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Dafney Blanca Dabach
UC Berkeley/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2008

Dissertation: Teachers as a Context of Reception for Immigrant Language Minority Youth: Adaptations in 'Sheltered' and 'Mainstream' Classrooms

Abstract: This dissertation investigates how secondary teachers of immigrant students who are not fluent in English understand and enacts their practice within a system of specialized instruction called “sheltered instruction” (or SDAIE). In this qualitative study, 20 teachers of immigrant language learners who teach both sheltered and mainstream courses in social studies, math and science are being interviewed in order to determine how their curriculum and instruction vary in each. This design is unique as it follows teachers across different instructional contexts to capture their potential adaptations. Two-four case study teachers will be selected for observations and additional interviews in order to understand how explanatory variables (institutional constraints, teacher disposition, and teacher repertoire) map out in teachers’ classrooms. Understanding the process by which teachers respond and adapt to their immigrant language learners is of critical importance with direct links to the critical conditions necessary for providing college opportunities for underrepresented students.

Luciana Dar
UCLA/political science

Dissertation Fellow, 2007

Dissertation: The Politics of Higher Education Spending in the American States

Abstract: Identifying policies that promote student access is at the core of higher education scholarship. However, little has been done to understand the political process through which these policies develop. My dissertation addresses the following questions: Why does the level and type of government support for higher education vary so much across states and over time? Does politics matter or is this variation just a by-product of the economic business cycle? How do political-economic trends affect states’ ability to make a university education possible for all? Given that the reasons for states supporting higher education go beyond individual economic returns then investigating how and how much states invest in higher education may provide clues to the specific political-economic dynamics driving higher education policy. My dissertation sheds light on this process by investigating differences in spending patterns across 48 states from 1976 to 2002, in combination with a case study of California.

Brianne Davila
UC Santa Barbara/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2010

Dissertation: Negotiating ‘Special’ Identities: Structure and Agency in Special Education

Abstract: This study is a qualitative exploration and analysis of Latina/o student experiences in special education, specifically in the Resource Specialist Program (RSP) in an urban high school located in Southern California. Using an ethnographic approach, observations, in-depth interviews (with students, parents and teachers) and educational case studies are analyzed in order to determine the role of educational experiences and student interactions in shaping student identity, academic performance and motivation. I focus on the role of schools as social institutions, and teaching and learning as cultural practices in order to understand their role in the production of racially gendered identities for Latina/o students enrolled in special education. This research contributes to the sociological and educational literature that seeks to challenge deficit notions traditionally attributed to the educational outcomes of Latina/o students and expose the way social institutions and interactions shape the life opportunities of Latina/o students enrolled in special education.

Shiv Desai

Dissertation Fellow, 2009

Dissertation: Emancipate yourself from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds :Spoken word as site/sight of resistance, reflection and rediscovery

Abstract: Throughout the nation, urban high schools are experiencing a “silent epidemic” where half of all minority youth drop out of high school.  In addition, these youth are increasingly being incarcerated at disproportional rates (Orfield, 2004).  Thus, this proposal provides a concrete example of implementing the critical conditions needed to enhance college opportunities for underrepresented youth as identified by UC ACCORD.  By providing a three-year qualitative account of a spoken word classroom, I will illustrate how the class fostered a safe learning environment, provided a rigorous academic curriculum and created a college-going culture.  In addition, I demonstrate how creating a student-centered curriculum that privileges “urban youth realities” allows teachers and students to critically analyze key issues affecting the lives of urban youth such as gangs, violence, immigration and education.  Moreover, this study discusses how alternative forms of literacies can enable urban youth to develop a multi-cultural college-going identity (Oakes, 2003).

Helen Duffy
UC Berkeley/education

Dissertation Fellow

Title: Increasing College-Going Rates of Underrepresented Populations

This study seeks to understand how professional development activities for teachers can help increase the college and university attendance rates of underrepresented populations. Using surveys and observational data, the study examines the High School Puente Project’s professional development.

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