Dissertation

Unequal Work in Unequal Schools: Working in NYC Middle Schools in an Era of Accountability

Public grading of teachers and schools govern the United States' K-12 school system, creating an environment of high-stakes accountability and continual testing and evaluation. Told from the perspective of New York City public school workers, my dissertation examines how race, class, and gender intersectionally shape the work, experiences, and rewards of employees in the nation's largest school system. 

Bringing together organizational literature on schools with critical race and feminist theories of work, my study examines the dynamic relationship between a racially and gender segmented occupational structure, school-level organizational priorities, and worker practices. This research asks how schools reproduce inequalities among employees by paying particular attention to divisions between who gives and receives care.

In contrast to previous studies that investigate urban schools as sites of dysfunction focusing on racial disparities in student outcomes, “Unequal Work in Unequal Schools,” uses the case of two high-performing, racially-diverse urban schools to observe workplace interactions under relatively advantaged conditions. My research is based on 16 months of fieldwork in two New York City middle schools, 40 staff interviews, and analysis of district-level administrative records. This approach enables me to center the labor of women of color, who primarily comprise non-instructional positions and highlights school workplace dynamics as sites of socialization and stratification that differentially impact workers based on their race, gender, and class.