Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

School Choice and the Latinx Community: Increased Opportunity/Exclusion in Mecklenburg County
by Handler, Laura Katherine, D.Ed., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2018, 224; 10836991
Abstract (Summary)

Advocates of market-based reform strategies such as school choice claim they will offer families better options to obtain a high-quality education for their child, yet empirical studies offer inconclusive evidence of gains in student achievement and point to the growing trends of racial and economic segregation emanating from increased schooling options. Furthermore, research indicates numerous contextual factors affecting families’ participation and benefit from the expanded marketplace, with marginalized populations facing considerably more barriers in their search for high-quality education. This is particularly true for Latinx families, whose unique cultural, linguistic, social, and economic backgrounds influence their schooling decisions in ways that vary from the normative expectations of choice policies. Although their enrollment in public schools across the United States is steadily increasing, their participation in choice schools is often limited and impedes equitable access to high-quality schools. Because few empirical studies focus on this sector of the population, there is a great need for more comprehensive understanding of the behaviors and decisions of Latinx families across various nationalities, generations, and social classes.

This study aims to begin to fill this void in the literature, using a descriptive case study design to examine the ways in which Latinxs are and are not participating in the school choice process in Mecklenburg County. Data was triangulated among interviews of 17 immigrant Latinx families and four school personnel, public documents providing school data and county demographics, and participant observations of school choice related events. Findings revealed a trend in the timing of families’ participation: a majority did not engage in the educational marketplace until the middle or high school levels. A second notable trend was in the sectors of their participation: a majority of families applied to public magnet schools; the home school option was not mentioned; private schools were out of reach for the one family who looked into them; and charter schools were unfamiliar options to all but one family. Though parents sought to utilize their individual and cultural assets to obtain improved educational opportunities beyond their traditional public school, they faced numerous constraints in their participation due to their social stratification as immigrants with limited financial resources. These findings suggest implications for policy and practice particularly in resolving theoretical contradictions emanating from economic applications to democratic education.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mickelson, Roslyn A.
Commitee: Hawn Nelson, Amy, Rock, Tracy C., Salas, Spencer
School: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Department: Curriculum & Instruction
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 79/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education Policy, Education, Hispanic American studies
Keywords: Latino/a community, Mecklenburg County, Opportunity/exclusion, School choice
Publication Number: 10836991
ISBN: 978-0-438-12855-2
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