2013 - April

A Research Conversation about Teaching Reading in a Diverse Suburban Public School District

Dissertation Director:
Dr. Carolyne J. White


Children of color in middle-class suburban schools experience marginalization and low academic achievement, just as their counterparts in urban schools. However, because they are living in the suburbs and attending suburban schools, people often think that they are doing well. Policymakers, residents, community leaders, and visitors often make the assumption that the resources children of color in suburban public school districts need are readily available.

The common image of wealth associated with the suburbs needs to be demystified. The suburbs of today do not necessarily conform to the stereotype of homogeneity, affluence, and high achievement. The suburbs are becoming increasingly diverse and in need of resources to support families that do not have access to services and the necessary means to provide for their families. In addition, some suburban public school districts are experiencing a growing multiracial student population, including an increase in the number of immigrant children. As a result, the districts are faced with the challenge of meeting all students’ needs, as well as the needs of the teachers who are held accountable for the success of this ethnically, racially, linguistically, and economically diverse student population.  Researchers are beginning to pay closer attention to the ways in which the suburbs are transforming. More importantly, educators and administrators are beginning to rethink how they approach teaching and learning in diverse suburban public school districts.

This auto-ethnographic study explores teachers’ and administrators’ discourse about teaching reading to a racially, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse student population in a K-4 suburban public school district. The study employs auto-ethnographic and action research methods within the frameworks of critical theory and critical race theory. Research methods include focus groups, semi-structured topical interviews, Geographic Information Systems, document analysis, action research, and auto-ethnography to generate and analyze the data.

This study has policy implications for both the Oakwood Public School district and other urban-suburban public school districts that are experiencing a racial and socio-economic transformation. There is a need for urban-suburban public school districts to learn how to address and meet the demands of federal and state regulations as they integrate the needs of an increasingly growing immigrant and low-income student population. This auto-ethnography illuminates the experiences of district administrators and teachers in an ethnically, racially, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse urban-suburban public school district.



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