2012 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows

Carrie L. Shandra, State University of New York at Stony Brook

School-to-Work Program Participation and the Early Labor Market Success of Young Adults in the Current Recession

This project will use longitudinal nationally representative data from the United States to examine the relationship between participation in school-to-work programs and employment outcomes in the contemporary recession. I will utilize yearly data from a cohort of youth ages 12-16 in 1997 through ages 24-30 in 2009 to examine two questions: Does participation in school-to-work programs during high school and college affect young people’s short-term, medium-term, and long-term employability? If so, which programs are most effective and how long after school completion do they affect employment? Analyses will adjust for potential selection bias and control for demographic, family, and educational characteristics. Young people currently have the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment of all age groups; results from this project will contribute to the national funding and policy debates on how to ameliorate these problems.

Maia Cucchiara, Temple University

Better Mothers, Smarter Children? Low-Income Mothers’ Experiences with Parenting Education

Parenting programs—a response to the stark and enduring gap in achievement between middle-class and low-income students—aim to instill in poor parents the knowledge and behaviors that will lead to academic success for their children. This ethnographic study will use a sociological lens to explore low-income mothers’ experiences in parenting programs and how their social contexts, kinship networks, and the constraints they face affect their willingness and ability to implement parenting “best practices.” The behaviors parenting programs promote are associated with greater school readiness, but the existence of alternative models of parenting and the challenges of changing deeply rooted beliefs suggest tensions inherent to parent education programs that need to be explored. By examining the intersections between these programs and mothers’ experiences, this project will answer important, previously unasked, questions about an educational intervention that affects thousands of families.

Manuel Espinoza, University of Colorado at Denver

From the Need to the Right to Learn: Migrant Youth and Social Interaction in Classrooms

Rooting itself in a trio of approaches to education – social interactional studies of classrooms, philosophical investigations into the value of learning, & legal examinations of landmark educational cases – this inquiry aims to establish a theoretically-informed empirical approach to learning in classrooms as potentially “rights-generative” activity. Through analysis of the audio-video and writing archives of the Migrant Student Leadership Institute – a university summer academic program for high school migrant students – I will create a set of “touchstone” illustrations that show how educational rights develop in and through classroom talk and interaction. I seek to answer:1) What does interaction that manifests educational rights look and sound like in a classroom? 2) What are its distinctive characteristics in patterns of classroom organization and discourse? 3) How does such interaction differ from more conventional classroom interaction that does not manifest educational rights?

Inmaculada Garcia Sanchez, Temple University

Beyond Cultural Discontinuities: Bridging Immigrant Children’s In- and Out-of-School Language Practices

Bringing together sociolinguistic and cultural modeling research in minority contexts, the proposed project focuses on the generative points of continuity between, on one hand, the linguistic skills and literacy strategies involved in immigrant children’s everyday communicative practices with family and peers and, on the other hand, the strategies and modes of reasoning that are sanctioned in educational institutions. This study will examine the linguistic repertoires of a group of Moroccan immigrant children, who were observed across contexts for 12 months. This project offers an original perspective on literacy processes among immigrant and minority children in that most studies done to date have emphasized home-school dichotomies rather than connections. The findings that this project produces will be framed to address the widespread problem of lack of educational success among immigrant children, which is commonly encountered in transnational settings.

Hala Ghousseini, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Making a difference: Examining the impact of focusing on high-leverage practices in teacher preperation

University-based teacher training faces a challenge in making an impact on beginning teachers’ practice. The well-known disconnect between training and practice has been tied to a number of factors, which include the mismatch between the university and school settings and an over-emphasis on shaping the beliefs of teachers in training rather than their actions. In light of these damaging disconnects, many in teacher education concur with the need to situate professional learning in the sorts of ambitious practice that beginning teachers are called upon to do, and to engage in a sustained research effort to determine the characteristics of professional learning that make the most difference in preparing skilled teachers. I aim in this study to contribute to the work on these two problems by studying the impact of a professional learning model that redesigned the physical, material, and social organization of the learning environment in which pre-service teachers learn to teach mathematics in order to increase the likelihood of carry over from their training to practice. The model builds on the work of Grossman et al. (2009) in their studies of preparation of other professions by “decomposing” the work of mathematics teaching into high-leverage practices. This study will investigate the teaching practice of graduates of this model during their initial years of teaching and the factors that shape their use of the high-leverage practices they learned. Using comparative case studies of the practice of twelve graduates of this model, I examine how core practices of ambitious teaching get recontextualized from their teacher training and the factors that shape this process. My interpretation of recontextualizing in this study takes an Activity Theory framework as its base, where I consider a teacher’s activity as fulfilled through goal-oriented actions that are mediated by certain tools, whose meanings are developed and constantly negotiated in collaboration with others in a specific setting whose social structures have been developed through historical, culturally grounded actions. This study will be exploratory and conceptual in nature, intended to explain the nature and range of causal relationships between learning teaching and teaching, and thus to build basis for further studies.

Ryan Gildersleeve, University of Denver

Discourse and Opportunity: Undocumented Students and Higher Education Policy

This study critically analyzes one of the most controversial policy mechanisms in America today—In-State Resident Tuition (ISRT) policy for undocumented students in higher education. Historically, education has been the purview of the states, while immigration has been a federal responsibility. ISRTs represent a tension where these policy domains intersect, provoking questions about the role of higher education and college access in democracy. This project uses Critical Discourse Analysis and Policy Discourse Analysis to interrogate the ideologies that circulate in ISRT policy and the political contexts from which they emerge. By first applying policy discourse analysis to the text of ISRT policies and then applying critical discourse analysis to the political and popular rhetoric surrounding them, this study examines the discursive effects and material consequences of ISRT policy. Findings will inform future policy-making and the relationship between higher education and democracy.

Casandra Harper, University of Missouri

Examining the Validity and Reliability of College Students’ Racial Identification Choices

This mixed methods study uses Racial Formation Theory to examine students’ responses to racial identification survey questions to detect patterns of inconsistency in their choices and, through interviews, explore the meaning students make of their race, as well as their rationale for identifying or opting out of identifying with race in different contexts. This study will quantitatively establish the extent to which a sample of college students vary their responses to questions of race and will qualitatively explore the reasoning associated with these racial designation choices. The ways in which we count race has implications for policy as well as our broader cultural understanding and awareness. If identity dimensions are more fluid and dynamic than can be reliably and validly captured on a survey using current methods, this raises questions regarding how researchers and practitioners can better capture such constructs in educational research and practice.

Andrew Highsmith, University of Texas at San Antonio

Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis

My book explores the spatial and structural barriers to racial equality and economic opportunity in metropolitan Flint from the Depression to the present. It unravels the complex bonds that connected racially segregated schools and neighborhoods and is part of a broader wave of scholarship that challenges longstanding notions of northern exceptionalism. Demolition also traces how Flint became an international symbol of the Rust Belt’s collapse. It consists of ten chronologically arranged chapters focusing on school and residential segregation, employment discrimination, suburban development, urban renewal, and deindustrialization. Unlike the recent wave of “new” metropolitan histories, which generally elide schools, my book places Flint’s “community education” program at its narrative and analytical heart. Celebrated by officials as colorblind sites for civic renewal, Flint’s schools formed the core of an unsuccessful postwar urban development paradigm.

Sameer Honwad, New York University

Learning to Adapt: Using Indigenous and Exogenous Knowledge for Environmental Decision Making in the Bhutan Himalayas

This study is designed to find out how communities (youth and adults) residing in the Bhutan Himalayas use different sources and types of knowledge to support environmental decisions while addressing water and land use related concerns. The study also examines the decision making process situated within the context of the national environmental education curriculum (grounded in the Bhutan government’s Gross National Happiness policy). The study builds on prior work the author conducted in the Indian Himalayas and looks at whether communities situated in similar biological ecosystems (Middle Himalayas) share decision-making processes even though they are situated in different cultural ecosystems. The study seeks to address the deficiency in the literature for environmental decision-making processes and examines how knowledge embedded within the formal classroom curriculum gets used in actual decision-making processes. Thus the study would be of great help to curriculum designers.

Michael J. Kieffer, New York University

Unpacking the Bilingual Advantage: Linguistic Diversity, Attention, and Reading Growth from Kindergarten to Grade Eight

Research suggests that students who enter kindergarten proficient in two languages show more rapid growth in English reading than their monolingual peers from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. In the proposed study, I will investigate the extent to which this bilingual advantage is explained by enhanced abilities to control attention. Using latent growth modeling and propensity score matching with longitudinal data on a nationally-representative cohort, I will examine (a) whether students who enter kindergarten as bilingual demonstrate higher levels or rates of growth in attention, compared to monolinguals and students who enter as English language learners, and (b) whether these advantages, in turn, are associated with faster rates of growth in English reading. Findings will provide insight into the potential cognitive advantages associated with early bilingualism and will offer practical implications for improving early childhood education for linguistically diverse learners.

Jennifer Langer-Osuna, University of Miami

The Authority of Ideas: Understanding the Relationship between Instructional Practices and How English Language Learners become Influential in Small Group Mathematical Discussions

The objective of this study is to understand how learners in racially and linguistically heterogeneous student groups negotiate mathematical ideas and positions of authority during collaborative work. Of particular interest are the ways in which learners’ ideas are attended to and taken up by group members over the course of the academic year. This study furthers our understanding of equitable mathematics classrooms by examining how forms of student authority become constructed in peer interaction and its relationship to the uptake and spread of particular mathematical ideas.

Rosina Lozano, Princeton University

Managing the “Priceless Gift”: Debating Spanish Language Instruction in New Mexico and Puerto Rico, 1930-1950

This article, completed during the fellowship year and recently published in the Western Historical Quarterly’s Fall 2013 edition examines the debates over language instruction in two locations with largely Spanish-speaking inhabitants. While Spanish persisted as a foreign language in the United States, its long presence in New Mexico and Puerto Rico provided the opportunity for native Spanish speakers to bolster their regional identity. New Mexico’s identity was as a leader valuable to hemispheric goodwill while Puerto Rico solidified a separate national identity. This article is part of a larger book project that examines the role of citizenship and the Spanish language in the Southwest.

Maxine McKinney de Royston, University of California, Berkeley

“Learning to Live”: The Promise of Politically Relevant Teaching towards the Holistic Development of “Our” Children

Discussions around educational gaps and debts point to the pernicious patterns of racial inequities (Hilliard, 2003; Ladson Billings, 2006; Noguera, 2003), yet most reforms do not explicitly address the role of race or racism in schools and classrooms. This study examines three racially heterogeneous middle schools’ attempts to alter school culture as a means to upend racialized outcomes. Using whole-school and classroom observations, parent and teacher interviews, and student interviews and surveys, this study unpacks the reform philosophies and enactments of a “politically relevant” approach. Preliminary findings suggest that the educators at these schools attempt to deal with racism by: 1) educating the “whole child”—i.e. developing students’ academically, culturally, emotionally, physically, and socially; and 2) reconstructing schooling practices like discipline and tracking, as well as more invisible dimensions of schooling that interplay with student well being and academic success such as teacher-student relationships and teacher’s conceptions of work. This study introduces a model for evaluating reforms—environmental and pedagogical—that seek to address racism and related inequities, and adds empirically to our understanding of the possibilities and tensions of embracing the political relevancy of students’ achievement and comprehensive development.

Suzanne Mol, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Paying Attention to Reading Resistance: A New View on Students’ Reading Routines and Learning from Text

With each year of education, achievement differences in the classroom can be increasingly explained by students’ leisure time reading. Research is needed to better understand which experiences and intrinsic processes determine why some students do and others do not develop a book reading routine that helps promote school success. This study aims to demonstrate that high school students with an attentional bias to reading are resistant to read and thereby impeded in their learning from texts. By including both proficient readers and students with reading difficulties (e.g., dyslexics), I will further examine whether reading resistance affects incidental word learning from text independent of students’ reading abilities. The results of this study will yield a new approach for decreasing individual differences in reading behaviors so educators can better enable good as well as poor reading students to reach their academic potential and ultimately increase societal success at large.

Yongmei Ni, University of Utah

Charter Schools, Teacher Working Conditions, and Teacher Commitment

Despite bipartisan support, evidence on charter school effectiveness is mixed. Research is needed to probe inside the black box of school organizations to see how charter schools affect student achievement. Although it is assumed that high teacher commitment improves student achievement, little evidence is available on whether charter school teachers are more committed. To fill this gap, I will use the School and Staffing Survey to compare teacher commitment in charter and traditional schools and explore how the differences are associated with the intrinsic organizational conditions of charter schools. Methodologically, hierarchical linear modeling will be used to examine the relationship between charter schools, working conditions, and teacher commitment, based on a matched sample of charter and traditional schools. This project helps to understand how charter schools influence student outcomes and define more responsive environments for teachers that promote student learning.

Andrew Penner, University of California, Irvine

Why are boys faltering in school? An international perspective

In 2009 boys were 30 percent more likely to drop out of high school than girls, and girls received 57 percent of college degrees (Snyder & Dillow 2011). The Department of Education forecasts that growth in women’s educational attainment will continue to outpace men’s, so that increasingly the problem of ensuring that we are fully developing our nation’s human capital will be an issue of making sure that boys, as well as girls, are not being left behind. To address the growing disadvantages faced by boys in school, this project will provide an international perspective on this issue. Specifically, this project will capitalize on cross-national variation in gender regimes to investigate how gender shapes boys’ educational disadvantages and interacts with micro-level mechanisms to contribute to boys’ academic disengagement.

Russell Rickford, Dartmouth College

A Struggle in the Arena of Ideas: Black Power, Education and the Quest for Nationhood, 1966-1984

This intellectual and social history of Black Power liberation schools chronicles the inner lives if the scores of independent, black nationalist schools that arose nationwide in the late 1960s and 70s. These institutions reflected an audacious attempt by young, radical theorists and activists to create the infrastructure for an autonomous black nation, and to launch a cultural revolution in black America that could transform Negroes into politically and psychologically independent “New Africans.” The movement belies facile accounts of Black Power’s utter collapse in the 1970s. Relying on a wide array of primary sources to reconstruct the internal governance, pedagogy and discipline of the institutions, I argue that Black Power liberation schools served as precursors to the Afrocentric academies of the 1980s and 90s, embodying both the salience and growing complexity of black nationalist thought in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Jennifer Riggan, Arcadia University

The Teacher State: Militarization and the Reeducation of the Nation in Eritrea

Through a fine-grained ethnographic examination of a cohort of teachers in the East African nation of Eritrea, this study explores teachers’ efforts to shape students into citizens in the midst of authoritarian, militarized rule. Throughout Eritrea’s transition to militarized authoritarianism, teachers believed that they had a duty to build their fledgling nation by instilling a sense of national identity, duty and morality in their students, but they despaired that they would be unable to accomplish these lofty goals given the conditions of governance in Eritrea. The study explores four strategies teachers used to resist state militarization and produce an alternate form of citizenship: reinterpreting state policy, shirking their duties, disciplining students and encouraging debates about emigration. By exploring the contradictions embedded in these strategies, the study fundamentally rethinks the relationship between teachers and the authoritarian state.

Li Sheng, University of Texas

Lexical-Semantic Knowledge in Mandarin-English and Spanish-English Bilingual Children: A Comparative Study

Using the theoretical framework of the Competition Model (Hernandez, Li, & MacWhinney, 2005), the current project aims to compare patterns of language development in bilinguals who are learning typologically different languages, namely, Mandarin-English (ME) and Spanish-English (SE). We focus on structures of differential cue validity/strength in the children’s native languages, such as cognates, compound/derivational morphology, and salience of the noun hierarchy. We hypothesize that frequency of occurrence and productivity of these structures in the input language will determine the rate of learning. Therefore, the ME group will outperform the SE group on tasks tapping compound morphology and knowledge of the noun hierarchy; the SE group will outperform the ME group on tasks assessing derivational morphology and cognate vocabulary. Results will enrich our understanding of bilingualism theories and contribute novel and practical knowledge to practitioners in educational settings.

Terri Wilson, Southern Illinois University

Rethinking Public and Private: Parents and Distinctive Schools of Choice

School choice increases both the number and the kinds of choices available to families. Schools of choice often self-consciously distinguish their unique approaches from traditional public schools. These distinctive schools draw families into new communities around shared interests and preferences. At the same time, these schools also sort students along lines of race, class, language and lines of difference. How should we balance the interests of families in choosing distinctive schools—especially ones that affirm ethnic, linguistic or cultural identities—against arguments for a common, integrated school system? I explore this question in two ways. First, through a qualitative cross-case analysis of three distinctive schools, I illuminate the moral, ethical and political reasoning employed by parents who choose such school communities. Second, through philosophical analysis, I position these reasons in conversation with normative claims about the legitimacy of such school spaces.

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