Date of Award

Winter 1-6-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Richard D. Lakes, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sheryl A. Gowen, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Patricia A. Carter, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Katherine B. Hankins, Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation explores parent-gentrifiers’ lived experiences of the school-selection process, including the social networking and the influence of those social networks in their selection of schools. School choice and parent involvement are forms of social capital, and such social capital represents the results of social networking and parental agency. The unknown is how this scenario manifests itself in gentrifying parents’ school-selection process in Atlanta’s Kirkwood and Grant Park neighborhoods. Gentrifying children’s absence in urban public schools is of interest as residential areas integrate, while schools (re)segregate. The research paradigm is interpretivist as it investigates the qualitatively different ways in which people experience or think about a phenomenon (Marton, 1986). Purposive snowball sampling is used to reach 30 eligible participants in two neighborhoods. The methodological approach is qualitative phenomenographic interviews. The research found five options considered by parent-gentrifiers in the school-selection process that are consistent with the previous literature: public school, charter school, private school, homeschool and undecided/not yet. The forms of communication utilized in the social networking were face-to-face, phone, e-mail, social networking sites, and texting. Participants varied by work schedule, neighborhood communication infrastructure, and level of social network in their forms of communication. Parent-gentrifiers’ approaches to school selection included: activating agency, social networking, operating in social spaces, their social agenda with regard to diversity, and their educational agenda with regard to curriculum, instruction, and school characteristics. The results show that while parents espouse racial and socioeconomic diversity, their choices in the option-demand system in Grant Park resulted in racial segregation among the schools. In contrast, the lack of formal options in Kirkwood resulted in racial integration in the public elementary school. The actions interpreted and ideas constructed in the process of selecting schools as a parent-gentrifier are of practical value to district efforts to understand the urban middle-class school-selection process. In light of increasing school segregation and student attrition, continued urban revitalization efforts and the sustainability of those efforts for many major cities in the United States is highly dependent on their ability to regenerate and maintain quality schools that attract the middle-class.

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