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For-Profit Alternative Programs and Schools of Choice: Structuring Safety and College-for-All in an Era of Market-Based School Reform

  • Author(s): Zaragoza-Petty, Alma L.
  • Advisor(s): Sengupta-Irving, Tesha
  • et al.
Abstract

Market-based school reform incentivizes schools to invest in the academic preparation and well-being of students. These imperatives, often articulated in terms of safety and the college preparation of students, are seen as issues traditional public schools have been unable to address adequately. In turn, alternative programs and schools of choice are positioned as viable solutions. Using critical ethnography methodology, this dissertation is based on a case study analysis of one such schooling site, and investigates to what extent this method of “new schooling” might, in fact, offer something different from traditional public schools. Further, my analysis asks to what extent this case of market-based school reform schooling counters deficit paradigms so often associated with the education of low-income youth of color, as this remains unclear in the literature. Drawing from sociopolitical and organizational behavior theory, I use a proactive versus reactive institutional framework in this analysis, finding that this case of alternative programs and schools of choice reflects a reactive position in which communities and schools are seen as the problem. I argue that this suggests a failure of market-based schooling to offer a unique counter-solution to traditional schooling for low-income youth of color. Through this analysis, I also identify missed opportunities to take a more proactive position in relation to both students and communities, which would likely better assure the well-being of youth of color as well as offer a clearer solution to the failure of traditional schools to advance safety and college-readiness for all.

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