College Readiness in an Urban Black Context: Ideology, Discourse, and Practices
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This dissertation analyzes the academic socialization with respect to college-readiness in an urban charter school, paying particular attention to the ideologies, discourses, and practices at the school as well as the experiences and academic identities of students in an Advanced Placement English Language Arts classroom. Critical ethnography and critical discourse analysis was utilized to examine dominant ideologies and discourses that gave rise to academic socialization practices at Riverside College Preparatory Academy. The choice and implementation of these practices reflect deficit-oriented constructions of Black students, their families, and their communities. The amalgam of these discourses, ideologies, and practices are referred to as the institutional construction of identity which reflects how student identities are conceptualized at Riverside. Analysis revealed that two major ideological orientations—missionary and deficit—dominated the institutional level, which were reflected in the discourses about Black students from administration and teachers. Both discourses and ideologies gave rise to practices of remediation at the institutional level and practices of negotiation at the departmental, classroom, and student levels. These broader practices, discourses, and ideologies at Riverside served to discursively construct racialized academic identities, what I refer to as institutional construction of identity, concluding that students (1) lacked resilience, (2) lacked responsibility, and (3) lacked knowledge of school practices and college-ready behaviors. As such, socialization practices and policies privileged these constructed identities. Contrary to this institutional construction of identity, my cross-case analysis reveals that students exhibited resilience and knowledge of school practices and college-ready behaviors, indicating a misalignment between academic socialization practices at Riverside and the needs of students. The case study analysis expands upon the ways that two students negotiated the “responsibility” identity in the classroom and in the school, as well as how the academic socialization practices at Riverside may have constrained opportunities for academic growth and future success. This dissertation contributes to our collective understanding of student experience and academic identity. While much of the education reform debate focuses on what it means to prepare students for college, Riverside’s college-readiness theory and practice were fraught with problematic assumptions about Black students with respect to their academic capacities, cultural backgrounds, and personal experiences. Such assumptions frame socialization practices and as this study reveals, constrains opportunities for academic growth. As cultural institutions, schools can operate as transformative spaces or sorting mechanisms. As such, it is essential to examine how educators conceptualize students and their learning in order to cultivate the most effective learning environments.