Theses Doctoral

“Stand Out Above the Crowd”: The Reconstitution Counterstory of the Bronx Promise Academy—A Case Study

Leblanc, Stany

High-stakes testing is currently the primary measure of student success in the United States. Based on this measure of student performance, closing the achievement gap in test scores between Black and Latinx students and their white peers has become the main indicator of success for schools serving Black and Latinx students. When schools are unable to close the achievement gap, one possible consequence is closure and replacement by a new school. This process is referred to as reconstitution.

Though reconstitution was developed to provide Black and Latinx students with a more equitable educational experience, these schools often cannot raise high-stakes test scores or their efforts to raise scores have negative implications on their Black and Latinx students. Based on this context, I wanted to learn how the Black and Latinx staff of a reconstituted school describe and understand success through their lived experiences, rather than through state exam outcomes. For my dissertation, I used a qualitative case study that explored the way one founding principal and six founding teachers at a reconstituted school, the Bronx Promise Academy (a pseudonym), described and understood success for their school community and for their Black and Latinx students. I used counterstorytelling, a methodology based on Critical Race Theory, that centered the understanding of success on the experiences and stories of the Black and Latinx staff member participants of my study. After using purposeful sampling to identify the participants, I conducted one interview with each participant and one focus group with all of the participants.

Overall, I found that the principal’s counterstory to student success had a direct influence on how her staff viewed the importance of high-stakes exams and understood success for their school community and their students. First, I found that the principal, Ms. Jean-Baptiste, had a counterstory to the traditional view of student success that her teachers also adopted. Ms. Jean-Baptiste and the six teacher participants believed that student success should not be based on high-stakes testing outcomes but instead should be based on students developing real-world skills and navigational capital, or the ability to adapt and thrive in a variety of situations. These skills involved perseverance, critical thinking, and independency.

Next, I also found that Ms. Jean-Baptiste’s counterstory for school success prioritized building a strong culture at the Bronx Promise Academy that fulfilled the needs of her students rather than raising test scores. Her counterstory was shared by all of the teacher participants. Since their students went through a traumatic experience at a closing school, the participants considered themselves successful because they collaboratively constructed unique routines, traditions, and structures for their school community. They considered this new culture as a success because they said it provided students with a sense of community, care, and joy that they needed in order to succeed academically at school.

My findings, on both this holistic view of success and the use of counterstorytelling, have implications for district and school leaders, policymakers, and education leadership researchers.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Drago-Severson, Eleanor
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
May 24, 2023