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Title: Scripting the Moves: Class, Control, and Urban School Reform
Authors: Golann, Joanne W.
Advisors: Duneier, Mitchell
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: charter schools
education reform
hidden curriculum
urban education
Subjects: Sociology
Education policy
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: What does it take to equalize opportunities for disadvantaged students? The highly regimented disciplinary system adopted by high-achieving no-excuses urban charter schools is premised on the idea that disadvantaged students benefit from greater social control. Yet progressive educators have argued that these tight strictures reproduce social class inequalities by reinforcing working-class skills. In this dissertation, based on 15 months of fieldwork between 2012 and 2013 in a no-excuses middle school I call Dream Academy, I detail the everyday experiences of students, teachers, and administrators inside the school to understand the costs and benefits of a highly structured disciplinary system. Schools must provide a safe and orderly environment for teaching to occur. I show how a strict disciplinary system establishes order where shared norms are lacking but also reinforces inequalities in students’ social and behavioral skills. I argue that Dream Academy, contrary to conventional scholarly explanations, emphasizes conformity, rule-following, and deference not because of teachers’ low expectations for their students, but because of their high expectations for their students, their belief that schools can and must close the achievement gap. Yet, while school leaders believe that what works for disadvantaged students is just such a highly scripted, step-by-step approach, in practice, I found that what worked best was teachers’ ability to diminish the need for authoritarian structures by commanding moral authority. Despite school leaders’ desire to create a teacher-proof system, it was the teachers themselves who moderated the rigid systems, learning when to show discretion and how to balance strictness with warmth. It was the authoritative presence of the best teachers that earned them the respect and trust of students, and created an order that was durable and welcomed. In contrast, teachers who stuck too closely to school systems were perceived by students as unfair and out to get them. Thus, while the school’s tight procedures and enforcement appeared to maintain order, these were only tools in the hands of the teacher, and often provoked more resistance than compliance. To establish order without impinging so heavily on students’ autonomy, I argue that authoritarian schools must give way to authoritative teachers.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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