A Case Study Exploring the Perspective of Students and Alumni of Education Reform at an Urban High School



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Background: Students who attend urban public schools in the United States often experience educational disparities facilitated by a history of inequalities. Few scholars address the intentionality of racial discrimination in education reform practices and policies (Crichlow, 2013; Dumas, 2013; Hall, 1986). The purpose of this study was to review federal legislation, local policies, and educational reforms enacted since No Child Left Behind from the perspective of current Black students and alumni of a large, urban high school. Research Questions: (1) To what extent does race factor in the school academic outcomes from the perspective of current students and alumni of an urban high school? (2) What role does race play in the perspectives of current students and alumni regarding actions taken by district and campus leaders to address urban high school’s academic outcomes? (3) What are the perspectives of students and alumni concerning the impending threat of state takeover due to historically low academic outcomes? Methods: This research was a qualitative case study, where I was interested in studying in-depth the phenomenon of the school and its trajectory throughout the current school accountability era. This study focused on five Black current students' educational experiences and five Black alumni of an urban public high school located in the southern United States. This study differed from previous research as it strove to expand the literature on educational reforms by revealing the perspectives of Black current students and alumni. I used three sources for data collection: semi-structured interviews, two focus groups, and an examination of relevant documents. Interviews are commonly used as a method of data collection in a qualitative study (Halcomb & Davidson, 2006). Focus groups are useful for pointing out the astounding attributes of an occurrence (Acocella, 2012). I reviewed and transcribed into text the collected data from the interviews, focus groups, and other documents and performed member checks to confirm the accuracy of the transcripts. Interview and focus group findings were inputted into an excel spreadsheet to assist with the identification of themes, where codes were assigned and compared with the initial research questions to ensure alignment. Results: Based on the data analysis for the alumni participants, the findings revealed that reforms created a stressful environment with inferior classroom instruction, pressures of state accountability ratings, and a revolving door of school leaders. For the current students, the findings revealed the impact of positive school leadership when faced with closure. Conclusion: In some instances, educational reforms were experienced positively and in some instances, educational reforms were experienced negatively. Overall, policies can manifest as oppressive in that they can negatively affect students of color.



Keywords: urban schools, Urban school reform, Urban schools and educational disparities, Urban schools and state takeover