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|Title:||Physical Graffiti and School Ecologies: A New Look at 'Disorder', Neighbourhood Effects and School Outcomes|
|Keywords:||Education;Neighbourhood Effects;Disorder;School Outcomes;Sociology of Education;Qualitative;Quantitative;Systematic Social Observation|
|Abstract:||This sandwich dissertation examines physical disorder as a type of ‘neighbourhood effect’ on education. My research takes a mixed-methods approach to understanding how physical disorder in areas surrounding schools might affect their educational outcomes, such as achievement, climate and discipline, over and above the demographic characteristics of their students. It also points to two possible mechanisms to therefore determine how these net effects might arise. This original contribution to the neighbourhood effects literature combines citywide, systematic data on physical disorder, neighbourhood demographics and school outcomes, with qualitative data on the views of stakeholders and repeated observations of select neighbourhoods. Through a quantitative and method-intensive paper, Chapter two discusses the procedures for collecting data on disorder, developing different scales of disorder, and how disorder relates to a variety of census measures and other neighbourhood and school measures. This research presents evidence that Systematic Social Observation (SSO) can provide a reliable and cost effective means of neighbourhood assessment. The results show that observed disorder is statistically related to neighbourhood socio-demographics, collective efficacy, and various academic outcomes. What is surprising, however, was that school exterior disorder had little to no explanatory power compared to observed disorder and graffiti in the face blocks surrounding schools. These findings highlight how beyond the recognized effects of socio-demographics, additional mechanisms in neighbourhoods, such as disorder and graffiti, can directly and indirectly influence school outcomes like achievement, discipline, and safety. My third chapter directly studies the impact of characteristics of neighbourhoods by examining the direct and additive effect(s) of observed disorder on academic achievement, discipline, and safety. Two sets of findings were reported. First, ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models showed that neighbourhood disorder but not school disorder was strongly associated with neighbourhood poverty. While the former effect was expected, the latter finding is interpreted as demonstrating how institutional processes in education can detach school physical plants from their immediate surroundings. Second, net of neighbourhood poverty and school size and type, higher levels of neighbourhood disorder were associated with lower school achievement, higher suspension rates, and larger proportions of students reporting to feel unsafe, though school disorder had far weaker effects. These findings are interpreted as demonstrating the power of neighbourhood disorder to trigger either student deviance or family self-selection processes, but also demonstrating how institutional processes can weaken the signalling power of disorder on school grounds and property. The fourth chapter provides an in-depth examination of two purported mechanisms to uncover the social processes that generated the broad relationships established in chapters 2 and 3. This research demonstrates that self-selection and reputational processes are likely generators of the net effects that were demonstrated in previous chapters. My qualitative evidence suggests that nearby disorder likely sends negative signals to would-be choosers of schools, creating (and perpetuating) long-lasting perceptions and reputations amongst aspiring, ambitious and achievement-oriented families. Schools with lots of nearby disorder are regarded to have deep-rooted problems, connected to their local populations and building conditions. As a result, aspiring families were recognized to self-select out of these disorderly schools, and re-locate elsewhere. This sandwich dissertation has found an intriguing pattern of effects and non-effects of disorder on schooling. It also highlights how neighbourhood disorder can send strong signals that ultimately shape school processes. Though many neighbourhood researchers have applied hypotheses of disorder to a variety of human capital outcomes there has been little recognition of disorder as a physical ‘neighbourhood effect’ on schooling. From this perspective, it is not only helpful to recognize that disorder in nearby areas seems to affect schooling, but that self-selection and reputation processes can explain how this specific neighbourhood effect might arise. Since a shortcoming of existing work is that neighbourhood attributes are measured primarily using census data, the contribution of this dissertation to sociology is that researchers are now better equipped methodologically to design their own standardized approaches and disorder scales that directly measure neighbourhood conditions.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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|Cyr_Darren_M_October2014_DoctorOfPhilosophy_Sociology.pdf||Darren Cyr's full PhD dissertation- 'Physical Graffiti and School Ecologies: A New Look at 'Disorder', Neighbourhood Effects and School Outcomes. Submitted October 2014.||20 MB||Adobe PDF||View/Open|
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