, which bring together language majority and language minority children with the goals of bilingualism and biliteracy for all, are becoming increasingly popular in the US (Collier & Thomas, 2004). The research literature points to the many benefits of this model, including higher academic achievement in both English and the target language for all students (Lindholm-Leary, 2012; Thomas & Collier, 2002); yet a growing number of studies have highlighted the problematic tensions that arise around issues of equity, power, and the role and status of Spanish (Cervantes-Soon, 2014; Fitts, 2006; McCollum, 1999; Palmer, 2009; Scanlan & Palmer, 2009; Valdés, 1997). Within these critical studies, the processes that create fertile grounds for these programs to exist in the first place often go unexamined. Thus, through this study I aim to examine the social, demographic, economic, and ideological processes that facilitated the creation of a two-way immersion program in a public school within a gentrifying community. My goal is to investigate how the socio-political processes of gentrification and immigration, including the ideological discourses that go along with them, come to bear on the creation and development of a two-way program, and how these discourses in turn circulate and influence the everyday discursive practices in the classroom. Through ethnographic and discourse analytic methods, I will follow six focal children and their families and document their experiences in the program. Utilizing a linguistic anthropological frame, I will examine the circulating discourses regarding bilingualism, language and speakers; the motivation for different families for choosing this program; the linguistic and educational aspirations of families as well as their migratory trajectories; and finally, how these discourses are apparent in the day-to-day classroom life.
Jason Cook, Cornell University
Jason is a economics graduate student at Cornell University. His research focuses on topics in the economics of education and labor economics. Specifically, he is interested in how school choice, in the form of charter and magnet schools, influence the teacher labor market and student outcomes. In another vein of research, he studies the causal effect of providing schools with additional financial resources on short- and long-term student achievement.
The Effect of Charter School Competition on Teacher Salaries and Employment in a Unionized Setting
Using a unique, detailed data set of the universe of Ohio teachers’ union contracts, I estimate the effect of charter school competition on several collectively bargained contract outcomes. I exploit variation in charter school entry in relation to the timing of union contract negotiations through a difference-in-difference framework and find that there are modest decreases to public teacher negotiated salaries in districts facing high intensity charter competition. These decreases erode about 36% of the union salary premium estimated in Hoxby (1996). I instrument endogenous charter entry with plausibly exogenous policy changes that determine when and where charters can locate and find similar estimates.
Emmerich Davies, University of Pennsylvania
Emmerich Davies is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from Stanford University and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania. His research looks at the political impacts of education privatization in India. Additionally, he is working on a project with Professor Tulia Falleti on political participation in Bolivia after the left turn. His broader research interests encompass political economy in the post market-oriented reform era. Prior to beginning his graduate studies, Emmerich worked as a research associate for the Centre for Microfinance and Jameel Poverty Action Lab in Kolkata on a series of randomized evaluations on microfinance.
The Competing State: The Individual Level Consequences of Private Education in India
Public expenditure on primary education in India has tripled since 1990. Since 2004, the Government of India has built an average of 200 new government schools per district, or about 20 schools per district per year. At the same time, Indian households are increasingly turning to private and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for education. Approximately 35 percent of students attended a private school in 2014, nearly a doubling of private school enrollment since 2003. What is most striking about this move away from government provided education is that while it was previously an upper and middle class phenomenon, India’s poor have also begun to abandon government education. Citizens are choosing to “exit” state services and turn to private schools for education. My research asks two questions of this phenomenon. First, where has this exit been most pronounced and why? Second, what have been the political effects of this exit? I rely on a variety of approaches to answer these questions. First, I constructed a dataset of private school expansion since 1990 across India. Second, I fielded a “downstream experiment” on households that were entered into a private school voucher lottery seven years ago. Finally, I augment these two approaches with interviews with individual households, village-level politicians, and state-level education bureaucrats to also understand the mechanisms underlying exit from the state. Through this, I hope to understand the effects of private education outside the classroom, particularly in understanding the role of government services in constructing citizenship and political participation. Using India as a research site, I also hope to draw insights for other countries experiencing similar government school exit.
Kenton de Kirby, University of California, Berkeley
Kenton is a PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley in the Graduate School of Education. His interests include culture-cognition relations, social interaction, special education, and linking sociocultural processes with neuropsychological constructs like executive functioning. He is a fellow in the IES-funded “Research in Cognition and Mathematics Education” (RCME) fellowship program. At Berkeley, he has worked with Geoffrey Saxe on children’s developing mathematical understandings with particular regard for social and cultural processes. In the summer of 2015, Kenton conducted a month of fieldwork in a remote mountainous region of Papua New Guinea with Professor Saxe, investigating elementary mathematics education. Reflecting his interest in both typical and atypical development, Kenton also works with Professor Laura Sterponi on language and autism. Kenton earned his BA from UC Berkeley in linguistics, where he studied with noted linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff. Following his undergraduate studies, Kenton worked for firms that provide consultation to social change organizations, where he applied insights from cognitive linguistics to analyze the narrative landscape surrounding social issues. Before entering the Graduate School of Education, Kenton co-authored a book on the implications of fundamental findings in neuropsychology for classroom teaching.
Developing a Feel for the Game: Treating Diagrams as Representations of Idealized Mathematical Objects
“Developing a Feel for the Game: Treating Diagrams as Representations of Idealized Mathematical Objects,” targets young students’ developing participation in and understanding of a fundamental practice in academic mathematics. In this practice, diagrams are used to represent idealized mathematical objects whose properties are established by definition (as in geometry, where dots are used to represent zero-dimensional points and drawn lines are taken to represent one-dimensional lines with infinite extent). Initiation into this ‘definitional practice’ is critical to students’ mathematical development. However, the practice is understudied in educational research. It also presents a source of confusion and miscommunication for students. Instead of using definitions, students may rely on the appearances of the diagram and their knowledge of the physical world—a ‘material’ rather than definitional practice. I have designed two empirical studies to investigate students’ initiation into the definitional practice in the context of points and lines in Euclidean geometry. The first study uses an experimental design to determine whether there are age-related changes in how access to stipulated definitions influences students’ idealization of diagrams. I have collected data for this study and preliminary analyses reveal that with age, children do shift towards relying on definitions rather than the appearances of the diagrams and knowledge of material objects. The second study builds on the first using structured one-on-one interviews, exploring students’ sense-making of definitions and their flexibility in shifting between material and definitional practices. The insights generated by these two studies will contribute to mathematics education research and may inform instructional approaches to address the likelihood of unequal access to developing this foundational practice in mathematics.
Benjamin Gebre-Medhin, University of California, Berkeley
Ben Gebre-Medhin, a PhD candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley, has a long standing academic interest in the politics of higher education around the world. As an undergraduate at Dartmouth College he wrote a thesis on the role of universities, and university students, in a proto-democracy movement in Eritrea in 2001. In graduate school, Ben expanded this interest with a qualifying paper that analyzed the relationship between East African universities and politics in the early postcolonial period. For his dissertation Ben has turned his attention to the field of contemporary US higher education by focusing on the advent of online higher education efforts at elite American universities. Originally from Cambridge, MA, Ben spent much of the decade before returning to graduate school in the Global South. Prior to attending Berkeley Ben served as the Eastern European student outreach coordinator for DIA (a student civil society NGO based in Budapest), a research consultant for Action Without Borders/Idealist.org in Tanzania and Kenya, and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jordan.
The Rise of the MOOC: Elite Online Higher Education at Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, & Harvard
Using the case of online tertiary education, this mixed methods dissertation evaluates how computer scientists and engineers have used frames associated with the internet to pursue wide ranging reform projects, and how these projects have been received by other actors in the field. While the organization and field level outcomes of the MOOC movement remain uncertain, understanding the process by which this group of technical faculty and staff has come to the forefront of reform efforts in a field historically dominated by faculty from letters and sciences, and how these experts negotiate the resistance they face along the way, are important in evaluating how expertise is constructed and deployed in institutional reform projects within higher ed. This empirical topic also provides a new perspective from which to evaluate the shifting institutional structures of the 21st century American university. The dissertation begins with a content analysis of higher education trade publications (Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, etc) using machine assisted topic modeling techniques to analyze shifts in discourse about online course delivery during the internet era. To further analyze this changes, a second substantive section builds on primary qualitative interview data from two of the most significant academic sites for this reform movement: Cambridge (MIT, Harvard, and edX), and the Bay Area (Stanford, Berkeley, Coursera and Udacity). In so doing I analyze the parallel migration of a community of practice (modern academic computer scientists) and a mode of organization (MOOC based online course delivery) from the periphery of a field to its core.
Celia Gomez, Harvard University
Celia J. Gomez is a doctoral candidate in Human Development and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on early childhood development, early child care and education and the general well-being of families with young children. She is particularly interested in studying how interventions and public policy can support and empower children and families from low-income, minority and under-served populations. Prior to starting graduate school, Celia was a member of a research team at the Education Development Center in Waltham, MA. Before that, she served as an intern in an early education center in Tuscany, Italy, while studying the Reggio Emilia early education philosophy. She holds an Ed.M from Harvard, and BAs in Psychology and African American Studies from Yale University.
Exploring Intergenerational Effects of Education: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Understanding Parent’s Educational Pursuits and Their Young Children’s Development
In most child development research, parent education is measured at one point in time and is then assumed to be static across a child’s lifetime. Yet, it is increasingly the case that adults do not complete their own education before they have children, but continue their schooling while raising a family; in the 2011 over 25% of American undergraduates had at least one dependent child (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2014). It is critical to understand how these families fare when parents return to school. Through two related studies using quantitative and qualitative methods, and multiple datasets, my dissertation explores the relationship between changes in mothers’ educational attainment their children’s early childhood development.
In Study #1 I employ individual growth modeling and quantitative longitudinal data on low-income children and their mothers. I test whether there is a relationship between mothers’ attainment of additional education and the development of their children’s cognitive skills between the ages of 3 and 8. In Study #2, I employ the Listening Guide method to analyze longitudinal qualitative interviews from a sample of low-income mothers (with preschool-aged children) interested in pursuing additional education. Specifically, I focus on how these mothers describe their motivations and decisions to pursue, or not to pursue, additional schooling while their children are still young.
Cristina Groeger, Harvard University
Cristina Groeger is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Harvard University, interested in the urban, political, and social history of the United States. After graduating from Harvard College in 2008 with a degree in Social Studies, she spent one year in Berlin, Germany at the European College of Liberal Arts, after which she taught European and U.S. History at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She then received an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from the University of Cambridge, where she wrote a thesis on the workers’ educational movement in early 20th-century United Kingdom and United States.
Paths to Work: The Rise of Credentials in American Society, 1890-1940
Her dissertation, “Paths to Work: The Rise of Credentials in American Society, 1880-1940,” looks at the restructuring of paths to work through new forms of education and training for men and women in Boston, as a way of exploring the structure of opportunity in the United States. It maps the landscape of formal education in the late 19th century, and how these institutions related to the local job market in different occupations, from day laborers to the professions. It then follows the rapid expansion of secondary and higher education over the next decades; a political process through which public schools, private universities, educational reformers, professional associations, trade unions, parents, and students sought to shape the relationship between education and work.
Michel Grosz, University of California, Davis
Michel Grosz is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Davis and a graduate student affiliate at the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research. His primary research interest is in post-secondary education and its link with the labor market. He is working on several projects related to community colleges, including estimating the economic returns to career technical programs in California and examining how colleges respond to changes in local labor market demand. Prior to graduate school he was a research associate at the Urban Institute, where he primarily studied the school and housing mobility of children in Washington, DC. He holds a BA in Economics from Pomona College and is originally from Argentina.
Community College Health Programs and the Labor Market
Does a community college education lead to better job prospects and higher earnings? There is a large literature on the returns to postsecondary schooling, but less is known about community colleges. Recent increases in the demand for skilled workers and the stagnation of baccalaureate degree attainment have shined a spotlight on community colleges as a resource for students to increase their earnings potential. Of particular interest are programs in health fields, due to rapid expansions in the healthcare industry. In my dissertation I present causal estimates of the labor market returns to community college programs that train workers in these fields, such as registered nursing. I leverage the fact that many of these programs have admissions policies based on random lotteries. My study is thus among the first to use this type of variation to estimate the returns to postsecondary schooling. I use a unique dataset linking administrative student records and earnings for community college students in California over the past two decades. I focus on one large college that provided me detailed student-level information on its admissions processes. My study adds an important dimension to the existing literature on the returns to education. It also sheds light on community college programs at a time of dynamic changes in the labor market.
Magnus Hansen, Brown University
Magnus Pharao Hansen is a doctoral candidate in linguistic anthropology at Brown University, and fellow at the center for US-Mexican studies at University of California San Diego. He holds a master’s degree in Mesoamerican languages from the University of Copenhagen. He has carried out research on the Nahuatl language in the state of Morelos since 2003, and conducted several months of fieldwork on the Otomi language of San Jeronimo Acazulco, Estado de Mexico.
His dissertation project studies the current process of integration of Nahuatl in Mexican higher education after the 2003 Law of Linguistic Rights, and the ways this process ties in with social and political processes in Nahuan communities and the Mexican Nation. This research has been carried out in communities and educational institutions in Veracruz and Morelos.
He is particularly interested in the how subjective experiences with language affects educational decisions and outcomes of Nahuatl-speaking students, and in the relation of experience and life history to linguistic ideologies and language choices. He has published several articles on the Nahuatl variety of Hueyapan, Morelos.
Nahuatl Nation: The Significance of Indigenous Language Education in Mexico
This dissertation is a study of the ways in which the Nahuatl language education participates in different projects of identity and community construction, in Mexico and beyond. It is based on ethnographic, linguistic and historical research in contexts where the Nahuatl language is used in educational projects. In the dissertation, I argue that the there are two main ways in which Nahuatl becomes a vehicle of community: One is through the use of Nahuatl as a symbol of communal, ethnic or national belonging. This use is based on the role of Nahuatl as a nexus of indexical relations between different ideologies of history and nationalism at different semiotic scales. The other way that Nahuatl participates in the formation of communities builds on its role as a native language through which speakers experience communal relations with each other. This use is based not on indexical relations between the language and metalinguistic ideologies, but rather on indexical and iconic relations between the language and specific subjective experiences within the lives of speakers. In this way the language’s use as a symbolic vehicle of political identity, can be seen as separate from its function as a vehicle of individual subjectivity. I argue that this distinction between the role of the language in subjectivity formation and identity formation is important for understanding how the Nahuatl language takes on different meanings for different people and in different contexts, and for distinguishing between processes of cultural appropriation, heritage reclamation and decolonization.
Claire-Marie Hefner, Emory University
Claire-Marie Hefner is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at Emory University. She has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and Southeast Asian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her long-term research interests lie in the anthropological study of Islam, education, morality, gender, and sexuality in the context of the world’s largest Muslim majority nation, Indonesia. Her dissertation engages contemporary theories in the anthropology of education, ethical subject formation, and Islam. Pre-field and dissertation field research for this project were made possible by the NSF-Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, respectively.
Achieving Islam: Gender, Piety, and Education in Indonesian Muslim Boarding Schools
This dissertation is a comparative study of moral education and gendered subject formation in two nationally-renowned Islamic boarding schools for girls in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Building on twenty-one months of research, the dissertation examines how young Muslim women learn and engage what it means to be proper, pious, educated, and modern. The study explores the process of religious subject formation, not by privileging just the perspective of institutions, administrators, and teachers, but by examining the educational process from the perspective of female students. Research methods included observations of classrooms and extracurricular activities as well as dormitories, leisure outings off school grounds, and home-visits with families. Semi-structured interviews and life histories were conducted with students, parents, teachers, and administrators; methods also included a multivariate survey of students’ socio-economic and educational backgrounds and their career and family aspirations. Findings show that while piety and morality are central to student concerns, the schooling process is mediating new and plural understandings of what is desirable and respectable, and what career avenues are most fitting for religious and personal fulfillment. Although state and national curriculum are integral to the schooling process, issues of moral authority and legitimacy are gently renegotiated on and off school grounds in a manner that involves ordinary lay Muslims as well as religious and secular authorities. This imbrication of received and new gender ideals remains a point of contention and debate among Indonesia’s varied Islamic movements. But women’s understandings of their roles have today become an ethical force in their own right.
Kathryn Hill, Teachers College, Columbia University
Kathryn Hill is a PhD candidate in the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She also holds a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University and an MA in Sociology and Education from Teachers College. While in graduate school, Kathryn has served as a research assistant for the Center for Understanding Race and Education (CURE), the Ford Foundation’s Building Knowledge for Social Justice Program and the New Jersey Network of Superintendents Study. Kathryn worked as an educator in the Bronx, New York before going to graduate school, as both a 7th grade ELA teacher and a High School Academic Director for Citysquash, an afterschool enrichment program. Grounded in political sociology, her research focuses on the intersection of race, class and political and cultural orientations toward schooling.
Race, Trust and Public Schooling: Examining the Nature of Urban Black Parent Trust in Public Schools
At a moment when New York is attempting to transform its education system through market mechanisms such as school choice and portfolio management and when many historically Black neighborhoods in the city are experiencing gentrification and demographic change, my dissertation project examines the nature of Black parent trust in public schools. It builds on the body of education research examining trust in schools and draws on the sociological and political science research that studies race and trust. My approach also teases apart how the nature of trust in local public schools might be different from the nature of trust in the institution of public schooling or faith in public education, as Black parents may expect different things from the local school and the school system. I explore the development of trust in schooling, by treating trusting as a dynamic process, shaped by past socialization and experiences, combined with current engagement with public schools. By examining how trust in public schools might develop uniquely for Black Americans, my study can contribute to treatments of trust in education research. Moreover, it can inform practice and policy—by giving educators a better understanding of what fosters trust between parents and schools in various contexts, and policymakers a better understanding of how demographic change and current education reforms are linked to public trust in public institutions.
Anthony Abraham Jack, Harvard University
Anthony (Tony) Jack is a PhD. Candidate in Sociology and an Associate Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy at Harvard University where he is a cultural sociologist interested in education and inequality. He examines the experiences of undergraduates at elite colleges and universities amidst expanding race- and class-based affirmative actions measures. Using in-depth interviews and ethnographic observation of college life, he examines what influences undergraduates’ sense of belonging, their acquisition of cultural and social capital, boundary processes that influence intergroup relations, and how institutional policies affect these processes. His research documents the overlooked divergent experiences of lower-income undergraduates: the Doubly Disadvantaged¬—those who enter college from distressed public schools—and Privileged Poor¬—those who do so from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools. In so doing, he examines how class and culture, sometimes independently, influence the reproduction of inequality in higher education. His work appears in the Du Bois Review and Sociological Forum. Additionally, the New York Times, Boston Globe, and American RadioWorks have featured his research on first-generation college students and biographical profiles.
Same Folks, Different Strokes: Class, Culture, and the “New” Diversity at Elite Colleges and Universities
Elite colleges are diversifying at unprecedented rates, both racially and socioeconomically. Campuses now look very little like they did ten years ago let alone 100. Many applaud college presidents and deans of admission for opening their doors, and their coffers, to admit and support new admits. But how far have the doors really been opened? These same colleges get their nontraditional students from traditional sources, their new diversity from old places. Half of the lower-income black undergraduates at elite colleges who hail from single-parent homes and segregated, distressed neighborhoods graduate from boarding, day, and preparatory schools like Exeter and Andover. A third of lower-income Latino undergraduates enter college from prestigious high schools like Brearley and Choate. What are the implications of elite colleges hedging their bets by admitting a disproportionate number of their lower-income undergraduates from elite preparatory high schools, those who I call the Privileged Poor? How are their experiences different from their lower-income counterparts who lack similar precollege exposure to elite academic environments, those who I call the Doubly Disadvantaged? Drawing on in-depth, targeted life history interviews with 102 black, Latino, and white undergraduates and two years of ethnographic observation at an elite university, this dissertation explores how differential precollege exposure to inequality and poverty influences undergraduate’s college experiences and discusses the implications of this overlooked diversity for sociological theory, higher education practices, and social policy.
Veronica Katz, University of Virginia
Veronica’s interest in examining teacher retention and mobility in urban schools stems from her experience as a classroom teacher. Veronica began her teaching career as a Teach for America Corps Member, teaching in a challenging environment characteristic of Teach for America placement schools. At the end of her two-year commitment to Teach for America, Veronica accepted a position as an associate teacher at a progressive private school. A distance of only ten miles separated the two schools, but they were worlds apart in practice. This stark contrast prompted Veronica to ask, “What does it take to keep the best teachers in the schools that need them the most?” Ultimately, Veronica was compelled to pursue a PhD in Education Policy in an effort to understand and examine the contextual factors that influence teacher retention and mobility in urban schools. In her time as a graduate student, Veronica partnered with D.C. Public Schools, an urban school district engaged in innovative teacher evaluation and retention reforms. In keeping with Veronica’s research interest, this partnership enabled Veronica to analyze the relationship between increasingly popular teacher evaluation and compensation reforms and teacher retention and mobility in an urban district. Veronica has contributed to quasi-experimental studies examining the causal effect of teacher evaluation on teacher performance and retention as well as the relationship between teacher turnover and student achievement, among other analyses. Upon completing her doctoral studies, Veronica remains committed to pursuing a career in policy-relevant research that will provide opportunities to influence students’ lives by improving the quality of their teachers.
Do D.C. teachers value IMPACT? An analysis of teacher retention and mobility in Washington D.C. Public Schools
Policymakers have increasingly championed teacher evaluation and compensation reforms as a means of improving teacher quality and teacher retention, but little is known regarding the value teachers ascribe to these reforms. To this end, my dissertation leverages changes in teacher retention and mobility in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) as a signal of teachers’ preferences for teacher evaluation and compensation reforms. Since 2009, DCPS has introduced several landmark reforms intended to improve teacher quality through strategic teacher hiring and retention. First and foremost, in 2009 DCPS introduced IMPACT and IMPACTplus, a comprehensive teacher evaluation and compensation system that garnered national attention for its sizeable financial incentives and high-stakes design. Building upon IMPACT and IMPACTplus, DCPS introduced the Leadership Initiative for Teachers (LIFT) in 2012, a career ladder that recognizes and rewards effective teachers with leadership opportunities and reduced oversight. Also in 2012, DCPS identified its 40 lowest-performing schools as Targeted 40 schools, a designation that is accompanied by an infusion of resources and programmatic supports. Finally, along with the identification of Targeted 40 schools, eligibility requirements for IMPACTplus financial incentives were modified to reserve the largest financial incentives for teachers in Targeted 40 schools while reducing or eliminating the financial incentives offered to teachers in low-poverty schools. In combination, these policy reforms seek to increase teacher retention in DCPS and also aim to attract and retain effective teachers in DCPS’ most challenging schools. If teachers value these reforms, we might expect teacher retention rates to increase over time. Moreover, if teachers value the additional incentives and supports available in Targeted 40 schools, we might observe teachers moving to, and remaining in, DCPS’ most challenging schools. My analysis examines for whom and where DCPS’ policy reforms have been most influential as a tool for improving teacher retention. I also evaluate whether the contrast in incentives and supports available in low-poverty, high-poverty, and Targeted 40 schools is associated with increased teacher mobility to schools typically considered hard-to-staff. Ultimately, my analysis contributes to our understanding of policies and programs that might improve teacher retention, teacher quality, and student outcomes in hard-to-staff urban schools.
Danfeng Soto-Vigil Koon, University of California, Berkeley
Danfeng is a lawyer and doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on the role of law in public education and its potential and challenges for addressing social inequality. Danfeng has served as a Research Fellow at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute for Law and Social Policy, the Chief Editor of the Berkeley Review of Education, and a founding teacher of June Jordan School for Equity. Danfeng holds a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law, an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a B.A. in Economics and Biology from UC Berkeley.
Civil Rights and School Reform: Lessons from School Discipline
Since Brown v. Board of Education Americans have looked to civil rights litigation and regulatory enforcement to address issues of social inequality. In particular, this prevailing faith has fueled expanding legal rights and procedures in public education. Yet, even as schools have become increasingly legalized over the past half century, racial inequalities persist as an unbroken feature of American schooling. Existing explanations for the persistence of inequality in the face of legal attempts to address it tend to focus on the resistance of local actors (i.e., teachers, principals, or parents) to legally mandated change.
Taking an institutional approach instead, this in-depth qualitative case study examines how the institution of law interacts with the institutional context of urban education to enable and constrain the implementation efforts of school district administrators, lawyers, and principals who largely welcomed a U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)’s agreement to address racially disproportionate school discipline. This case provides a unique opportunity to study civil rights intervention in schools when explicit local resistance is low, allowing us to better understand the possibilities and limits of law as a driver of institutional change.
Christina Krist, Northwestern University
Stina Krist is a doctoral candidate in the Learning Sciences program at Northwestern University. She received a BA in Biology and a teaching certification from the education program at Grinnell College (2009). Stemming from her experiences designing and teaching science outreach programming, her research focuses on understanding science learning as both a process of enculturation into an historical discipline and as a process of identity negotiation situated in a particular context. Her dissertation study explores how students learn to engage in scientific practices in ways that are meaningful both to their own classroom community and to the scientific community.
Meaningful Engagement in Scientific Practices: How Classroom Communities Develop Authentic Epistemologies for Science
Current reforms in science education emphasize scientific practices as the means by which students develop and use scientific ideas. Engaging students in scientific practices requires that classrooms adopt the knowledge-building goals of science and use the epistemic criteria of discipline, such as ideas for what counts as credible evidence, to guide their knowledge building and evaluation work. Much research has focused on bringing the epistemic elements of disciplinary science into classrooms through designing curricular materials. However, implementing new curricula without making changes to classroom social dynamics can lead to rote enactment of the rich practices they are designed to support. In order for classroom communities to engage in scientific practices in disciplinarily authentic ways, they must establish a culture that redistributes epistemic agency, or the ability to accept, reject, or modify an idea or explanation, from the teacher to the students. This redistribution also creates space for students to make scientific practices meaningful for their own knowledge building goals. By carefully studying classrooms aiming to redistribute epistemic agency, this dissertation aims to understand the processes by which classroom communities make scientific practices meaningful. This three-year longitudinal case study follows students in two middle schools as they progress from 6th-8th grade. By comparing two different schools, this study will provide context-sensitive heuristics for the design of instruction, professional development, and materials that support meaningful engagement in scientific practices. In addition, this study contributes to our understanding of how to meaningfully adapt disciplinary practices for classroom settings by providing empirical, longitudinal evidence for students’ epistemic development in practice.
Luis Leyva, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Luis Leyva is a Ph.D. Candidate at Rutgers University in mathematics education. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics and Ed.M. in Mathematics Education from Rutgers University. His research examines mathematics as a social experience particularly in terms of race and gender for underrepresented college students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Luis’ prior work uses intersectionality from critical race theory to detail African American and Latin@ college students’ strategies in negotiating their identities with racialized and gendered discourses of mathematics success. His scholarship has been presented at research conferences organized by the American Educational Research Association, Association for the Study of Higher Education, and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Alongside his research, Luis has taught elementary and secondary mathematics teacher education courses as well as worked in multiple STEM student support programs including the NSF-funded STEM Talent Expansion Program and Upward Bound Math-Science at Rutgers University.
A Situated, Intersectional Analysis of Racialized and Gendered Mathematics Experiences among Successful Latin@s in Mathematics-Intensive Majors
Despite their underrepresentation in engineering and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields at large, Latin@s have demonstrated the largest increase of nearly 75% among racial groups for successful completion of post-secondary engineering degrees over the last 15 years (National Science Foundation [NSF], 2015). Men outnumber women across all racial groups in terms of engineering degree completion, but this gendered disparity has been most consistently increasing between Latin@ women and men since 2002 (NSF, 2015). Thus, engineering education represents an “exclusionary space” (Camacho & Lord, 2013) particularly for Latin@s whose first-year engineering interests often do not translate to degree completion. This one-year phenomenological study uses intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989) to examine Latin@ women and men’s mathematics success as college engineering students at a diverse, predominantly white four-year institution. Drawing on my prior findings of college mathematics as a racialized and gendered experience, the study details five Latin@ engineering students’ strategies in negotiating their academic success with their racial and gender identities across different spaces including mathematics classrooms, home, peer networks, and the university. This study consisted of semi-structured interviews, a focus group, and monthly ethnographic observations in college mathematics classrooms. A three-tiered analytical framework was used to look across the institutional, interpersonal, and ideological influences on the Latin@ college engineering students’ mathematics success. Findings from this study will not only address the existing research gap on qualitatively exploring Latin@s’ success in postsecondary STEM education, but also inform ways in which institutions can better support Latin@ engineering students in navigating academic spaces including college mathematics.
Leya Mathew, University of Pennsylvania
Leya Mathew is a Ph.D. candidate in the Education, Culture, and Society program at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Of the generation that came of age during the early years of liberalization in India, or those whom Lukose (2009) calls “liberalization’s children”, she is interested in tracing the radical restructuring of everyday life and subjectivity in contemporary India. Her dissertation explores the changing political subjectivities of marginalized mothers in the southern state of Kerala through an ethnographic inquiry of their educational aspirations and practices. Her fieldwork was supported by an American Institute of Indian Studies award.
School “Choice”, English, and Enduring Inequalities in Liberalizing Kerala (India)
New markets and commodities are flooding a previously austere, socialist, Indian economy, and private English schooling is yet another relatively low-cost commodity sweeping through present day India. In Kerala, parent patronage of low-fee English schools is engendering the proliferation of “uneconomic” state-funded primary schools. In this context, I explore the aspirations and desires that situate school “choice”, the labors involved in aspiring, as well as the language learning practices that transpire at a low-fee English-medium school and a neighboring uneconomic state-funded school in a village in Kerala, in the district with the highest percentage of uneconomic schools. Further, disaggregating the state at the federal and local levels, I trace state attempts to retain legitimacy in a context where marginalized citizens are asserting their rights. Preliminary analysis suggests that a radically restructured cash economy is catalyzing parental aspirations, which are articulated as a political response to deeply entrenched inequalities institutionalized by state language in education policies. On the other hand, state educators reconcile the grueling challenge of upholding the legitimacy of an education system without students through practices of “aspiration shaming”. Language teaching and learning practices were therefore situated between aspirational and vilifying regimes, which had significant implications for how primary school teachers and young children worked towards, resisted, and performed English literacies.
Katherine Muenks is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, College Park, specializing in Educational Psychology. Her research focuses on aspects of students’ achievement motivation, for which she has utilized experimental, survey-based, and observational methods. She is specifically interested in students’ beliefs about their own effort and ability in school-related contexts, as well as how parents’ beliefs about their children’s effort and ability influence parent-child interactions during academic tasks. In her dissertation, she is examining whether students’ perceptions of the source of their effort influence their self-evaluations of ability. Katherine holds a B.S. in Psychology from The Ohio State University.
Why Am I Working Hard? Students’ Perceptions of Effort Source Influence Self-Evaluations of Ability
Students’ self-evaluations of ability have important implications for their motivation and achievement in school, and students often use information about effort to form these evaluations. It is therefore important to examine what factors may influence the way students reason about the relation between effort and ability (i.e., whether they believe that high effort indicates low ability or high ability). Although motivation researchers have found ample evidence that students’ ability conceptions influence their reasoning about the relation between levels of effort and ability, few studies have examined whether student’s perceptions of the source of one’s effort (i.e., whether it is perceived as elicited by the demands of the task or initiated by one’s own motivation) may also play a role. In two experimental studies, one that will utilize a vignette methodology and the other that will occur while students complete an actual task, I will manipulate undergraduate participants’ perceptions of the source of their own effort and the level of their effort as compared to a hypothetical other. Participants will then evaluate their own ability as compared to the other individual. I expect that students who are provided with task-elicited effort cues will endorse an inverse relation between levels of effort and ability, while students who are provided with self-initiated effort cues will endorse a positive relation. Results from these studies could help researchers gain a more complete understanding of how students’ motivationally important ability evaluations are formed, and thus, promote interventions designed to increase the accuracy of these evaluations.
Bethany Mulimbi, Harvard University
Bethany Mulimbi is a doctoral candidate in the Culture, Communities, and Education concentration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She holds an Ed.M. in International Education Policy, also from HGSE, and a B.A. in social anthropology and African studies from Harvard College. She is interested in the interplay between how formal education systems, individual schools, and teachers address the needs of students of diverse cultural backgrounds, particularly in Southern Africa. Her dissertation field research in Botswana has been supported by a Fulbright Fellowship and a Sinclair Kennedy Traveling Fellowship.
Botho – “I am because we are.” Constructing National Identity in the Midst of Ethnic Diversity in Botswana’s Junior Secondary Schools
Multiethnic states globally face the dilemma of how to negotiate ethnic diversity while promoting a unified national identity. In Botswana, a remarkable example of peace and stability in Sub-Saharan Africa, two highly visible discourses around national identity – one constructing national identity around the ‘majority’ ethnic group’s culture and language, and the other of a tolerant, multicultural nation – currently compete across public spheres.
Formal schools are key institutions through which to observe the nature and effects of these competing discourses. States globally use mass education as a vehicle to transmit an authorized version of national identity, through centralized education policies and curriculum (Uslaner & Rothstein, 2012). Yet schools are also sites of “everyday nationhood” (Fox & Miller-Idriss, 2008), in which ordinary teachers and students actively participate in constructing the nation.
My dissertation consists of comparative case studies of three junior secondary schools that vary in the ethnic composition of their student bodies and surrounding communities. My work is guided by three questions: How is national identity constructed in Botswana’s public junior secondary schools? How does the construction of national identity vary across and within these three school contexts? How do students from different ethnic groups make sense of their roles as national citizens, as they encounter different constructions of national identity in different contexts? I hope that my findings will offer recommendations for how practitioners and policy makers might move forward in transforming multicultural discourse into multicultural school practices promoting the equality of all Botswana’s students.
Nathanael Okpych, University of Chicago
Nathanael Okpych is a doctoral candidate at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He is also completing an M.S. in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the same institution. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.S.W., both from Rutgers University, as well as an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Duquesne University. In the areas of mental health/social work, he has worked as a counselor in a residential treatment facility, a therapist in a large urban high school, and a care coordinator for a multidisciplinary treatment team. Nathanael also has five years of experience working in college residence life as a resident assistant and building director. These two threads of professional experience inform his research on understanding and promoting psychosocial well-being and college completion for youth with foster care involvement. Nathanael is a recipient of the Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being. His manuscript (co-authored with Dr. James Yu) on the history of evidence-based practice in social work was awarded the Frank R. Breul Memorial prize for best article published in Social Service Review in 2014.
Make or Break: A Quantitative Study of College-going and College Leaving among Foster Care Youth
Youth in foster care are at great risk of dropping out of college, and fewer than 1 in 10 earn a degree by their mid-20s. Exiting college without a degree has dire consequences because these young people are expected to become economically self-sufficient earlier than most of their peers, oftentimes without the safety net of family resources and support. Given the lack of rigorous quantitative research examining persistence and attrition among this population, I will investigate four issues that have implications for policy and intervention strategies. Data will come from a longitudinal study of several hundred adolescents and young adults in foster care in three Midwestern states that will be linked to college records from the National Student Clearinghouse. First, several traditional predictors of attrition will be assessed (e.g., high school grades), as well as factors that are specific to youth in foster care (e.g., number of placement changes). Second, I will develop a measure of vigilant self-reliance (VSR), an identity forged during the instability of foster care characterized by a disavowal of dependence, and assess whether VSR stymies college persistence. Third, I will identify distinct trajectories of college leaving via descriptive analyses and use of latent trajectory models, and describe characteristics of youth who are most likely to traverse each pathway. Fourth, I will examine whether state policy that extends foster care eligibility beyond age 18 increases the likelihood that youth persist in college. Identification of pathways of college exit can guide the timing of interventions, VSR and other predictors of attrition may be important targets of retention strategies for foster youth, and analysis of extended foster care is pertinent to a timely policy issue. Currently, about three in five states have yet to take up federal legislation enacted in 2010 that permits the extension of foster care to age 21.
Jim Porter, Michigan State University
Jim is a doctoral candidate in the history department at Michigan State University. He studies 20th century history of science with an emphasis on the histories of biology, psychology and education in post WWII US. He is the recent recipient of a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, and his book chapter, “The Problem of Mind in Experimental Psychology: 1875-1950” will appear in the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to the History of American Science. Jim holds a BA in biology, an MS in elementary education and an MFA in creative writing. He has taught 5th grade homeroom, high school English and biology, and undergraduate creative writing.
Psychometrics and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Analyzing Debates about Intelligence and Educational Opportunity in the Post-WWII United States from 1945-1975
This dissertation is an historical analysis of how beliefs about individual differences in “intelligence” were constructed and redefined in the Cold War/Civil Rights era in response to a shifting complex of social and scientific pressures. Further, I am interested in how these evolving constructions of intelligence functioned to regulate both an individual’s educational opportunity and arrange and enforce larger disciplinary hierarchies. Thus my analysis addresses: 1) the theorization of intelligence within psychology, 2) continuities between psychological theory, federal-level legislation, and school-place testing and ability grouping, and 3) the influence of broader Cold War/Civil Rights-era cultural contexts on all these developments. I have conducted extensive discourse analyses of congressional records for the National Defense Education Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and Project Head Start. I have also analyzed period publications, and the unpublished archival materials of key historical actors in these debates.
My analysis presumes that whatever “intelligence” is, it is not an ahistorical or organically determined given, but rather a nexus of assumptions, practices and performances that shape-shift over time in response to cultural exigencies. Taking this analytical position de-naturalizes intelligence and makes visible instead how ideas about these sorts of perceived individual and disciplinary differences serve as powerful but under-examined regulators of status and opportunity in our culture. “Intelligence”—its theorization and application–was a praxis with immediate implications for the post-Brown v. Board/Civil Rights era social order. It both drew together and at the same time masked some of the thorniest and most deeply held notions about race, class, gender and educational opportunity. In this time period, more than ever before, measured “intelligence”–a set of numbers one bore through one’s school years like both a prophecy and a kind of personal essence–asserted itself as an explicit marker of worth.
Anna Rhodes, Johns Hopkins University
Anna Rhodes is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. Her primary research interests encompass sociology of education, social inequality, and urban sociology. Her research explores the intersection of families’ school and residential choices, and how these decisions affect children’s educational opportunities and outcomes. Her work has been published in the edited volume “Choosing Homes, Choosing Schools.” Her dissertation examines how low-income families moving with a housing mobility program from an urban center to the surrounding suburban metropolitan area navigate the process of adjusting to different school contexts, and the effect of this transition on students’ academic outcomes. She is the recipient of a pre-doctoral fellowship from the Institute for Education Sciences and the Johns Hopkins University Owen Scholars Fellowship. She holds a B.A. from Boston College in Sociology and Philosophy.
Moving Across the Urban/Suburban Divide: Student Strategies for Navigating Higher Performing Schools
Where families live is still a major determinant of the quality of children’s schools, with significant implications for social inequality and economic mobility. While research strongly points to the detrimental effects of concentrated poverty on academic outcomes for children, scholarship remains limited on whether the same low-income children would fare better if they could grow up in more advantaged neighborhood settings and attend higher quality schools. This study capitalizes on the Baltimore Mobility Program (BMP), a housing voucher program that created dramatic and durable change in families’ neighborhoods and schools. Families who move with the BMP experience large reductions in neighborhood poverty and racial segregation. These significant residential changes are mirrored in children’s school changes. By examining the experiences of these families, this study explores both the process of making a significant change in school context and its effects. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study quantitatively evaluates the effects of the program on students’ academic outcomes using administrative data from the BMP and student level academic data from the state of Maryland. Additionally, this study qualitatively evaluates the process of adjusting to new schools through in-depth interviews with 110 parents and 89 interviews with youth participating in the program. Through these interviews this study examines the strategies students and parents use to navigate these schools and the mechanisms through which this type of school change affects youth.
Na’ama Shenhav, University of California, Davis
Na’ama Shenhav is a doctoral candidate in Economics at the University of California, Davis. She holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. Broadly, her research interests are in labor and public economics, with a specific attention towards understanding how public policies and changes in the labor market can impact educational disparities. Her dissertation studies the effects of women’s relative economic and political positions on family formation decisions and investments in children. Prior to graduate school, she had a diverse career working first as an economic consultant, and then as a financial analyst at Aspire Public Schools as part of the Education Pioneers Analyst Fellowship.
The Power of the Purse: The Differential Effects of Maternal and Paternal Income on Child Achievement
A growing literature suggests that labor market forces may exert substantial influence over family outcomes by altering the outside options for potential marriage partners and increasing the bargaining power of women within marriage. This paper takes advantage of plausibly random changes to sex-specific wages to provide a comprehensive analysis of the effects of relative female to male outside options on the family outcomes of women and their children. The analysis proceeds in two steps. First, I show that increases in women’s relative outside options lead to a decline in the likelihood of marriage for those on the margin of a first marriage, and to increased matching with higher educated spouses among those that do marry. I also find that that women are not necessarily financially better off by choosing not to marry, despite the fact that higher relative outside options promote women’s financial independence. These findings imply that the increase in relative wage options can explain 20% of the decline in marriage between 1980 and 2010, and provide suggestive evidence that the economic disparity across married and single households may be in part be a reflection of a “willingness to pay” to delay a marriage with low net benefits. In the second step of the analysis -still to come -I will investigate how these changes in relative outside options for women impacted the health and educational well-being of their children.
Kenneth Shores, Stanford University
Ken is a doctoral candidate in the Administration and Policy Analysis program at Stanford University. He received his B.S. in Economics from the University of Rhode Island in 2003. Prior to coming to Stanford, he was a teacher for five years in Pueblo Pintado, a small Navajo community in the northwest region of New Mexico. He also taught for two years in Quito, Ecuador. Ken studies patterns and trends of educational inequality and the political tools at our disposal for addressing these inequalities.
Opportunities, Costs and Benefits: Rethinking the Education Production Function
This dissertation incorporates both traditional and non-traditional approaches to the specification and estimation of the education production function. I pursue three related questions: first, I provide new empirical evidence on the effects of spending on educational outcomes. Applying factor methods to a differences-in-differences estimator, I show that cross-sectional dependence is an important source of omitted variable bias in this differences-in-differences application and that school resources marginally improve graduation rates. Second, I use normative philosophical methods to consider the conditions under which a society should invest more in education. Building on John Rawls’ conception of justice, I ask whether the development of academic achievement for the purposes of earnings should command more resources than the development of academic achievement for other ends. Finally, I develop and implement methods to elicit information about how much value individuals accord different types of academic skills. These valuations can then be used to link academic test scores to welfare gains. I then show that this “welfare-adjusted” scale score leads to radically different inferences about achievement gaps and trends.
Rowan Steineker, University of Oklahoma
Rowan Steineker is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at University of Oklahoma. She received a bachelor’s degree in History and Sociology/Anthropology from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri in 2009. In 2011, she completed her master’s in History at the University of Oklahoma. Her research interests include U.S. history with a focus on education, race, gender, and the indigenous experience. Specifically, her dissertation examines the intersection of Native American, African American, and Euro-American education in Indian Territory during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Her research has been supported by several university-level grants, Phi Alpha Theta, and the Newberry Consortium for American Indian Studies. She also previously served as an editorial fellow at the University of Oklahoma Press.
The Struggle for Schools: Education, Race, and Sovereignty in the Nineteenth-Century Creek Nation
The Struggle for Schools: Education, Race, and Sovereignty in the Nineteenth-Century Creek Nation draws on archival research to analyze the intersection of education, race, and sovereignty in nineteenth-century Indian Territory, using the Creek Nation as a case study. Unlike the thousands of Native American students who attended federally-controlled boarding schools in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, Creek students participated in a system of education controlled by their own tribal government. Creeks embraced education as a national institution as one strategy to defend their political sovereignty from U.S. intrusion. The Creek government and other indigenous nations in Indian Territory excluded an estimated 30,000 white children of families who intruded into Indian Territory from all tribal schools. Meanwhile, former Creek slaves attended separate “colored” institutions funded and administered by the tribal government. Thus, this study argues that because the Creek Nation embraced education as a tool of indigenous nation building, the state of education in Indian Territory represents a counter-narrative to the broader history of American boarding school education. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, racial ideology, federal policies, and the ongoing system of settler colonialism reshaped schools in the region to reflect national trends. The federal government took control of Creek schools, advanced Euro-American education, and permitted African American segregation. This will be the first in-depth historical study of a tribally-controlled school system and the first examination of the intersecting experiences of Native American, African American, and Euro-American education in Indian Territory. It contributes to the scholarship the growing literature on education, race, and colonialism in the U.S.
Nicholas Subtirelu, Georgia State University
Nicholas Subtirelu is a doctoral candidate in Applied Linguistics at Georgia State University. His research focuses on dominant understandings of linguistic diversity, especially in relation to the global spread of English or Englishes. In particular, he is interested in how, on the one hand, attitudes and ideologies ostensibly about language serve as covert forms of discrimination along lines of class, ethnicity, and nationality, and how, on the other hand, emerging multi- or translingual orientations to language may promote greater interactional equity in communication across forms of social difference and inequality. Some of his recent publications have appeared in the Journal of Sociolinguistics, Language in Society, and Applied Linguistics. His dissertation research is funded by The International Research Foundation for English Language Education (TIRF) and by the Language Learning Dissertation Grant Program.
Interrogating the ‘international teaching assistant problem’: A study of linguistic diversity and language policy at one internationalizing US university
For decades, institutions of higher education (HEIs) in the US have responded to global flows of people and capital through internationalization. One manifestation of these efforts is the presence of numerous international faculty and teaching assistants (ITAs), whose inevitable linguistic diversity has usually been understood as an English language proficiency problem by students and policy-makers. However, research in sociolinguistics raises important questions about this understanding by demonstrating that perceptions and responses to linguistic difference often serve as covert forms of discrimination against stigmatized ethnicities or nationalities. Because student complaints and HEI policy actions potentially bar certain groups from full access to the HEIs’ material and symbolic resources, how HEIs contend with linguistic diversity and the consequences of their approaches warrant further attention. My dissertation offers a case study of one internationalizing HEI, drawing on several data sources: policy documents, stakeholder interviews, and observations of classroom interaction. My analysis focuses on (1) administrators’, ITAs’, and students’ perceptions of linguistic diversity at the HEI; (2) the policy processes the institution employs to regulate the Englishes of ITAs and their effects; and (3) the interactional norms of classroom communication between ITAs and students. My research highlights the need for HEIs to contend with linguistic diversity through intentional policy and planning. Specifically, in order to ensure educational opportunities and equitable employment practices, such efforts should be aimed at addressing the situation holistically including both providing ITAs support to develop their instructional repertoires and assisting students in communicating across linguistic difference.
Yidi Wu, University of California, Irvine
Yidi Wu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, Irvine. She holds a B.A. from Oberlin College in History. Her research interests focus on student activism and social movements in modern Chinese history. Her dissertation studies Chinese college students during the Hundred Flowers and the Anti-Rightist Campaigns of 1957. She has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Society, the Association for Asian Studies, and Oberlin College Alumni Association. She has co-authored two pieces with her adviser Jeffrey Wasserstrom, one on the 1989 People’s Movement in China in Chinese Studies of Oxford Bibliographies, and the other on Chinese revolution and reform in the edited volume Scripting Revolution. Her article on the Yan’an Rectification Campaign will be published in the edited volume 1943: China at the Crossroads.
Blooming, Contending, and Staying Silent: Student Activism and Campus Politics in China, 1957
My project examines Chinese university student reactions during the politically shifting period from the Hundred Flowers Movement to the Anti-Rightist Campaign in 1957. While previous studies on Chinese student activism have focused on landmarks such as 1919’s May Fourth Movement and 1989’s Tiananmen Protests, the 1950s have often been left out completely or treated only in passing, even though the 1957 student movement is resonant with its predecessors and descendants. I choose Beijing University in the capital, Wuhan University along the Yangzi River, and Yunnan University on the southwest frontier, to show how various groups of students across China have different concerns in a nationwide political campaign, and seek voices from activists and non-activists alike to illuminate the full spectrum of motivation and participation in the student movement. Situating China in a global context, I trace political and social reactions to a series of crises in the Communist world triggered by Khrushchev’s “secret speech” and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Drawing upon archival documents and oral histories, my project investigates a nearly forgotten episode of Chinese student movement in the opening years of the Maoist era, and ultimately contributes to a better understanding of independent thinking under Sovietized socialist education, student activism beyond activist narratives and social movements in illiberal political settings.