Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

How retention and high stakes testing closes the door to educational opportunity for immigrant youth: A case study of Dominican students
by Ferreira, Marybelle, Ed.D., New York University, 2010, 337; 3427002
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this in-depth interpretive case study is to shed light on the experiences of immigrant youth in the US schools and to provide insight into why they leave high school prior to graduation. The conceptual lenses of Amartya Sen (development as freedom) and Martha Nussbaum (capabilities approach) framed the analysis of this study. How do schools try to create greater educational opportunity for immigrant students, and how do these strategies play out in the lived experiences of immigrant children and youth?

Using the methodological framework of interpretive interactionism by Norman Denzin (1989), this case study used multiple data sources to understand how four Dominican youth who dropped out of school made sense of their experience. Through their life stories, we see the difficult circumstances that undermined the freedom that these young people had to focus on learning and to do well in school. Their stories reveal that in this new era of accountability and high-stakes testing, these immigrant youth were quickly lost in an educational system that was not designed for them and did not take their learning needs into consideration. The young people in this study struggled to fit into the US New York City educational system, but after failure, disappointment, and repeated retentions, all of them felt forced into dropping out of high school.

The findings of this study reveal that the direction of current educational reform in NYC, which is grounded in greater accountability and high-stakes testing, closed the door to learning and educational opportunity for the immigrant youth in this study. Children who enter school not speaking English and having a weak educational background in their home country have little chance of catching up in an educational system that demands testing on competencies that these young people do not have.

Educators and policymakers must rethink the failed practice of using tests and retaining students as strategies for increasing educational opportunity for immigrant youth. Rather, they must pay greater attention to the actual learning needs and interests of immigrant youth as well as the life circumstances both inside and outside of school that make it difficult for immigrant children to focus on and succeed in education.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Larson, Colleen
Commitee: Anderson, Gary, Rust, Frances
School: New York University
Department: Administration, Leadership, and Technology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, School administration
Keywords: Drop out, English language learners, Grade retention, High stakes testing, Immigrant students, Social and emotional well-being
Publication Number: 3427002
ISBN: 978-1-124-29553-4
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