Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Co-constructing a Nurturing and Culturally Relevant Academic Environment for Struggling Readers: (Dis)locating Crisis and Risk Through Strategic Alignment

Jaime Andres Ramirez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Current educational reform represented by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) symbolizes the summit of neoliberal reforms initiated more than three decades ago with the A Nation At Risk report (ANAR). The so called progressive plea of 'leaving no child behind' has brought poignant changes to US education in general providing an unprecedented impetus for new privatization schemes that disproportionably affect school districts serving large population of minority, low-income students in urban areas. This study provides a macro-micro framework for analyzing teachers' recontextualizations in the context of current reforms and demands. At the macro level, the study analyzes focal intertextual thematic formations (Lemke, 1995) in two cornerstone educational texts, namely, the ANAR report and the NCLB act. Particular historical aspects related to of the assemble of relations (Gramsci, 1971) that overdetermined the production of these texts are also examined. The study then uses the insights gained from this analysis of what is called the "cultural-pedagogic reservoir" as an entry point into analyzing in detail the "individual-pedagogic repertoire" of an experienced middle-school teacher as intertextual thematic formations particular to the focal texts re-emerge and are recontextualized in the interactions constructed in an intervention program for mostly Latino struggling readers. More specifically, the study analyzes the linguistic organization, and pedagogic genre of an experienced teachers' academic recontextualization and how these are accomplished in interaction in underperforming schools intervened by America's Choice, the district's "turn around" private partner. The specific Critical Discourse Analysis approach used draws purposely on analytical tools of Systemic Functional Linguistics theory and Genre theory (Halliday and Martin 1993; Martin, 2000; Martin and Rose 2003). This applied linguistic approach is complemented by the emancipatory agenda of critical ethnography and the overdeterminist class analysis of postmodern Marxism. Findings from linguistic analysis of policy texts reveal that the notions of risk, and crisis advanced by the ANAR report are taken into an unprecedented technocratic level in the No Child Left Behind Act that promote a new privatization (Burch, 2006) as the products and services of private companies are marketed not only as aligning to the law, but being "scientifically proven." The focal teacher working under this conditions was found to consistently use of a patterned and specific purposeful, goal oriented, and staged pedagogic genre organized through ideological principles that responded to a particular and context-bound way of alignment: "Strategic Alignment." Such a Strategic alignment represents an ideological framework that expands the frame of accountability to all stakeholders of the educational process, and not only to those most interested in promoting fidelity with standards and mandates. The teacher not only simultaneously and flexibly responded to standards and mandates represented by the "turn around" company (America's Choice), but also aligned to the needs, rights, and backgrounds of students, and to the thought collectives (Ramanathan, 2002) of the teaching profession. Even though the language of Strategic Alignment was found to be realized as a culturally relevant academic co-constructed linguistic space and a nurturing environment for Latino low-income struggling readers in an urban middle school and because it happens in the context of this new privatization scheme, such responsive pedagogical practices may well be co-opted and used as arguments to dismantle public schooling altogether.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Economic theory|Curriculum development|Hispanic American studies|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Ramirez, Jaime Andres, "Co-constructing a Nurturing and Culturally Relevant Academic Environment for Struggling Readers: (Dis)locating Crisis and Risk Through Strategic Alignment" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3325279.