THE ACADEMIC IMPACT OF DESCRIPTIVE REPRESENTATION AND BUREAUCRATIC DISCRETION ON AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND LATINO STUDENTS
Jenkins, Jasmine Laura 1983-
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This dissertation explores the manner in which descriptive representation in the classroom affects academic achievement for African-American and Latino students. Long-standing problems of both equality of access and equality of outcomes have caused a trend toward a greater level of centralized authority in public education. This centralized authority is particularly powerful in making decisions for schools that serve low-income, African-American and Latino students, who have historically lagged behind their White and Asian counterparts in academic performance. The lack of autonomy in low-income, urban schools may be precisely what is keeping teachers and administrators in these schools from being effective. Although much of the literature on bureaucratic representation indicates that same race-bureaucrats are able to produce desired policy outcomes for those whom they represent, I find that black and Hispanic teachers are not able to turn descriptive representation of their students into substantive results, given the present policy environment. I argue that much of the influence that teachers would have on their students is limited by factors beyond their control. These factors include a lack of administrator autonomy, which ties the hands of administrators and teachers, keeping them from making decisions that might otherwise result in better outcomes for their students. I further find that in certain cases, descriptive representation does have a positive impact on student performance when it is paired with a high level of administrator autonomy.