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Bruce Mims Dissertation


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Bruce Mims Dissertation

  1. 1. SOCIAL CAPITAL, INSTITUTIONAL AGENCY, MINORITY OR LOWSTATUS YOUTH EMPOWERMENT, AND AVID IMPLEMENTATION by Bruce Lamar Mims ____________________________________________________________________ A Dissertation Presented to the FACULTY OF THE ROSSIER SCHOOL OF EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree DOCTOR OF EDUCATION August 2007 Copyright 2007 Bruce Lamar Mims
  2. 2. DEDICATION First, I dedicate this project to Jason Cuneo, my loving partner whose unwavering support has sustained me throughout this academic and emotional journey. I also dedicate this project to my children, Steven and Stephanie CuneoMims. My children and their future are what inspired me to embark upon this scholarly journey to better myself. To my parents, Joseph and Marceline Mims, whose love, patience, support, and upbringing have made me the person that I am today. To all of my relatives who are no longer with us, I always carry the spirit of your memory close to my heart—especially my grandmother, Maudine and my Aunt, Deloris: their radiant spirits always shine brightly on my life, and shower my family with many blessings. ii
  3. 3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank my chairperson and my committee whose support and guidance made this all possible. I especially would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Stacey Nickson. Her presence in my life has been the guiding force that has motivated me to expand my professional and personal horizons. Her membership on my dissertation committee is the culmination of our professional and personal relationship together; and, I am eternally grateful for her continued friendship and collegial support. I would also like to thank personnel from the following entities for their support throughout this project: Los Angeles County Office of Education AVID Regional Office; the Rowland Unified School District; the Long Beach Unified School District; the Escondido Union High School District; the Baldwin Park Unified School District; and the Pomona Unified School District. iii
  4. 4. TABLE OF CONTENTS DEDICATION……………………………………………………………. ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………………..iii LIST OF TABLES…………………………………………………………vi ABSTRACT………………………………………………………………viii CHAPTER 1…..……………………………………………………………1 INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………. …1 Problem Statement………………………………………………..... 3 Purpose of the Study……………………………………………….. 5 Research Questions………………………………………………....6 Significance of the Study…………………………………………... 7 Terms and Definitions………………………………………………17 Delimitations of the Study………………………………………… 19 Assumptions and Limitations of the Study………………………… 19 Conclusion…………………………………………………………..21 Organization of the Dissertation…………………………………… 21 CHAPTER 2………………………………………………………………...22 CRITICAL SYNTHESIS OF LITERATURE…………………………... 22 Introduction…………………………………………………………22 Theoretical Frameworks of Social Capital….................................... 23 The Plight of Minority and Urban Youth………………………… 33 Community Based Intervention Programs and Institutional Agency………………………………………………...44 Social Capital Theory in the Context of Intervention and Institutional Agency………………………….... 55 Social Capital, Social Support, and Educational Outcomes……………………………………………... 62 Theoretical Convergence and Opportunities for Expanded Articulation…………………………...65 Conclusion…………………………………………………………..68 CHAPTER 3……………………………………………………………….. 70 METHODOLOGY…………………………………………………….. 70 Introduction…………………………………………………………70 Sample and Population…………………………………………….. 80 Instrumentation…………………………………………………….106 iv
  5. 5. Data Collection…………………………………………… 113 Data Analysis………………………………………………. 115 Summary…………………………………………………… 116 CHAPTER 4…….…………………………………………………. 117 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF FINDINGS. 117 Introduction………………………………………………....117 Program Coordinator Participant Descriptions…………… 119 Analysis of the Findings in the Context of the Research Questions……………………………………………. 119 Thematic Summary of Key Findings in the Analysis……. 141 CHAPTER 5…………………………………………………....….. 144 DISCUSSION OF KEY FINDINGS, IMPLICATIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS………………………………………...144 Discussion of Key Findings in the Analysis……………… . 144 Implications of the Study……………………………… 156 Limitations of the Study…………………………………….159 Recommendations…………………………………………..160 Suggestions for Further Study…………………………….. 162 REFERENCES…………………………………………………….. 165 APPENDICES………………………………………………………171 Appendix A: Resources Domains and Essential Recourse and Relationship Groupings……………………………………………172 Appendix B: Name Generator…………………………………….174 Appendix C: Position Generator…………………………………..182 Appendix D: Resource Generator…………………………………183 Appendix E: Guided Conversation Protocol………………………184 Appendix F: Guided Conversation Excerpts Concerning AVID Training……………………………………………………..186 Appendix G: Name Generator Survey…………………………….189 Appendix H: SEI Scores and Positional Status Relative to Occupations Listed in the Position Generator (Appendix D)……………………………………………………….190 v
  6. 6. LIST OF TABLES Table 1 Southland High School Enrollment by Ethnicity…………… 82 Table 2 Southland High School AVID Enrollment by Ethnicity………………………………………………………84 Table 3 Pierce High School Enrollment by Ethnicity…………………86 Table 4 Pierce High School AVID Enrollment by Ethnicity………………………………………………………87 Table 5 Pinnacles High School Enrollment by Ethnicity……………...89 Table 6 Pinnacles High School AVID Enrollment by Ethnicity………………………………………………………90 Table 7 Canyon High School Enrollment by Ethnicity……………….92 Table 8 Canyon High School AVID Enrollment by Ethnicity………………………………………………………94 Table 9 Valley Vista High School Enrollment by Ethnicity………..…96 Table 10 Valley Vista High School AVID Enrollment by Ethnicity………………………………………………………98 Table 11 Shoreline Heights High School Enrollment by Ethnicity………………………………………………………100 Table 12 Shoreline Heights High School AVID Enrollment by Ethnicity …………………………………………………..101 Table 13 Parkview High School Enrollment by Ethnicity……………...103 Table 14 Parkview High School AVID Enrollment by Ethnicity………………………………………………………105 Table 15 Program Coordinator Accessed Positions and Positional Status………………………………………………121 vi
  7. 7. Table 16 Program Coordinator Resource Contacts and Extensity of Weak Ties……………………………………….124 Table 17 Program Coordinator Network Range………………………..127 vii
  8. 8. ABSTRACT This study isolated the salience of institutional agency within the context of a specific intervention program called, Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID), an untracking program designed to help low achieving students elicit academic success. Four primary research questions guided the study. First, to the degree those efforts to engage in social capital mobilization are made, how might the program coordinator’s accessible social capital play a prominent role? Second, to what extent are AVID program coordinators able to mobilize their social capital to convey information, resources, and opportunities to minority and low-status youth in the context of program implementation? Third, what factors facilitate or constrain the accumulation of accessible social capital and agency-oriented mobilization of social capital (on behalf of program participants and/or program implementation)? Finally, to what extent does AVID training identify the underpinning theoretical concepts and processes of social capital theory; thus do AVID program coordinators understand their role relative to the help-seeking and network-seeking orientations of institutional agency? This study incorporated both inductive and deductive methodologies within the qualitative research design to accomplish in-depth cross-case analysis of the range, quality, and nature of program coordinators’ individual networks and sources of support. Furthermore, this methodology also determined their proclivity to excess their individual networks and sources of support to convey essential resources, viii
  9. 9. information, and opportunities to minority or low-status youth; thus facilitating their academic and social mobility, and, hence, fostering their empowerment. The study revealed insight and answers as it relates to the primary research questions, and articulated the findings into (3) thematic summaries and discussion. First, the study revealed that program coordinators have critical deficiencies in their personal networks relative to the status of their positional contacts. Second, it revealed that program coordinators are not engaged in active (institutional) agency as counterstratification mechanism. Finally, the study revealed that AVID training does not explicitly address agency as an intervention design relative to the resources model of social capital. ix
  10. 10. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Urban Public Education: Crisis and Opportunity Although public education continues to move forward in this era of increased accountability, relative to “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB), states, districts, and school-wide learning communities continue to struggle with its implications; especially those situated in large urban areas, serving predominately low-status and minority children. This is due in large part to the fact that the predominate policy initiatives and research studies continue to analyze this dilemma through a deficit paradigm, rather than considering variegated sociological, and social cultural, and socioeconomic conditions, which either facilitate or hinder academic success (Ladson-Billings, 2000; Singleton & Linton, 2005). Nevertheless, minority and lowstatus students continue to lag behind their white middle-class counterparts, while institutions assess and analyze their progress and shortcomings through normative lenses. Institutions also engage in prescribing instructional interventions without analyzing the nature of schools, schooling, and foundational pedagogy. As bureaucratic policy pressures mount, many districts and schools struggle for the answers and formulas to close the achievement gap between minority and low-status children and their white middle-class counterparts. Some isolated school settings, teachers, and classrooms, however, are uniquely poised to affect significant positive change in student learning outcomes because they tacitly or explicitly equip students with the skills and knowledge essential to elicit success. These isolated 1
  11. 11. settings are elucidating success within the context of the milieus, communities, social cultural and socioeconomic situations, and challenges they face on a consistent basis. Why does this happen in isolation? What have these pockets of powerful teaching, learning, and student development discovered that public education it its entirety cannot decipher and implement on a wide scale? Do these isolated pockets of success reflect traditional or normative paradigms or pedagogies? On the other hand, do these success stories afford entirely new insight into how institutional pedagogy and public schooling can and should adapt to meet the needs of the demographics they serve? Success as the Exception Districts and schools if not public education as a whole are gradually moving toward a point of critical mass, whereas reform efforts imposing normative or traditional means to improve student learning outcomes relative to minority children are creating increasing levels of dissonance and discord within the communities they serve. White middle class students excel, achieve, and advance relative to the people, information, resources, and opportunities at their disposal and deployment. Their minority and low-status student counterparts, however, lag behind because of inadequate resources and facilities, poorly trained educators, curricular and instructional disconnect, which results in alienation and internalized oppression. Normative reform efforts such as standards-based and/or high-stakes testing and standards-based instructional designs tend to perpetuate alienation and disenfranchisement. As a result, minority student dropout rates increase, and fewer 2
  12. 12. minority students gain access to colleges and universities; thus, creating new cycles of marginalization, disenfranchisement, and oppression. The gathering maelstrom concerning accountability, coupled with increasingly scarce resources, socioeconomic constraints is the backdrop that affords scholars the opportunity to cultivate new areas of research to analyze the components of schools and pedagogy that either foster or hinder positive human development relative to minority or low-status youth. These components either promote success or perpetuate failure in these milieus. Although the institutional structures that circumscribe productive educational programs provide the foundations for positive student learning outcomes, their success by no means ubiquitous (Conchas, 2001; Mehan, Villanueva, Hubbard, & Lintz, 1996). Success is systematic because strategically placed individuals (e.g., teachers, program coordinators) have a penchant to facilitate processes and provide support while embedding minority and low-status youth into the relationships and networks, which translate into academic and social support mechanisms. Empowering them with essential resources, information, and opportunities is essential to their ability to navigate through and overcome the institutional, social cultural and socioeconomic obstacles that typically impede their progress or mobility. Problem Statement Many different types and/or categories of academic and social intervention programs that exist pertaining to minority and low-status youth, a substantial body of scholarly literature exists that implicitly or explicitly articulates the theoretical 3
  13. 13. mechanisms of social capital, while analyzing their efficacy relative to implementation cycles. A substantial body of literature, however, does not exist that theoretically articulates and analyzes exactly how teachers, youth workers, and other institutional agents serving minority or low-status youth are able to empower these youth along several simultaneous dimensions. These dynamics include complex role-sets that such agents assume within the context of the school setting or an intervention. As it pertains to minority and low-status youth intervention programs, we do not know enough about the dynamics of how program coordinators and/or staff members assume the complex role-set of “institutional agents;” and, how they acquire and mobilize social capital on behalf of program participants and how they and serve as bridging agents. They connect youth to essential resources, information, and opportunities controlled by “agents” in other networks and institutional settings. This process enables minority and low-status to access institutional mechanisms that facilitate academic and/or social mobility, which routinely engineer the success and empowerment of white middle and upper-class youth. Scholarly literature beckons for an expanded articulation of those institutional mechanisms that underpin social capital relative to minority and low status youth; meaning, institutional mechanisms precipitate access to social capital. Whereas social capital pertains to the institutional resources and support mechanisms accessible through social ties to “agents,” who are strategically positioned in relation 4
  14. 14. to society’s stratification systems; thereby, facilitating academic or social mobility. Therefore, examining the impact of “agency” relative to program efficacy and/or learning outcomes, or other dynamic manifestations that precipitate academic or social mobility in the lives of minority and low-status youth is essential to understanding the salience of social capital as it pertains to their empowerment. Purpose of the Study Variegated depictions of programmatic success relative to minority student achievement is largely descriptive in nature, I intend to isolate the salience of institutional agency at the individual level, within the context of a specific intervention program called, Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID). AVID is an untracking program designed to help low achieving students elicit academic success. Institutional agency refers to persons using their influence, capacity, and resources in their own embedded networks to assist others, in this case minority and low-status youth, in gaining access to networks, resources, information, and opportunities essential for academic and social mobility (Stanton-Salazar, 1997). In addition, I will examine the manner in which the people, i.e., institutional agents, involved in the intervention program convey essential skills, which empower minority youth to overcome both institutional and societal obstacles and attain academic success. Finally, using the two predominant conceptual frameworks of social capital theory, coupled with empowerment, I will construct a theoretical rationale to articulate the complexities of these empowering mechanisms and behaviors in a scholarly manner that future educational studies related to institutional 5
  15. 15. or pedagogical reform might take into consideration when elucidating recommendations. The primary focus of the study centers on how institutional agents, who are members of privileged groups or classes in their complex and evolving roles and mobilize, within the context of their own social networks, to resources, information, and opportunities, and their social capital to support minority and low-status students within the framework of an intervention program. Research Questions Primary The following are the primary questions driving the research of this study: 1. To the degree those efforts to engage in social capital mobilization are made, how might the program coordinator’s accessible social capital play a prominent role? 2. To what extent are AVID program coordinators able to mobilize their social capital to convey information, resources, and opportunities to minority and low-status youth in the context of program implementation? 3. What factors facilitate or constrain the accumulation of accessible social capital and agency-oriented mobilization of social capital (on behalf of program participants and/or program implementation)? 6
  16. 16. 4. To what extent does AVID training identify the underpinning theoretical concepts and processes of social capital theory; thus do AVID program coordinators understand their role relative to the helpseeking and Significance of the Study Re-Conceptualizing Youth Resiliency and Network Orientation One of the most predominant and overarching ideologies, which permeates our society, is individualism and meritocracy. On one hand, our society exalts and reveres principles of individualism, independence, and self-reliance. For the most part, individual success is commonplace for those persons who reflect the value systems and background typical of the white middle-class ideals (Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). This ideal, however, does not take into account the inherent social network structures that individuals (i.e., white and black middle-class) marshal, to elicit and attain the information, resources, and forms of support that ensure their success; hence, the paradox (Cochran et al., 1990; Spencer, 2001). Youth from privileged backgrounds inherently benefit, tacitly and/or explicitly, from the institutional and social structures embedded within their primary networks and communities. Their network systems insulate them from failure and ecological dangers relative to greater society, hence, facilitating their success. Meanwhile, structural and institutional conditions seemingly transform individual circumstances, pertaining to minority and low-status youth, into situations that may increase the potential for failure. Stanton-Salazar (2001) terms such mechanisms as defensive or 7
  17. 17. self-protective help-seeking orientations; whereas, a lack of proximity relative to adult kin, one-parent households, poverty, coupled with environmental conditions typical of urban blight translates into embedded ness into social dynamics that fail to buffer or insulate them from the burdens of racial stratification. Against this backdrop, Spina (as cited in Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000) suggests that popular notions of resiliency (e.g., success “against the odds”) are misleading. In fact, popular culture inordinately romanticizes the concept. This paradigm is plagued with biases, which, consequently, diminish and/or de-legitimate the belief systems and practices of other cultural communities, i.e., minority or lowstatus. These privileged communities perceive resiliency as an ideal related to the adherence to traditions and natural support systems emanating from the family and ethnic communities (Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). Re-conceptualizing our notion of youth resiliency is an essential component relative to shifting the popular paradigm; it is a systematic developmental process that begins with the individual’s (e.g., child or parent) ability to formulate optimal responses to adverse situations and circumstances, as well as his or her perception that options and assistance, indeed, exist (Spencer, 2001). The quality and salience of youth and family relationships within the primary support system, usually the family network, predicates cultivation and promulgation of help-seeking tendencies outside of the primary relationship support system or network. This is a critical supposition as it relates to relationship and support network dynamics within communities comprised of minority, low-income 8
  18. 18. individual and family units (Stanton-Salazar, 1997, 2001). Children and adolescents, as well as their families and communities are constantly exposed and subject to influences extending outside of the primary network or support systems. These outward extensions are essential to healthy development, as well as access to information and resources to guide and enhance their optimal response patterns (Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). They find themselves embedded in a myriad of social dynamics outside of their primary networks. Otherwise, they become isolated and disengaged from the mainstream; lacking available resources and information essential to foster upward social mobility (Cochran et al., 1990; Granovetter, 1983; Spencer, 2001). From the onset of their school careers, minority children face complex and evolving social cultural challenges as they endeavor to overcome the institutional obstacles typically associated with urban public education, as well as those that characterize or society; plagued by various constructs of oppression, which seemingly conspire to perpetuate minority disenfranchisement and/or marginalization (Stanton-Salazar, 1997). They must assume the burden of socialization through acquiring essential coping skills that will enable them to navigate the ecological perils of a highly racialized, and discriminatory society. Conceptually speaking, most minority children are at-risk youth, although at different degrees (Cochran et al., 1990). Therefore, we must begin to analyze minority youth and family resilience within the scope of the developmental process rather than an aberrant phenomenon (Spencer, 2001). As minority and/or low status 9
  19. 19. youth learn to employ their help-seeking skills, they cultivate the ability to venture beyond their primary networks seeking essential information and assistance relative to situational decisions and responses; moreover, optimal response skill enhancement increases the likelihood of upward social mobility (Spencer, 2001; Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2001). Stanton-Salazar and Spina (2000) submit that minority and low-status youth resiliency depends on the ability of persons to reach across social cultural borders to foster positive help-seeking orientations, or attitudes and beliefs about the utilities of individual networks to assist in the coping process concerning a life problem. Subsequent network-orientations entail the proclivity towards strengthening relationship dynamics to reach across social cultural borders and overcome institutional barriers, seeking the assistance and support from relevant adults, agents, or peers. This transformation is the process of strategic socialization, which determines; (a) individual choices relative to cultivating various social relationships in the face of structural circumstances; (b) whether individuals utilize those relationships as sources of social and institutional support; and, (c) individuals’ facility relative to crossing conflictive social cultural borders to overcome institutional barriers to facilitate mobility. Institutional Agency and Complex Role Dynamics Organizations and communities also entail forms of agency, and their agency serves as a vehicle to assist members pertaining to some benefits precluded from persons outside the community or organization. Institutional agency, however, as 10
  20. 20. depicted by Stanton-Salazar (1997) usually consists of a person who has the capacity to act or operate in the face of opportunities, as well as constraints. In addition, their degree of effectiveness is dependent upon the amount and diversity of the social capital they can access; thus, the degree to which the program coordinator assumes the role-set of institutional agent predicates the effectiveness of an intervention program, such as AVID. Although many scholars have tacitly conceptualized the role of institutional agency in the context of their research and publications, it remains considerably under-theorized. Yet, the institutional agency is an integral component underpinning the development and resiliency of minority youth. Stanton Salazar (1997) posits that institutional agents as those individuals in strategic positions who possess the commitment and the capacity to facilitate or convey institutional resources, support, and opportunities. The agents’ own embedded social networks are the nexus of their ability to facilitate or convey resources and opportunities (Stanton-Salazar, 1997; Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). Thus, institutional agency pertains to an individual’s evolving dynamic of complex relationships that, when accessed and/or mobilized in the context of an intervention, convey essential resources, information, and opportunities that facilitate growth and development. In this case, we are referring to the social and academic mobility of minority or low-status youth, which fosters their empowerment. 11
  21. 21. The institutional agent’s significance and efficacy lie in the fact that, not only are they purveyors of resources and support, hence, social capital, to minority or low-status youth, but also due in large part because their transactions represent a “counter-stratification” mechanism defined in terms of Stanton-Salazar (2001). When employed, it counterbalances the ill affects of differential privilege and marginalization due to systemic biases and racial prejudice that plagues our society (Stanton-Salazar, 2001; Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). Institutional agents mitigate potential alienated embeddedness depicting the typical experiences of minority and low-status youth, as they navigate through the situational perils, which they encounter throughout their adolescent lives. A person’s strategic and positional relationships, resources, and their ability to access resources and information relative to high-status or power positions predicate their ability to act as institutional agents. If this is the case, then they have the ability to align their personal attributes and traits with the dominant culture of power, i.e., white, middle-class, within the context of their own social cultural experience (Stanton-Salazar, 1997, 2001; Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). Thus, their potential to empower youth relates to their ability to convey codes or rules of power that dictate dominant institutional contexts; hence, enabling them how to negotiate and, in some cases, subvert those rules to acquire power, while attaining academic and social mobility within the dominant construct (Delpit, 1988). It is important, however, to point out that the role of institutional agents and agency itself constitutes both the capacity to act, as well as the decision to act. In short, 12
  22. 22. capacity or capability alone does not necessarily equate to agency. Agency is both a socio psychological and a behavioral concept; and, program leadership does not necessarily predicate agency, without action. Understanding the role and responsibilities institutional agency entails is essential to its effectiveness as a pedagogical construct. There are many academic intervention programs endeavoring to implement innovative instructional designs to elicit positive student learning outcomes. As the literature reflects, in many cases, the programs elucidate positive student learning outcomes. Mehan, Villanueva, Hubbard, and Lintz (1996), as well as Kahne and Bailey (1999) articulate the fact that innovative instructional design is not necessary tantamount to program success as evidenced in positive student learning outcomes. In fact, many of these innovative intervention programs fail, or elicit variegated levels of success, and create considerable acrimony relative to their implementation. This is why agency is such an important concept to understand and manifest in the context of an intervention design. Institutional agency as it relates to program effectiveness entails that the institutional agent consciously acts and successfully transitions between multiple and evolving dynamic roles, relative to constructs which tend to empower minority and low-status youth; hence, they are teachers, motivators, counselors, parents, mentors, mediators, and, if necessary, disciplinarians (McLaughlin, Irby, & Langman, 1994). Ironically, intervention programs that do not explicitly articulate the essential dimensions and dynamics that institutional agency entails may affectively do more 13
  23. 23. harm than good, because implementation failure reinforces or perpetuates trenchant embedded alienation relative to student learning outcomes. In other words, there is no presupposing framework from which to analyze the overriding philosophical or ideological constructs precipitating the underlying dissonance (Hernandez, 1995; Singleton & Linton, 2005). Social Capital Theory, Strategic Socialization, and Equity Pedagogy Articulating the theoretical mechanisms that facilitate resiliency, relative to minority and low status youth, in the context of a social capital framework is imperative to the study. In fact, they are the lynchpin attribute that enables us to intellectualize the social cultural and socioeconomic dynamics depicting systemic biases plaguing our society and schools; and, consequently, marginalize cultures and children (Delpit, 1988; Stanton-Salazar, 1997). Moreover, social capital is a salient theoretical lens that when catalyzed could adequately shift educational paradigms and pedagogy towards equitable designs and practices. This theoretical mechanism engages and empowers minority students to reach beyond the institutional and social barriers they perceive as limiting, while using the mechanisms, i.e., social capital, and moves them far beyond conditional marginalization and disenfranchisement (Mehan, Villanueva, Hubbard, & Lintz, 1996; Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). Understanding minority youth empowerment and institutional agency in the context of a critically oriented social capital framework requires analyzing the theoretical underpinnings of counter stratification efforts. On a visceral level, however, individual agents’ perceptions of race and culture, in relation to their own 14
  24. 24. situational position or embedded networks, manifest in the proclivity towards variegated institutional agency transactions, as well as the efficacy of their efforts (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Therefore, individual belief systems, in the context of race and culture, influence positional relationships to the extent that they either empower or potentially impede social capital transactions, relative to minority and low-status youth (Delpit, 1988; Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). Positional relationships, pertaining to institutional agency, are the domain where latent personal belief systems become factors into the analysis of social capital transactions in the context of institutional agency; ironically, the discussions regarding intervention efficacy frequently relegate this topic “non- discussable” category to avoid controversy or acrimonious debate (Singleton & Linton, 2005). Nevertheless, this topic is the philosophical lens, which obligates scholarly research. In the very near future, student-learning outcomes, scholarly research, and instructional pedagogy will reach a critical mass relative to the achievement gap that, indeed, will compel them to consider conducting an open debate on this subject, because successful programs frequently operate in isolation; and with variegated results (Mehan et al., 1996). Researchers, scholars, and educators must scrutinize this idea with great care and concern if paradigms and pedagogies are to attain equity, because the manifestations of inequity relative to student achievement unfolding in classrooms on a daily basis are, indeed, a microcosm of the social capital, social cultural, and institutional mechanisms by which racism and stereotypes operationalize in our 15
  25. 25. society. In his conversation on the subject, Dr. John Hope Franklin (2006) reminded his audience that President Bill Clinton, in his 2003 commencement address at the University of California, San Diego suggested that, “the time has come for America to begin a dialogue about race” (p. 192); yet, in 2006 we still find ourselves marred in a shroud of non-discussion (Franklin, 2006). Whereas, it is within this particular dialogue, concerning race, culture, and equity that therein lays the greatest understanding of how social capital operationalizes in our institutional practices relative to instruction and student learning outcomes. Therefore, it is an imperative that scholarly research becomes a conduit to facilitate this dialogue. Moreover, it is the author’s hope that the study’s findings afford educational research an intellectual platform from which to catalyze this discussion; hence, a paradigm shift. Intervention and Explicit Theoretical Articulation Explicit scientific and theoretical language relative to community-based or academic intervention program not only affords those involved in the implementation process the ability to articulate program rationale in a conceptual framework, it also provides intervention designers and program implementers an essential foundation from which to commence critical inventory relative to program efficacy. Succinct theoretical language pertaining to program design brings clarity and consistency to the sociological, as well as the sociopolitical ideologies that inevitability underpins all community-based and academic intervention (LadsonBillings, 1995). 16
  26. 26. Youth engaged in an intervention design either connect or disconnect in the context of a program implementation based on the social cultural relevance of program components, whether the program is culturally competent or compatible. However, youth also respond to program endeavors based on how they perceive the ideologies and perceptions of institutional agents involved in the implementation (Singleton & Linton, 2005); moreover, the ideological underpinnings relative to agency usually manifest in tacit or implicit terms. Terms and Definitions A definitive understanding of the following terms is critical to the study, because they are articulated and discussed extensively throughout its entirety: • Complex Role Sets: Institutional agents whose contextual roles interchange relative to situations and circumstances (Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000). • Counter Stratification: Social scaffolding efforts, which counterbalance systemic or institutional biases that typically marginalize social cultural, socioeconomic groups (Stanton-Salazar, 2001). • Empowerment: A psychological state involving active participatory processes by which individuals gain essential resources or competencies to increase self-efficacy and accomplish set goals (Maton & Salem, 1995). 17
  27. 27. • Institutional Agent (Agency): Persons who use their influence, capacity, and resources relative to their position to assist others in gaining access to networks, resources, information, and opportunities essential for social mobility (Stanton-Salazar, 1997). • Network Orientation: An array of individual propensities or proclivities pertaining to one’s beliefs and attitudes that informs or motivates personal initiatives towards engaging in various social relationships or group affiliations (Stanton-Salazar, 2001). • Positional Resources: Influence and salience of tangible or intangible assets possessed within the context of one’s individual embedded network relative to their status in a social hierarchical structure (Lin, 1999). • Reciprocity: Individuals engaged in social exchanges of resources, information, and opportunities that elicit mutual benefit (Granovetter, 1983; Lin, 1999). • Resiliency: Psychosocial mechanisms of individuals, representing traditionally marginalized social cultural groups; used to overcome institutional or systemic barriers and elicit the assistance necessary to sustain overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being (Spencer, 2001). • Social Capital: Acquirable tangible and intangible assets of social position or status converted into individual or communal benefit or profit (Bourdieu, 1988; Lin, 1999). 18
  28. 28. Delimitations of the Study The author will apply critical case study approach to examine the functions of a high school site-based AVID program, and draw research findings from a critical ethnography. This process incorporates both inductive and deductive methodologies to elucidate generalizations regarding the efficacy of AVID, relative to the role of the institutional agents. Critical ethnographic case study is essential to draw inferences relative to a historical background of the site-based AVID program development as it pertains to the program coordinator and other institutional agents involved in the implementation cycles. Mixed methods are essential to formulate generalizations regarding the salience of institutional agency in the context of the AVID program, and formulate relevant connections to the literature; as well, as to triangulate findings in a manner that facilitates broader discussion about the efficacy of AVID relative to the roles of institutional agents as it pertains to implementation. Assumptions and Limitations of the Study The author assumes that all persons engaged in the implementation of AVID program components, i.e., senior leadership, regional and site-based program coordinators, teachers, have attended and/or participated in at least one Summer Institute, the primary training component of AVID core-principles and practices; meaning, all relevant personnel are adequately trained in AVID principles. Furthermore, the author assumes that all persons engaged in school site-based AVID program implementation participate in mandated ongoing professional development relative to AVID program principles, instructional designs, and curricular 19
  29. 29. implementation, which is a stipulation relative to maintaining certification as an AVID school-site program. The nature of the study renders the findings subjective, and, therefore open to variegated interpretation, because the issues at hand are both salient and potentially volatile. Race and culture are visceral constructs underpinning the mechanisms and manifestations of our society; yet, those who enjoy privilege or power relative to the dominant culture are the least likely to acknowledge or validate their dominant positions (Delpit, 1988; Singleton & Linton, 2005). The results may also be a direct reflection of the experience, or lack thereof, pertaining to the particular AVID program coordinator or teacher involved in the implementation process. Thus, the study’s findings may not portray an entirely accurate depiction of present paradigms and practices from which to elucidate broader generalizations pertaining to the mechanisms of institutional agency operationalized in a social capital framework, given the realities of systemic biases that foster pervasive social cultural marginalization and social stratification. Nevertheless, the study intends to lend intellectual and theoretical insight into this complex dynamic in a manner that may catalyze further, broader, and deeper discussions concerning institutional agency, equity pedagogy, and other relevant constructs, as well as their salient affects pertaining to student achievement and/or learning outcomes. 20
  30. 30. Conclusion In summation, the importance of this study lies in the fact that disparities in academic and social outcomes between minority or low-status youth and their middle class counterparts result from the fact that middle class or privileged youth are embedded in the social networks of their parents or community. In other words, their access to social capital, by means of institutional resources, are a function of their parent’s social capital, as well as the school’s; by means of the their networks or positional resources. In contrast, minority or low-status youth, by definition of what it means to be “working class” or “working poor,” do not have access to social capital under normal circumstances. Thus, when program leaders assume role-sets, typical of middle and upper class backgrounds, they can potentially serve as bridging agents who link minority and low-status youth access to social capital, and facilitating the process of counter stratification. Organization of the Dissertation The author has organized this study into five interrelated chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the purpose of the study, the rationale relative to its significance, research questions, terms and definitions, as well as the study’s assumptions and limitations. Chapter 2 depicts a topic organized critical synthesis of literature relevant to the study. Chapter 3 outlines the research methodology, rationale, sampling strategy, instrumentation and related studies, data collection, and, finally, data analysis and related rationale. Chapter 4 depicts the research findings relative to the collected data. Chapter 5 is a discussion of research implications. 21
  31. 31. CHAPTER 2 CRITICAL SYNTHESIS OF LITERATURE Introduction The goal of this chapter is to capsulate a critical synthesis of literature that conceptualizes the content in a manner that is relevant to the overall study, while transforming systemic or normative intellectual frameworks entailing institutionalized biases into operational consciousness. Furthermore, my alternative insight through an intellectual articulation of “institutional agency,” as it counterbalances systemic and ideological biases that perpetuate the alienation and marginalization of minority youth is an essential component of moving the theoretical mechanisms of social capital the forefront of the discussion concerning the salient affects of agency relative to academic or social mobility. Therefore, this analysis of literature embeds opportunities for new paradigms, while providing a critique of several dominant or mainstream discourses that historically have accounted for the pervasive, disproportionate, and chronic underachievement that plagues minority and low-status student learning outcomes. In addition, this depiction of an alternative analytical framework draws primarily from theories of social capital. This framework also draws upon critical race, and empowerment theories, because it is important to highlight aspects of inequality and privilege as it pertains to differential access to essential institutional resources. This reality, coupled with the seminal impact of institutional support, e.g., connections to gatekeepers who guide youth and their families through channels and 22
  32. 32. resources relative to college enrollment, are essential to understanding how their marshaled affects facilitate academic and social mobility. Thus, I intend to thematically articulate elements of paradigm shift into the intellectual and scholarly dynamic, as well as the resulting inferences entailed in the literature advanced throughout the critical synthesis of literature. Critical understanding or insight pertaining to particular components of paradigm shift underpins the imperative nature of the study, which examines the effectiveness of institutional agents relative to programs such as Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID). Theoretical Frameworks of Social Capital Theoretical camps of social capital are the integral lens of analysis relative to each dynamic intervention depicted throughout this synthesis of literature. Although the predominant theoretical camps of social capital offer distinct and, sometimes, contrasting rationales, they are the foundation that bind additional theoretical concepts into a coherent platform to analyze and articulate the salient constructs of agency, as well as empowerment. Despite many distinct contrasts, each camp has various strengths and weaknesses; yet, employing elements of both camps towards a rationale that articulates empowerment, various opposing principles become congruent and integral constructs through which to analyze the salience of institutional agency. Functionalism and Social Closure The primary supposition driving James Coleman’s (1988) conceptualization of social capital is defined and, therefore, analyzed as a matter of what it actually 23
  33. 33. does, rather than what it is; hence, its function. Ideologically speaking, the primary social psychological processes revolve around collective social structure through the enforcement of norms and sanctions. Whereas, this normative or integrative mindset presupposes that individuals are bound to the collective via belief systems, commitment to common values, community engagement, which fosters attachment (Portes, 1998, 2000; Lin, 2004). Therefore, the perceived value of membership, hence, social capital, is relative to resources it enables participants to access pursuant to their personal interest. It consists not of a single entity or construct, but of a variety of entities bounded by two common denominators: (a) they all exist within the context of a social structure; and (b) they all facilitate certain actions between participants within the structure. The underpinning aspect of which is the fact that membership in the collective is productive and allows attainment of certain ends that, in its absence, would not be feasible (Coleman, 1988). Trustworthiness and obligation within the context of a social environment are the seminal underpinnings of social capital. In fact, without a high degree of trustworthiness among members of the group, the institution could not sustain itself; it is within this notion that Coleman (1998) rationalizes the plight of large urban areas as social capital deficit relative to the high degree of mobility within these environs. Members frequently exit the social structure, which leaves these communities blighted, considerably disorganized, and/or void of social capital. Coleman adds that he could never foresee credit associations flourishing in large urban areas, due to the lack of trust and social cohesion. Obligation, he states, must 24
  34. 34. permeate the society and bind it together. When members come and go, however, vacuums exist that undermine their salience. Coleman (1998) submits that social relations are healthy and productive when people adhere to the norms and values the social structure prescribes. People adhere to those norms because they share a common interest, and this is what sustains the structural collective. These norms and values are the powerful, but precarious social capital, which binds the structure; deviance from these norms warrants sanction or alienation from the benefits entailed through participation in the collective or detrimental impact upon one’s reputation, hence, their trustworthiness. Therefore, it is sanctions, or the fear of such, that constrain members from engaging in behaviors or actions detrimental to the collective. Portes (1998) conceptualizes this aspect of norms and sanctions as, enforceable trust. Enforceable trust, as an extension of social capital manifests for recipients when it facilitates access to resources from the collective; for donors, the transaction guarantees against malfeasance relative to the threat of ostracism and sanctions from the collective (Portes & Landolt, 1996). Thus, Coleman suggests that (social) network closure is an essential component predicating the efficacy of norms and sanctions. Network closure as it pertains to family and community or intergenerational dynamics, is a necessary condition to elicit trustworthiness. He uses this rationale to advance his analysis of the conditions and outcomes of families and communities using a deficit model, which compares the dropout rates between Catholic school and Public school 25
  35. 35. students. He asserts, that Catholic high school communities comprised of “nuclear,” i.e., two-parent, families are embedded in networks that also entail intergenerational closure, based upon the common practices entailed by membership, participation, and interaction within these complex and closed networks. Portes (2000) expands this proposition, when he asserts that social capital is an asset exclusively afforded to intact families and communities, attributable to embedded networks of traders of resources; and, thus, explains why entire cities are well governed and prosperous, while others are not. Stanton-Salazar (2004) cautions that Coleman’s normative framework exists in a sociopolitical vacuum (p. 24), and does not take into account institutionalized or hierarchical structures that deny access to opportunities based upon race, class, or gender (Stanton-Salazar, 1997, 2001). According to Morrow (1999) Coleman does not adequately contextualized his framework into a socio-economic and social cultural history, given the dissonance that comprises cross and inter-cultural relations in the United States. Lopez and Stack (2001) expand the argument as they assert that studies of urban change, as it relates to social capital, indicate that such works with and on behalf of states and markets rather than supplanting them. Enforcement procedures, i.e., social closure, also perpetuates cultural dissonance by positioning sources of social power in segregated (i.e., white middle-class) suburbs, severing all paths of positive interaction between whites and minorities. 26
  36. 36. Lin (1999), however, suggests that social closure denies the significance of weaker network ties, bridges, or structural holes; meaning, that weak ties are the conduit that facilitates access to positional resources vertically higher in the social hierarchy. Furthermore, Granovetter (1983) emphasizes that network density or social closure, as it relates to low-income and/or a minority community alienates them from access to resources that facilitate mobility. Both authors do not consider social inequality as a critical component or factor in their assertions. Ironically, resource exchanges between neighbors in minority or low-status neighborhoods, indeed, comprise the alienated networks. Their networks primarily facilitate these reciprocal exchanges as a means for survival, which perpetuates or solidifies their embedded alienation. Noguera (1999), however, sees utility in social closure when contextually implemented as a pedagogical vehicle to mobilize traditionally marginalized communities into informative action and proactive oversight relative to parent-school relations and student learning outcomes. Maeroff (1998) alludes to social closure as inner-city school intervention programs endeavor to build sustainable learning communities, incorporating his four prescribed tenets as a means of promulgating social capital to minority youth. Meanwhile, Kahne and Bailey (1999) depict the manner in which social closure, adherence to norms, and effective sanctions serve as the underpinning foundation that catalyzes trusting relationships and the informational, i.e., social capital, interchanges entailed within the collective 27
  37. 37. structure. Social capital relative functional utility is useful when it is effectively reconceptualized and, therefore, compatible in the context a social cultural milieu. Social Reproduction, Social Support, and Network Theory Social reproduction presupposes that privileged access to resources fosters differential utility relative to social capital; thus, domination and exploitation reproduces the power structure in perpetuity. Whereas, Bourdieu (1986) conceptualizes capital as into three fundamental components; hence, their efficacy is commensurate to the relative value of convertibility. First, economic capital, is convertible into money and institutionalized in the form of property rights; secondly, cultural capital, is convertible into economic capital and institutionalized in the form of education or credentials; and, finally social capital, which is comprised of obligations or connections and convertible into economic capital; thus, institutionalized in the form of nobility. Cultural capital is the primordial lynchpin that facilitates the relationships under girding social capital, because it is acquirable and projects the power and prestige commensurate with its value relative to economic capital. Embodied, it is an essential component of persona and cannot be transmitted or purchased because it requires specific competence closely linked to the individual, bound to a cultural or class community; objectified, it separates the dominant from those who are marginalized; institutionalized, it predisposes value and qualification for possession, hence exclusivity. 28
  38. 38. Social capital relative to the exclusivity entailed by group membership is the actualized or aggregate potential for resources linked to possession or access to a durable network of institutionalized relationships; whereas, group membership predicates access to the resources. Membership in the group entitles them to the collectively owned, “capital” group. Meaning, the degree or amount of social capital possessed by any particular member of the group depends primarily on the vastness of the network connections that one can mobilize, as well as the volume of personal (economic or cultural) capital possessed by those within the network. Group members predicate their ability to extract benefits, i.e., profits, from ownership on the cohesion that originally formulates endeavors to sustain the group. Network connections, however, are not an aberrant occurrence; rather, they are the product of ongoing institutional efforts to produce and reproduce durable bonds to secure material or symbolic benefits or profits. Thus, the network of relationships is the product of strategies contrived to solidify and/or reproduce social relationships that have short or long-term utility. Stanton-Salazar (1997) underscores the importance of these networks and focuses much attention on embedded network alienation relative to marginalized social cultural groups. Low-status or minority networks organize for the purposes of conservation and survival based on scarcity, while cosmopolitan or middle-class groups orient their networks to maximize individual access to institutional resources, privileges, mobility, social advancement, and political empowerment. Formulating supportive relationships with institutional agents or gatekeepers is essential 29
  39. 39. concerning minority or low-status youth, particularly those within a school setting, because, while pathways and conduits to privilege are ubiquitous for (white) middleclass youth, entrapments and barriers for minority youth are just as ubiquitous. Stanton-Salazar’s (1997) primary proposition focuses on the role and salience of the “institutional agent” relative to the resources within their own individual social networks, which they marshal while transmitting resources, information, and opportunity to minority and low-status youth. Although social capital lies within the context of the instrumental or supportive relationships as it pertains to the institutional agent (Stanton-Salazar, 1997), he cautions, however, that the possession of social capital is not necessary tantamount to the utilization of such; but, rather, the potential for utilization. Therefore, he posits that success in public education milieus is not simply a matter of cognitive learning and performing skill sets, but also the challenge of learning how to “decode the system.” This entails an explicit or implicit understanding of the rules governing social or, in this case scholastic advancement within the context of the dominant, i.e., white middle class, discourse; meaning it is incumbent upon the institutional agent to convey the codes of power (Delpit, 1988). Unfortunately, social cultural, economic, and institutionalized barriers inhibit consistency and opportunity for routine exchanges relative to agency. Stanton-Salazar (2004) expands upon his argument pertaining to institutional agents and instrumental relationships. He asserts that academic success, as it relates to minority or low status youth does not depend on their ability to internalize 30
  40. 40. normative values and identities, but the salience of their connectedness pertaining to resources. Meaning, relationships are positional within the context of social structure; furthermore, social structure is the lynchpin that advances relationships, and their utility or ability to endure. He posits that cultural schemas and procedures delineate power dynamics, as well as domains of influence that dictate social structure, guide, and sustain social interaction. He also submits that resources or influence sustains social relations; thus, groups are either empowered or disempowered relative to the enduring social practices comprising school milieus, government, workplaces, as well as economic institutions. Society, he states, is a complex myriad of hierarchies; thus, social capital pertains to how agents link, within their own networks, to more extensive forms of resources and organizations in a society, whose schemas and structures implicitly delineate access to power, and privilege based on race, class, and gender. Society also establishes the mechanisms by which minority or low-status members cultivate connections and formulate relationships to position themselves toward upward mobility. However, attaining these positional relationships requires the ability to successfully negotiate the barriers or conditions, preclude equitable access to the resources essential to success within the institution. This underscores the need for strategically placed individuals capable poised to marshal systems of support, while drawing from their own social capital in the context of their own networks. 31
  41. 41. Meanwhile, Lin (1999) posits that investments in social relations that produce expected returns, i.e., resources, are tantamount to social capital. To identify a construct as social capital, it must contain three essential components: (a) resources embedded in a social structure; (b) individual accessibility to those embedded resources; and, (c) individual mobilization of resources for purposeful action. Embedded resources and network locations are an integral component of productive power; furthermore, they are only as salient as they are accessible through the strength of weak ties, bridges, and structural holes within one’s one embedded network (Granovetter, 1983). Social closure in Coleman terms, along with the network density that it entails, is not conducive to mobility because density may produce or reinforce embedded alienation. Social reproduction, however, as it pertains to the exclusivity and convertibility of cultural capital, in terms of Bourdieu, is insufficient rational because the general population may also reap benefits or profit from such returns on acquisition (Lin, 2001). Thus, while Stanton-Salazar’s social capital framework primarily focuses on relationships, in the context of agency, as conduits to resources, information, and opportunities that facilitate social and academic mobility, Lin (1999, 2001), is primarily interested in the contextualized productivity of network mobilization pertaining to benefit and profitability, in the context of the positional resource proximity relative to power and influence. The closer those embedded networks have access to power and influence, via weak ties (Granovetter, 1983), the greater the likelihood they will produce individual benefit. 32
  42. 42. The Plight of Minority and Urban Youth Predominant paradigms concerning race and culture, as well as cultural nuances, which characterize minority and low-status youth developmental processes must be positioned and understood in a socio-historical context; hence, critical analysis is essential to situating these underpinning themes into an operational framework relative to social capital and empowerment. Their salience pertaining to agency is a powerful overriding supposition that predicates the efficacy of the institutional agency relative to an intervention program. Critical Race Theory and the Uniqueness of the Minority Cultural Experience In their article, Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) suggest that race remains a salient factor influencing the interactions and determining the outcomes for participants in U.S. society. Several generations of scholars have developed historical accounts, and conceptual frameworks of race and racism in the United States. Yet, its salience relative to education remains underplayed and poorly articulated. Articulating race as an extensive theoretical concept is imperative to understanding how it perpetuates systemic inequities in education; meaning, it depicts the underpinning mechanisms, which result in academic disparities between minority and low-status youth, and their white middle-class counterparts. LadsonBillings and Tate (1995) submit three assumptions pertaining to critical race theory, social inequities, and schooling as a contextual milieu. First, race continues to be a significant factor in determining overall (social) inequity in the United States. Second, property rights are an underpinning philosophy driving U.S. society. Finally, 33
  43. 43. the confluence of race and property creates an analytical lens that enables or enhances scholarly analysis of social, hence school, inequity. Predominant or popular notions of race as, an ideological construct, abjectly dilutes the reality of how living in a racialized society affects the everyday lives of “raced” people (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995, p. 48). However, if one thinks of race as an entirely objective condition, it impairs the perspective of race as a problematic construct that describes the variegated manners depicting human grouping. Race as a theoretical construct struggles for salient legitimacy in scholarly circles against a backdrop of predominately White, i.e., White Marxist, authors who oversimplify notions of race by convoluting their arguments into tautologies interlaced with issues of ethnicity, class, and gender. As Singleton (2005) also submits, race must be analyzed and discussed as an isolated concept if is to effectively examine its workings relative to social and economic hegemony; and, thus contextualizing its potency in the spectrum of social inequity (Noguera, 1999). The second proposition juxtaposes race with principles of democracy. Upon its founding, the United States re-contextualized democracy into a customized concept to include capitalism as an economic and philosophical ideal. In other words, from its onset, economic hegemony has been the underpinning force formulating governmental principle; hence, the advancement of the country depicts the pursuit, protection, and proliferation of property rights (Cochran et al., 1990; Harris, 1995; Noguera, 1999). Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) submit that civil rights accrue largely in part through the evolution and modification of property 34
  44. 44. rights; meaning, individual property rights are the historical nexus of tensions between ethnic minorities, and their Western European, i.e., white, counterparts upon whose principles that founded this country, e.g., slavery, Native American removal, Japanese Internment. As it relates to education, property is a determining factor pertaining to the quality and quantity of resources of public education. Moreover, its value begets affluence, power, and entitlement; hence, social benefit and better resources (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). The cornerstone of critical race theory lies within the third proposition: the confluence between race and property rights. This paradigm is the critical lens, which will enhance scholarly analysis and understanding of social and/or school inequity. The authors suggest that the benefits, value, and entitlement relative to property exist in a continuum of, “whiteness” (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). Property ownership and/or its entailed entitlement beget the rights of disposition measured (and rewarded) against a backdrop of white norms and sanctions. The rights of enjoyment are transferable in a context of white privilege, while the reputation and status entailed by ownership are contrasts with an image of “blackness,” which is referred to as a source of defamation. Finally, property ownership entails the absolute right to exclude, measurable relative to an absence of blackness. As a result, systemic inequities manifest in the quality of programming, as well as learning outcomes between minority groups and their white counterparts. 35
  45. 45. Although the authors advance a philosophical argument that resonates through the reader’s consciousness, they wholeheartedly admit that their arguments contain empirical inconsistencies, which are limited to subjective interpretation; nevertheless, many aspects of their propositions are, indeed, measurable, as well as qualitatively plausible. It is important to understand the philosophical complexity relative to critical race, to understand how institutional agents, working on behalf of minority and low-status youth counterbalance the salient affects of systemic biases, which comprise public education milieus, as well as contextualized instructional pedagogy. Ladson-Billings (2000) isolates the African American experience as a unique phenomenon that warrants individual analysis from other experiences, which comprise typically marginalized social cultural groups in our society. The author suggests that teacher preparation literature and other scholarly writing inordinately portrays the African American dilemma within a deficit paradigm; this practice unfortunately typecasts unique constructs, deserving unique critical analysis, into a one universal perspective, regardless of the economic or social circumstance. As a result, its salience is lost in the discussion of issues relative to equity, and convoluted with discussions pertaining to language and culture; in short, the dominant culture dilutes and dismisses the African American experience as an aberrant corruption of the predominant paradigm as it pertains to social justice and school reform. 36
  46. 46. The author posits that the experiences of other cultures who encounter racism and oppression are by no means any less significant and important to the overall discussion of equity, social justice, and/or teaching pedagogy. Ladson-Billings (2000), however, juxtaposes the experiences of other races and cultures against that of African Americans and suggesting that the experiences of the latter group are seminal. In other words, they are the only non-indigenous cultural group, relevant to the discussion, brought to the American continent under the auspices of racial slavery (Franklin & Moss, 1988). The prevailing issues comprising the African American experience from the onset of its Western European (i.e., white) history, are a complex and evolving multidimensional dynamic. African Americans and their cultural experiences typically find themselves polarized, from other cultures and ethnic groups who attempt to align themselves in relation to constructs of the dominant culture (King, 1994; Morrison, 1991). The inequities surrounding the plight of African American students and their culture are distinctive, and warrant focused discussion as it relates to rectifying educational disparities; meaning remedy is uniquely prescriptive (Boykin & Tom, 1985; Hollins & Spencer, 1990). The author submits that future scholarly literature must re-conceptualize research to address pedagogy, and considers the unique cultural experiences of individual racialized groups; otherwise, additional frameworks run risk of becoming generic or generalized tautologies of pedagogical perspective. Pedagogical research and/or teacher preparation courses must foster the thought process as it relates to the relationship between the educator and the distinct 37
  47. 47. social cultural groups, which comprise the school community, rather than unsubstantiated perceptions of generalized, cultural, and cognitive, deficiency (Ladson-Billings, 2000). This argument resonates throughout various other dimensions of literature, which address this notion; its salience underscores the significance of explicit complex role sets of the institutional agent, as a purveyor of various aspects of social capital. Ream (2005) reminds us that individual cultural groups, as well as various sub-cultural groups within an ethnic group, elicit variegated or disparate value pertaining to the convertibility of social capital (Portes & Landolt, 1996). As Stanton-Salazar (1997) posits, mainstream institutional agents must possess or acquire adequate cultural knowledge to facilitate student engagement: The central problem at the core of analysis of relationships between minority children and adolescents and institutional agents is the construction of interpersonal trust, solidarity, and shared meaning in the context of the institutional relations, which are defined, on the one hand, by hieratical relations of power and institutional “barriers,” and, on the other, by institutionalized dependency. Given that working-class minority children and youths are structurally more dependent on non-familial institutional agents for various forms of institutional support, the problematics of interweaving extended trust and solidarity become ever so salient, especially because in the absence of such solidarity, institutional support rarely occurs (p. 17). Re-conceptualizing Models of Minority Child Development Providing an alternative conceptual framework pertaining to minority youth development patterns is essential to understanding how predominant theoretical paradigms concerning child development, coupled with societal tendencies can 38
  48. 48. seemingly conspire to perpetuate the embedded alienation of minority and low-status youth. Thus, underscoring the importance of the institutional agency as a counterstratification mechanism, whereas individuals endeavor to convey essential resources, information, and opportunities that facilitate the academic and social mobility of minority and low-status youth; hence, fostering their empowerment. This understanding is essential byproduct of the intervention program’s effectiveness because the developmental process as it pertains to minority or low status youth is unique or different from their white, middle-class counterparts. Persons involved in minority or low-status youth intervention designs must, furthermore, mobilize their social capital with this awareness in mind in order to be effective. Spencer (1990) submits that trained researchers advance their studies depicting the interactive stages of child development based on obsolete models, because they fail to incorporate the affects of socioeconomic status and race into their analyses of children, relative to developmental milestones. In addition, the author juxtaposes the notion of “normative” development against her assertion that researchers measure such standards in a Eurocentric paradigm (Ogbu, 1985); and, thus, conceptually flawed because they do not account for the cultural nuances entailed that must be situated in a social historical context. Meaning, if there are widely-shared cultural practices relative to parenting among working class African Americans, those practices developed as an historical process, in the context of white domination and exploitation; hence, the adaptive modes, which comprise minority parenting. Spencer (1990) also posits the idea that analyzing learning styles without 39
  49. 49. conceptualizing variegated cultural nuances conflicts assumes that all cultural experiences are neutral rather than unique. “Colorblindness” is not a viable lens with which to view individual developmental dynamics within a social-historically contextualized paradigm. To disavow the impact of minority experiences from the analysis of developmental dynamics is to dismiss the impact of popular images and negative stereotypes on the individual self-concept and responses of minority children. By adolescence, many minority children have acquired a complex array of coping or defense mechanisms to mitigate the complexities of societal inequities relative to their individual self-concept. Normative, stage-related developmental analyses shortchange the ability of the researcher to understand identity formation relative to minority youth, as well as the establishing accurate causal connections between identity formation and life outcomes. Child development, as well as education will suffer egregiously if fails to acknowledge or address constructs pertaining to racial prejudice and/or societal inequities. The author presupposes this rationale to advance the idea that society must begin to rethink dominant culture or majority-oriented teaching methods and cognitive interpretation paradigms, given that minority family dynamics are constantly evolving relative to ever-changing societal pressures and realities. On one hand, Spencer’s (1990) argument pertaining to the adaptive modes of minority parenting are philosophically plausible, but somewhat underdeveloped. Nevertheless, they are salient propositions that yield insight into existing 40
  50. 50. deficiencies, which require considerable modification if contemporary research models are to retain their field relevance. The underdeveloped conceptualization relative to the adaptive modes of minority parenting, however, creates ambiguous connections between prevailing child development models and educational practices. This conceptual weakness lends itself to undermining scrutiny, because the primary premise demands additional empirical articulation. Van Ausdale and Feagin (2002) surmise that race and racial dynamics manifest in the interactions between children, as well as those between children and adults from the onset of school and schooling; contrary to predominant notions of early childhood development. As the authors point out, rather than waiting for a natural stage or cycle to activate that allows them to systematically process contextualized experiences, children observe, process, and experiment with their surrounding world based on their own interactions as well those by adults; hence, their social connections. Garcia-Coll et al. (1996) also assert that contemporary researchers and scholars have yet to propose or adopt an understanding that explains the variegated developmental patterns of minority children as they navigate through their unique experiences of social inequity (p.1892). In addition, the authors introduce the idea that minority family and kin networks help minority children mitigate the negative affects of socioeconomic hardship, and racial oppression. They also suggest that researchers need to incorporate a contextual understanding of minority family 41
  51. 51. networks to gain greater insight as to how these relationships mitigate the ill affects of social positioning, relative to the developmental dynamic. Although the authors admit that there is no theoretical or empirical evidence to rationalize variations in developmental processes between minority children and their white counterparts, there are distinct differentiations unique to ecological circumstances that either promote or inhibit the cognitive development of minority children. The authors submit, as does Spencer (1990), that if traditional or normative methodologies are to be reliable, then they need to account for these variations and/or developmental adaptations, which do occur. The work of Stanton-Salazar and Spina (2000) is a critical bridge fortifying this argument, because they offer insight, in contrast to conventional paradigms relative to minority youth resiliency. Youth resiliency is a systematic process where agents facilitate acquisition of coping skills to counterbalance the affects of systemic and/or institutional bias. Meaning, they marshal support, and positional resources that enable minority youth to cope, overcome, and transcend barriers. The strength of Garcia-Coll et al.’s (1996) argument lie in the fact that they introduce a conceptual framework from which traditional models can broaden the theoretical foundation of knowledge. The authors posit their integrative model based upon two important suppositions. First, that the constructs salient to children of color explain unique variations in the developmental processes; secondly, although many of these constructs are also relevant to the developmental processes of other 42
  52. 52. populations, i.e., white, variations occur because of differentiation concerning the affect of these constructs on a particular individual. Garcia-Coll et al. (1996) categorize their propositions into two distinct variable discussions: (a) social positioning; and, (b) social stratification mechanisms. Social positioning refers to the salient effects of race, in terms of skin color, i.e., skin tones or shades. Van Audsale and Feagin (2002) surmise that in terms of proximal development this aspect of identity, indeed, may be one of the first distinctions affecting racial consciousness; social class, in terms of economics and/or value considerations pertaining to affluence; ethnicity, as it relates to cultural distinctness; and gender, in terms of role appropriation. It is important to note, that the authors discuss race, as a separate or isolated entity, from that of class, ethnicity, and gender. Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) suggest that such is essential to a fundamental understanding of its salience as a construct. Social stratification mechanisms include racism, whereas, the acquisition of wealth or higher social status may buffer its ill affects. Noguera (1999), however, cautions that acquisition of wealth, i.e., cultural capital, may mitigate some of the affects of racial bias and/or discrimination, it does not necessarily guarantee its alleviation. Prejudice, refers the manner of how children acquire self and group concepts based upon racial and ethnic constructs; thus, discrimination in treatment, manifests through prejudice. Oppression is the relevant in terms of how individual children and groups internalize the manifestations of prejudice (Garcia-Coll et al., 1996). Van Ausdale and Feagin 43
  53. 53. (2002) also submit that children make these distinctions from the onset of their interactions with each other, from the colors they choose to associate their affinity towards, in the context of an activity, to those they impose on one another relative to their own preliminary perceptions of identity. Finally, Garcia-Coll et al. (1996) discuss how residential, economic, social, and psychological segregation are salient factors, which mediate between social positioning variables and developmental outcomes. On the one hand, they submit empirical evidence that these constructs indeed have inhibiting factors as they manifest in schools, neighborhoods, and health care relative to “normative” environments, ideologically speaking, as well as resource limitations. The authors highlight, however, that many of these segregated networks also have promoting or protecting aspects to them, which enable children to adapt internal mechanisms enabling them to mitigate the dissonance between home and school environments. Nevertheless, Garcia et al. (1996) conclude that a paradigm shift in research on how these factors manifest in the developmental patterns, variations, and/or adaptations of children of color is essential to a broader understanding of the cognitive developmental complexity, relative to cultural nuance. Community Based Intervention Programs and Institutional Agency Empowerment is the product, which fosters academic and social mobility, while institutional agency in a social capital framework is the vehicle that facilitates the empowerment process. Many successful community based intervention programs implicitly infer many theoretical constructs depicting the complex role 44
  54. 54. dynamics pertaining to institutional agents, as purveyors of social capital; hence, empowering processes, facilitating the academic and social mobility relative of minority and low-status youth. Some intervention programs underestimate the critical role of the institutional agent, as a facilitator of empowerment. Understanding the role of the institutional agent, in terms of their ability to strategically mobilize resources and elicit assistance from other agents, on behalf of minority and low-status youth is a critical link that lends insight into the processes by which agents successfully fulfill the task of socializing youth in manners that are authentically empowering. For minority or low-status youth, who grow-up amidst racialized and class-stratified social structures, it would seem that extraordinary forms of empowerment would be necessary to foster academic and social mobility. Theoretical frameworks that articulate this process are only now beginning to emerge in scholarly literature. Thus, institutional agency as articulated in a critical social capital framework could be an important analytical vehicle for understanding the empowerment process. Empowerment Theory Empowerment applies much of the same rationale articulated by scholars who portray depictions of social closure in the context of an intervention program or relative to instructional pedagogy, implemented in a manner that instills a sense collective efficacy and elicits positive student learning outcomes. One drawback that undermines the salience of empowerment literature is the fact that much of it fails to corroborate theoretical conjecture with research-base outcomes. This leaves much of 45
  55. 55. the interventions relative to empowerment without a framework conceptualization; juxtaposed to circumstances that find us without empirically grounded theoretical frameworks that articulate social stratification versus counter-stratification (Perkins, 1995). Zimmerman (1995) posits that empowerment embodies different forms relative to context, populations, and developmental stages; thus, mechanizing or measuring empowerment constructs in the scope of a single circumstance, albeit other situational conditions, is a tenuous exercise. He submits that universal constructs or measures of empowerment are unfeasible. Nevertheless, he endeavors to isolate values, processes, and outcomes into separate theoretical discussions in an effort to formulate measuring criteria. Although they are interdependent, separate analysis of each construct contextualized in the dynamic of an intervention lends credibility to supposition concerning generalizations of empowerment constructs. In their qualitative study of Community-Based intervention designs, Maton and Salem (1995) surmise that organizations and programs that instilling a sense of personal and collective efficacy relative to participants predicates group productivity and/or individual outcome-based success. Their analysis involves the dynamics of a religious fellowship, a mutual help program for the mentally disabled, and an educational program for urban African American youth. Similar to Coleman (1998), belief systems shape the group setting structures, as well as goals and norms that govern individual behavior, group conformity, and/or social closure. Meanwhile, opportunity role structure facilitates reciprocal exchanges that foster individual 46
  56. 56. growth and self-esteem. Support systems afford individual members access to resources within their embedded networks; thus, fortifying their ability to be resilient when facing adversity. Finally, effective leadership provides the inspiration and the vision necessary to accomplish organizational goals; meaning, (institutional) agency is tantamount to efficacious leadership. Maton and Salem (1995) surmise that empowerment is the process of enabling individuals through participatory exchanges, while endeavoring to achieve common goals. These constructs are observable across their case studies, and allow them to deduce four key organizational characteristics relative to empowerment. Their argument is somewhat limited because they do not advance their propositions across other settings, such as an analysis of those constructs, which are conducive to disempowering results and outcomes; thus, they cannot generalize their findings into a conceptual framework. Rich, Edelstein, Hallman, and Wandersman (1995) employ a multidisciplinary analysis to various constructs of empowerment, by separating and conceptualizing each construct as an independent component; hence, constructing a model for analysis. Formal or structural empowerment refers to the political context, in which the decision-making process facilitates local control. Intrapersonal empowerment is a measurement of confidence and/or competence, contextualized according to dynamics of the specific situation in question, while instrumental empowerment refers to action facilitated through individual participation in the 47
  57. 57. context of the collective or citizen body. Finally, organizational empowerment is a substantive measurement of effective action by the collective or citizen body. The authors use these constructs to examine both public and private policy implementations relative to the efficacy of a collective or community and their efforts to mobilize for the purposes of influencing policy outcomes. Thus, they measure the implications of partnership dynamics in the context of community building for the purposes of decision-making, which in this case involves environmental politics and policies. The authors’ premise, however, assumes that these constructs exist in a culturally neutral or static environment, which does not consider the salient affects of social cultural and socioeconomic marginalization. Therefore, eliciting generalizations applicable to alternative milieus becomes a tenuous exercise, because they do not account for the disempowering aspects of race, culture, and economics. Speer, Jackson, and Peterson’s (2001) mixed methods study relative to social cohesion strengthens the tenuous argument endeavoring to link theoretical constructs of empowerment to corroborated research. The authors expand upon Zimmerman’s (1995) work, by examining and measuring the psychological constructs of empowerment (i.e., interpersonal, interaction-related, and behavioral). Their study of empowerment, in the context of social cohesion, expands upon the hypothesis that pervasive inequality undermines the social fabric; and, disparity within specific populations, consequently, leads to negative outcomes relative to health and wellness. In the first phase of their study, they measure empowerment, in the context 48
  58. 58. of connectedness and participation, while the second phase of their study examines the relationship between social cohesion and empowerment, in the context of unconnected non-participation. Although the first phase of their study replicated previous scholarly examinations of intrapersonal empowerment, it also enhanced its findings by extending the line of inquiry into an examination of empowerment in the context of interaction; hence, confirming the strong correlation between participation and interpersonal empowerment, as well as a strong correlation between participation, interaction, and empowerment. The second phase of their study, though, interestingly revealed that despite a low perception of community some subjects retained a high sense of empowerment relative to their level of participation; meaning, that the two empowerment constructs need further examination together, relative to social cohesion, rather than as separate isolated entities. The findings suggest that while participation may be more important than a sense of community for intrapersonal empowerment, a sense of community is more essential to interaction-related empowerment rather than participation. Again, however, the findings were not without limitations. The authors cautioned that data collection methods, as well as cultural overrepresentation relative to sample selection hamper the ability to generalize about large-scale group dynamics. Nevertheless, this work affords future researchers tangible design methods by which to measure empowerment in the context of social cohesion. 49
  59. 59. Intervention and Agency McLaughlin, Irby, and Langman (1994) offer in-depth narratives of various individual leaders committed to improving the lives and conditions of inner-city youth, as they endeavor to implement intervention programs tailored to address the unique needs of the communities and youth they serve. The author’s surmise that in each particular depiction, what each individual leader or, “wizard” does, as opposed to how they do it, is an integral component relative to the overall efficacy of program implementation efforts. They infer elements functionalism, such as social closure, collective trust and cohesion, norms and sanctions, as the primary social capital mechanism, which underpin each intervention cycle; meaning, they, indeed, exemplify the role of the institutional agent as an essential element of program success, without necessarily discussing (institutional) agency as an isolated construct. Ironically, they also submit that these individual efforts do not lend themselves to program replication or universal treatments. Nevertheless, these individuals commit themselves, while channeling their knowledge and resources to tap into and redirect local networks so that program efficacy may extend beyond the boundaries of their communities; hence, inner city youth can gain access to resources, institutions, and opportunities in society’s mainstream. Interestingly, “social closure” in terms of Coleman (1988) is a typical aspect of each program; indeed, they underscore the importance of cultivating trusting relationships, establishing and/or advancing group (or community) norms and values, reciprocity in exchange, while maintaining cohesion through enforcement of 50
  60. 60. sanctions (Coleman, 1988; Portes, 1998). Significantly, within the scope of each program, the leaders re-contextualize group norms and values in a manner that is relevant to the situational social cultural dynamics that characterize the specific communities they serve; hence, there are no underlying dissonance constructs undermining implementation efficacy (Kahne & Bailey, 1999; Maeroff, 1998; Noguera, 1999). Many of the individual programs also seek to bridge relationships and resources between the communities they serve and mainstream components that facilitate social mobility, while teaching youth the codes of power and/or “rules of the game” (Delpit, 1988; Granovetter, 1983; Lin, 1999). Many programs portrayed in this depiction tacitly infuse healthy balances of social closure, as well as resource and network orientation in a manner that fosters program efficacy and, thus, youth empowerment; yet, the depictions of program implementation, unfortunately, overlook the deeper dimensions of the leaders as it pertains to their roles as institutional agents. The narratives seemingly yearn for a broader, deeper intellectual and/or theoretical discussion to draw out the salient affects of these amazing individuals as they endeavor to improve the lives of inner-city youth. Williams and Kornblum (1985) portray the experiences of resilient children who, despite multiple risk factors such as abject poverty, and harsh or dangerous environmental surroundings seemingly overcome adversity and advance themselves toward social mobility. The authors use the term, “superkids” to illustrate the descriptions of these youth relative to the vicissitudes they must surmount. Yet, the 51
  61. 61. authors also submit that the common denominator throughout their depictions of youth prevailing over tribulation is at least one significant adult in the child’s family or proximal networks, supporting them in a manner that facilitates their ability to navigate through social cultural and socioeconomic barriers and achieve academic success. Unfortunately, the authors’ characterization of the support mechanisms or people underpinning the success of these youth, despite overwhelmingly negative environs and circumstances, remains superficially descriptive and, mainly, underdeveloped. The actions of those individuals who position themselves to support these “superkids” exemplify the nomenclature of institutional agency; thus, their role beckons thorough and comprehensive analysis. The notion that these exceptional youth are, indeed, superkids is somewhat misleading; rather, characterizing them as youth possessing efficacious support systems in the context of positional resources is an accurate description of their relationship dynamics, considering the outcome of their learning and mobility endeavors. Meanwhile, Hernandez’s (1995) study cautions that well-intentioned interventions involving implicit socialization efforts, if implemented without proper network and/or comprehensive support mechanisms, also generate dissonance and discord, rather than positive results. His depiction of prospective socialization efforts relative to grouping Latina female youth in the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program (HMDP) and successful Latina businesspersons portrays a single 52
  62. 62. intervention entailing three separate interfaces, coupled with survey analysis of the participants’ individual locus of control and self-concept. Results following the intervention revealed that the students had high goals and aspirations; therefore, participants found the career information they received as particularly useful. The manner in which role models portrayed success, as an “all or nothing phenomenon” (p. 261), left youth participants with the perception that success entailed extraordinary or “superhuman” effort; therefore, highly unlikely. Meaning, role models seemingly inferred that determination and a hard-work ethic, coupled with familial re-socialization into an pro-academic value system predicated success; all while ignoring the fundamental processes of institutional support and social capital development as means of overcoming socioeconomic and social cultural constraints, which play an integral role relative to success. Importantly, the role models did not employ their embedded networks to avail positional resources and information to the youth participants on a consistent basis resulted in disconnect, rather than discourse. Additionally, Hernandez (1995) submits that interventions such as HMDP, undertaken in a social cultural or genderbased context, must be comprehensive and ongoing to elicit positive outcomes relative to inspiration, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. Hernandez (1995) implies that programs, such as HMDP require theories of change, which explicitly articulate the empowering results relative to instituting mechanisms targeted to enhancing social capital of youth participants, as well as program leaders, hence, fostering the empowerment of both. Meaning, that program leaders may effectively assume the 53