Posted tagged ‘identity’

Texas Miracles, [Online] Second Chances, and the Hidden Identity Development Curve

May 5, 2010

Pennsylvania’s Department of Education Secretary, Dr. Gerald Zahorchak (October 29, 2007), stated “boredom and a lack of challenges” as contributory factors in a student’s decision to drop out of school in Pennsylvania. In addition to the collection of whole group and sub group data, the Pennsylvania Department of Education attempts to collect relevant data to study the reasons for dropping-out. The Pennsylvania Department of Education catalogues the results within a data matrix. The matrix lists six reasons for dropping out (Academic problem, Behavioral problem, Disliked school, Pregnancy/Child care, Wanted to work, and Runaway or expelled) within four program categories (College preparatory, Vocational, Exceptional, and General).  The three most frequent responses in all program categories were disliked school (41%), wanted to work (21%), and academic problem (20%).  As is customary with quantitative studies, the survey did not delineate why students disliked school.  The Silent Epidemic (2007) stated that forty-seven percent of dropouts emanated from a lack of interest in school and the associated learning environment (Paulson, March 3, 2006).  Unfortunately, reporting has flaws because dropouts do not necessarily comply with a school district’s exiting process therefore creating a dilemma and inaccuracies in data collection and reporting.  Data based upon the documented responses provided by students who have conducted official exit interviews with the associated school district do not represent the vast numbers of undocumented dropouts. 

The Texas Miracle and No Child Left Behind

Linda McSpadden McNeil’s 2008 study of 271,000 students from urban districts in Texas indicated that the accountability associated with No Child Left Behind has had a significant impact on the number of dropouts nationwide.  Although the ‘Texas Miracle’ of achievement in the late 1990’s served as the impetus for No Child Left Behind at the federal level, research conducted over the last decade paints a different picture than that which was originally heralded as a great reform model for all to emulate. McNeil states that the pressure on schools to perform at a certain level has affected how schools are managed and how students are taught and serviced.  In essence, McNeil acknowledged that student value is based upon their being an “asset” or “liability” to the school’s success.  Further, No Child Left Behind’s increasingly stringent accountability measures only precipitate principals and administrators to group students by subgroups—identifying low performers, increasing disciplinary action for minor infractions, and beginning the process of moving a student out of school.  Thus, a policy initiative purportedly implemented to bring more equity to education has actually increased the susceptibility of minority subgroups to further adverse institutional practices and policy. 

Studies have shown that positive teacher-student relationships encourage student achievement and satisfaction (Bergin, June, 2009; Baker, 1999; Decker, February, 2007).  This is especially true with an urban at-risk population where secure attachment is contributory when addressing student satisfaction and the effects of a positive, non-threatening learning environment on student achievement (Baker, 1999). Many urban minority at-risk school age students do not possess the internal motivation to succeed.  As a result, students rely on strong relationships with their teachers for leadership and guidance (Marchant, 1990) as early as elementary school. For that reason, supportive and concerned school environments that smooth the progress of student learning and connection contributes to the academic success of at-risk minority school age students (Towns, et al., 2001; Waxman, Huang, & Anderson, 1997).

Push Out

The term ‘push out’ is drawn on to describe the means by which school districts utilize institutionalized practices to move the less desirable student population towards the exit door.  Lehr (2007) states that negative incidences within school leave students with feelings of isolation and discontent.  This pushing out can occur through repeated disciplinary action, standardized teaching methods, teacher attitudes, limited support, and even the pressure of high stakes testing (Oleck, 2008).  A study of the African American and Latino populations in the Denver (CO) Public Schools indicates that minority and low-income students are “taught down to”.  Using the excuse of stressors (adverse status variables) outside the school as a reason to lessen the amount of rigorous schoolwork, school districts ensure African American students enter each school year at an institutional disadvantage (Padres Unidos, 2006). 

Thousands of public school students experience a push out.  To the school district, these students are not representative of the dropout crisis.  School districts tend to rely on graduation rates based upon the number of students graduating in a given school year rather than address the number of students who started ninth grade and subsequently graduated in the traditional four- year cycle.  For example, the National Education Association’s lobbying agenda reported that in 2001, New York City schools graduated 34,000 students while discharging 55,000 high school students.  Although reports indicate that most students were transferring or moving, it is easy to bury thousands of push-outs into the transfer category.  Therefore, true indicators of the dilemma are not available or veiled behind a shroud of secrecy and inaccurate reporting.

Asynchronous Models:  Credit Recovery & Disruptive Innovation

It is safe to say that academic success rests among the intended outcomes of African American students (Lewis & Kim, 2008).  Still, students lacking course credits have few opportunities to accumulate credits in a time-period that will allow for full academic recovery and timely participation in graduation exercises.  Initiatives such as credit recovery programs allow the non-traditional student to realize graduation rather than turn to exiting the realms of academia by dropping out. Although not specific to race and gender, student motivation in e-learning/online programs has been studied (Blanchard & Frasson, 2004; Henry & Stone, 1999) to assess the value of motivational practices in e-learning networks to ensure success and reduce the anxieties of academic pursuits.  Studies on the use of online credit recovery programs report that this type of technological innovation helps currently enrolled students retrieve credits towards graduation and encourage dropouts to return to school (Watson & Gemini, 2008). 

Internal motivation is more easily recognized and acknowledged within an asynchronous credit recovery program due to the self-directed and independent nature of the program.  Because each student participant is engaged within their own specific coursework, they are the only person by which their success or failure is gauged.  Therefore, the independence of the asynchronous credit recovery program places the student participant in the center position.  When student success, motivation, and effort are ostensibly measured against the peer group, students have the potential to pull away from direct interaction due to a heightened level of discomfort within the learning environment. These passive behaviors can ultimately result in increased absences and disengagement from the learning environment altogether. The unfortunate result in too many instances is a student prematurely dropping out of school before realizing graduation. The asynchronous credit recovery program structure can enhance student self esteem and confidence in their pursuits because progress and success are not measured against their peer group or with any degree of subjectivity.  With this, a sense of personal ownership heightens motivation, confidence, engagement, and ultimately, student achievement.

A credit recovery program’s assessments are objective and do not rely on subjective assessments, evaluations, and personal critiques to determine the value of the individual. Further, the self-paced platform of the credit recovery program reduced the day-to-day pressures of performance anxiety (Cavanaugh, 2009). The reduction of performance anxiety increases the capacity of the non-traditional student to advance proficiency in collecting, assembling, and processing information as well as promoting investigative abilities beyond that of academic pursuits. The development of such expands the range by which the non-traditional student establishes resolution skills and negotiates conceptual struggles (Coleman, 2005). To this end, the independent nature of the student to computer interface model places the non-traditional student in a position of constant self-actualization that promotes confidence, growth, and self-esteem while enhancing personal value and identity consideration towards clarification and commitment.

Studies disclose aspects, affects, and characteristics of credit recovery programs that are associated with time schedules, commitment, independence, and isolation from influence that is antithetical to a traditional school model.   Further consideration on the applicability of credit recovery programs on non-traditional student populations beyond those that are credit deficient is necessary to ascertain the various affects and positive behavioral influences such programming has on a non-traditional student population.  It is possible that a wider audience can be served through participation in an on site technology based alternative non-traditional schooling environment (Waters, 2010).

Finally, a technology based asynchronous education model does not threaten the traditional schooling program within a traditional brick and mortar model. Nonetheless, the effects of such programming are undeniably beneficial to a segment of the population that has been confounded with dilemmas directly related to the school environment or external dynamics and complexities unrelated to the school environment.


Baker, J. (1999). Teacher-Student Interaction in Urban At-Risk Classrooms: Differential Behavior, Relationship Quality, and Student Satisfaction with School. The Elementary School Journal. 100(1).  Abstract retrieved from

Bergin, C. & Bergin, D. (June, 2009). Attachment in the Classroom. Educational Psychology Review. 21(2).  Abstract retrieved from

Blanchard, E., & Frasson, C. (2004). An Autonomy-Oriented System Design for Enhancement of Learner’s Motivation in E-learning. Retrieved

Cavanaugh, C. (May 18, 2009). Getting Students More Learning Time Online: Distance Education in Support of Expanded Learning Time in K-12 Schools. Retrieved on from

Coleman, S. (2005). Why Do Students Like Online Learning? Retrieved from

Decker, D., Dona, D, & Christenson, S. (February, 2007).  Behaviorally At-Risk African American Students: The Importance of Student-Teacher Relationships for Student Outcomes. Journal of School Psychology. 45(1), 83. Abstract retrieved from

Kim, M. (October 1, 2008). Women of Color: The Persistent Double Jeopardy of Race and Gender.  The American Prospect. Retrieved from

Lehr, C.A., Johnson, D. R., Bremer, C., Cosio, A. (2007). What Do We Know About Who Drops Out and Why?  Retrieved from

Lewis, M. and Lockheed, M. (2006). Inexcusable Absence:  Why 60 Million Girls Still Aren’t In School and What To Do About It. Washington, DC: Center for Global Development. Retrieved from .

Marchent, G. (April, 1990). Intrinsic Motivation, Self-Perception, and their effects on Black Urban Elementary Students. Paper Retrieved from

McNeil, L. M., Coppola, E., Radigan, J., & Vasquez Heilig, J. (2008). Avoidable losses: High-stakes accountability and the dropout crisis. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 16(3). Retrieved from

Oleck, J. (February 20, 2008). NCLB’s Accountability Feeds Drop-Out Rates. School Library Journal (online).  Retrieved from

Padres Unidos (January 18, 2006). Drop Outs or Push Outs: Students Vote with Their Feet. CJRC Newsletter. 14. Retrieved from

Paulson, A. (March 3, 2006). Dropout Rates High, but Fixes Under Way. The Christian Science Monitor.  Retrieved from

Towns, D., Cole-Henderson, B., & Serpell, Z. (2001). The Journey to Urban School Success: Going the Extra Mile. The Journal of Negro Education, 70, 4-19.

Watson, J. & Gemini, B. (June, 2008). Using Online Learning for At-Risk Students and Credit Recovery. NACOL/North American Council for Online Learning. Retrieved from

Waxman, H. C., Huang, S. L., & Anderson, L. (1997). Classroom Process Differences in Inner-city Elementary Schools. Journal of Educational Research, 91, 49-59. Retrieved from

Zahorchak, G. (October 29, 2007). Education Secretary Outlines Pennsylvania’s Efforts to Address Dropout Situation.: Multifaceted Approach Focuses on Prevention, Intervention and Re-engagement. Retrieved from

Disruptive Innovation Theory and Public School Education: A Futurist Perspective

April 9, 2010

Disruptive innovation is a theory founded by Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen.  Disruptive innovation challenges the framework associated with sustainable innovations.  Sustainable innovations are internal improvements to an already existing system. Sustainable innovations can be referred to as periodic upgrades to systems.  Although considered innovative, change is slow and results reap only marginal improvements. A disruptive innovation, on the other hand, is an advancement that significantly alters the sustained delivery method or product.  This disruption eventually results into what can be interpreted as a natural evolution of a delivery method or product that ultimately displaces the formerly sustained method.

An early objective of asynchronous curriculum delivery models was to enhance the learning of advanced placement students through an independent study component.  This independent study component is asynchronous because the assignments and assessments are not bound by time and space as occurs with synchronous models within traditional brick and mortar institutions. As technological advancements emerged, asynchronous models became primarily associated with computer based media or online applications and software.  This independent approach to learning has become increasingly viable and accessible for all students through distance learning initiatives such as video conferencing, Blackboard ™, web casts, pod casts, blogs, Wikis™, Twitter™ and privatized online learning programs such as NovaNet™ and Plato™. These innovations allow students the freedom to access and respond to the information within a flexible timeframe and without the necessity for face-to-face synchronous experiences. Petroski (2008) states that there are existing colleges whose students never attend a course on a physical campus.

An interview transcription (Burkhardt & Duncan, 2008) notes Clayton Christensen as stating,

“Online learning, a disruptive innovation, is starting to take root in many areas in the United States—both in and outside of the public schools.
Home schooling is a big area where online learning is taking off, but so too are areas of non-consumption within public schools like AP courses, credit recovery, and alternative education. As they take root in these places, they will begin to improve, and as budget cuts eat at the existing offerings in public schools, online courses will take on more and more of the load as more affordable options for districts that offer an escape from the barriers of time of the school day and more one-on-one and customized learning. “(para. 39)

In the feature article How Do We Transform Our Schools?, Christensen and Horn (2008) support the customization of learning for the individual student by using computers to deliver a self- paced instructional model that offers alternatives to the expanding non-traditional population. The number of student enrollments in online programs has grown significantly over a period of seven years.  In 2000, there were approximately forty five thousand students participating in some form of online curriculum delivery model.  As of 2007, the numbers had grown by more than twenty times (Lagace, 2008). 

Credit recovery programs were established within urban public schools to support at-risk students in the accumulation of credits that were forfeit because of academic failure or during unstable periods resulting in lengthy absences from school. Further, these programs provided an avenue for the non-consumer, or in this case, the non-traditional student.  If administered ethically, a credit recovery program can provide an alternative to the traditional school setting while simultaneously reducing drop-out numbers [of the non-traditional student consumer] and increasing legitimate whole graduation numbers for the home school district.                     

On one hand, school district officials have supported credit recovery programs as a means to assist an at-risk student population in the academic reestablishment of themselves through online credit accumulation. On the other hand, potentially limitless implementation of such initiatives can be obstructed because “established organizations are trapped in the industry’s architecture” (Trotter, May 5, 2008) and use technology as a tool of efficiency rather than as a transformative tool. Program detractors question the validity of such online programs because, until recently, there were no evaluations on the quality and rigor of online credit recovery programs (Trotter, July 2, 2008).

A disruptive innovation initially offers an alternative option to a previously established method of delivery.  These innovations were not initially embraced by the masses due to a small population being recognized as a consumer.  In the larger, established delivery system, the population being served by the disruptive innovation is considered non-consumers.  This non-consumer is labeled as at-risk or non-traditional when compared to the traditional high school student.  As the disruptive innovation becomes increasingly efficient and the number of non-consumers grows, potential exists for the disruptive innovation to transform the organization (Christensen & Horn, 2008).  Initially, these online programs were structured to provide a substitution for advanced placement courses when a course or series of courses were unavailable in the traditional high school setting.  However, to the credit of the disruptive innovation theory, Keeping Pace With K-12 Online Learning (2006) states that more students are accessing the credit recovery program than the number of students enrolled in advanced placement courses.  This is, in part, due to the increased enrollment opportunities through “for-profit online schools, state-run virtual schools, non-profit groups, and homegrown district efforts.” (Davis, March 26, 2009, pg. 8)

Reports on public school systems state that the nation’s public schools are “trapped within existing architecture” (Wilson, 2008, para. 2) as they are experiencing a period of turbulence due to increasing demands for course availability and customized education plans against constrained budgets.  Advocates of online learning feel the current economic trend and the effect on school district budgets makes online learning an appealing consideration (Ash, March 18, 2009). Specifically, a quarter of America’s public schools cannot satisfy demands for advanced placement courses due to the deficient pool of certified instructors and the inability for school districts to offer these courses to the smaller population of non-consumers because of  budgetary constraints.  Additionally, the roughly fifty percent of students who have fallen behind in course credits are limited in their opportunities to reclaim credits due to course failure or time away from school (Horn, 2008).  The current economic trends should cause America’s public schools to reconsider the application of such technological innovations to a rapidly increasing service population at an affordable cost.

As the demand grows for alternatives to the traditional classroom setting, companies like Apex Learning, Pearson, and Plato Learning, Inc. have advanced the implementation of technology based course work for the advanced learner as well as the student in need of remediation and instructional interventions. The flexibility of such programming is embraced by an ever growing population that is within an ever changing social and domestic dynamic.  These programs hold particular value to school districts by retaining students on enrollment rosters as well as increasing graduating rates and reducing overall dropout numbers.

Disruptive innovation, through the application of an asynchronous curriculum delivery model, provides a considerable argument for the establishment of such curricula in the nation’s public schools.  Disruptive innovation may cause initial turbulence to an established organization. However, studies advocate for further investigation of such computer based programming as an enhancement to the educational process of the non-consumer. 

A technology based asynchronous education model does not threaten the traditional schooling program within a traditional brick and mortar model. Nonetheless, the effects of such programming are undeniably beneficial to a segment of the population that has been confounded with dilemmas directly related to the school environment or external dynamics and complexities unrelated to the school environment.  Subject response to inquiry discloses aspects, affects, and characteristics of the credit recovery program that are associated with time schedules, commitment, independence, and isolation from influence that is antithetical to a traditional school model.   Further consideration on the applicability of credit recovery programs on non-traditional student populations beyond those that are credit deficient is necessary to ascertain the various affects and positive behavioral influences such programming has on a non-traditional student population.  It is possible that a wider audience can be served through participation in an on site technology based alternative non-traditional schooling environment.

Ash, K. (March 18, 2009). Experts Debate Cost Savings of Virtual Ed. Education Week. 28(25), 9.            

Burkardt, V. & Duncan, G. (Interviewer) & Christensen, C. (Interviewee). (November 3, 2008).   Embracing Disruptive Change [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from

Christensen, C. & Horn, M. (summer, 2008). How do We Transform Our Schools? Education Next, volume 8. Retrieved from

Davis, M. (March 26, 2009). Breaking Away From Tradition. Education Week, 28(26), 8.

Horn, M. (2008) Career College Association Competitive Workforce Report. Retrieved from   

Lagace, M. (Interviewer) & Christensen, C. (Interviewee). (August 18, 2008). How Disruptive Innovation Changes Education: Q & A with Clayton Christensen [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from

Petroski, A. (December 7, 2008) ‘6 T’s’ Driving Fast-Paced Learning Evolution. Patriot News. Retrieved from

Trotter, A. (May 5, 2008). Online Education as Disruptive Innovation. Education Week.  Retrieved from

Trotter, A. (July 2, 2008) Ed Dept Releases Guide for Evaluating Online Learning. Education Week. Retrieved from

Watson, J. & Ryan, J. et al. (2006).  Keeping Pace with K – 12 Online Learning: A Review of State Level Policy and Practice.  Retrieved from

Wilson, L. (2008). Disruption as Innovation. Message posted to

Ethnogender Stratification and High School Graduation

February 26, 2010

The National Women’s Law Center’s report, When Girls Don’t Graduate, We All Fail: A Call to Improve High School Graduation Rates (2007) discusses the short and long-term implications for females when high school graduation does not occur.  Women who do not complete high school have limited opportunities to secure employment and receive wages that allow for financial security (Barton, 2005; Britt, 2006). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Governor’s Alliance, and America’s Promise Alliance indicate that dropouts are likely to be stricken by poverty, unemployed, have poor health, receive public assistance, and are often single parents with children who have an even higher potential to drop out of school. To stress this point further, a report prepared by Fogg (2007) for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry indicates that during the year 1979, dropouts earned seventy-five percent of what high school graduates earned and forty-one percent of those with a bachelor’s degree. By 2006, that number had plummeted to under sixty-six percent when measured against high school graduates and thirty-three percent when measured against those who had obtained a bachelor’s degree.

Statistics compiled by (2009) reports that 47.9 percent of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania residents who did not graduate from high school live in poverty as compared to a 17.5 percent poverty rate for high school graduates.  Furthermore, female residents are more likely than males to be in poverty during peak working years (Jones-DeWeever, 2009).  According to a report published by the Pennsylvania State Data Center (2006), females earn 74.5% of what their male counterparts earn in similar occupations.  Moreover, the cost of childcare and the financial burdens on a female headed and single-parent household places females at an economic disadvantage.  Therefore, from statistical research, it can be implied that African American females have the most to gain by securing a high school diploma as we witness the feminization of poverty (Hilfiker, 2002).

Literature focusing on racial identity has grown in popularity as America has increasingly recognized diverse populations across the vast landscape.  Nonetheless, the intersectionality of race, gender, and class has been male focused while discounting the importance of the African American female. Moreover, Psychology textbooks have historically excluded ethnic females from their writings on female development (Santos De Barona, 1992) and the various tracks by which ethnic minority females must navigate.  

Historically, African American females have been relegated through various exclusionary social practices that exist as a part of the fabric of the United States (Lewis, 2006).  The media’s promotion of negative imagery through the denigration and portrayal of African American females as poorly educated mothers to illegitimate children affects the development of positive identity traits in African American female adolescents. Further, through the annals of interpretive commentary, African American females are overlooked for their contribution, self-determination, and ability to establish a sustainable balance through their efforts.  Furthermore, a study of African American females (Jones-DeWeever, 2009, page 16) indicates that their view of femininity “includes both hard work and perseverance; self-reliance and tenacity; care giving work and wage-earning work; along with egalitarian notions of sexual equality”. With minority race and gender status coexisting, the many exclusionary societal roadblocks that impede development, opportunity, and access to resources for African American females places their identity concerns and perceptions of their lives at the forefront for possible observation. Additionally, African American females are confronted with discrimination from an array of sources and directions. Discrimination in resources, education, and employment are primary discussion points when addressing the topic of exclusion.

The term double jeopardy has been assigned to African American females by creating two distinct and separate veins; one being race, and one being gender (Greenman, 2006; Kim, 2008; Robinson, 2001; Sanders, April, 1989). The Theory of Intersectionality (Knudsen, 2006; Morris, 2007; Nash, 2008) intertwines this stratum in an attempt to address race, class, and gender in the conceptualization of an African American female population.  Black Feminist Thought (Collins, 1990) as a juxtaposition to Critical Feminist Theory (Marshall, 2005) speaks to overwhelmingly oppressive patterns “by placing Black girls at the center of its analysis” (Jones-DeWeever, 2009, pg. 14) while advancing a clear theoretical comprehension of the intersectionality of race, gender, and class as aspects of a historically imposed system.  To this point, Evans-Winters’ book, Teaching Black Girls: Resiliency in Urban Classrooms (2005), places the African American female at the center while amalgamating several schools of thought including Black feminism.

Again, the voice of the African American female has been silenced and her experiences ignored. For years, the popularity of the Feminist Movement muffled the issue of race. This Progressive Era movement consisted of primarily white, heterosexual, Christian wives of the white middle and upper class. Black Feminist Thought (Collins, 1990; Holcomb-McCoy, 2005), as a reform movement and as a resistance to racial exclusion, emerged from the original Feminist Movement to advance a cause more specific to the legacy associated with the African American female population in terms of addressing not only gender, but race (Morris, 2007). The intersectionality of race and gender was able to exist under the broader female centered agenda of the earlier Feminist Movement. This inspired women to seek deeper meaning in their existence and prompted a level of consciousness that evoked an inner networking towards social justice for all women.  Through this, revealing a broader image of the African American female can significantly extend the range by which African American females are positioned within society.

In general terms, there is no doubt that self-concepts and identity awareness are impactful on the academic achievement of America’s public school students.  The degree to which these self-concepts affect student achievement and resilience cannot be assuredly quantified.  Evans-Winters’ (2005) ethnographic study of a group of African American female students residing in an urban school district over the course of three years identified support systems available through community, school, mentorships, and federal and state funded programmatic initiatives.  Jones-DeWeever’s (2009) study of 128 African American females in New York City is an insightful study that investigates their perceptions and attitudes as they navigate the urban terrain of New York City. Many of the responses within focus groups and through surveys gives way to further understanding of this vulnerable population of girls. Survey responses identified the people in their lives that have had the most impact. The most influential people in the lives of the female study participants have been mothers at forty-eight percent followed by female authority figures who play a significant role within the family structure. Unfortunately, fathers were at eight percent and teachers at three percent. The study did not identify the reasons for such a low percentage for fathers and teachers. The study concluded that simultaneous access to support systems such as mentorship programs, faith-based initiatives, community groups, and service providers aids in the resilience of Black [African American] female students. However, further investigation into the processes and stages of identity development for African American females remains valuable towards understanding the contributory relationships impactful on African American female values and attitudes towards academic achievement.

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