Irene Neofotistos

Sociology & Women's Studies


Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Finkel, Assistant Professor of Education

The Criminalization of Urban Youth: Public Educational Reform and Prison Rates of Low-Income, Minority Students

Recent studies of high school drop out rates in New York City reveal that only 55 percent of New York City’s public high school students graduate from the public school system. At the same time, 90 percent of all male inmates in the city’s prison system are dropouts of New York City’s public schools. Taking these alarming statistics as a starting point, this project explores the connections between incarceration rates of low-income, minority youth in New York City during the 1990’s, and federal, state, and city expenditures on public education at the secondary and post-secondary levels. In addition, this study examines the relationships between changes in educational policy and these incarceration rates, with the goal of better understanding the ways in which educational policies can perpetuate racism and classism in a modern urban setting. Finally, the study aims to develop instructional strategies that can be used to empower young urban minority students to successfully complete high school and enter institutions of higher education.

In order to address these issues effectively, I examined both the systems of education and incarceration, looking at funding, testing, and privatization as they relate to both the criminal justice system and schooling, and then studying the role that access plays as a link to both these structures. I refer to data gathered through an examination of census information, studies conducted by teachers working in the New York City public high school system, and studies released by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Education. Lastly, looked at teaching methods in urban high schools and proposed a curriculum that can be used as a tool for change, based on the work of educators who have worked extensively with urban youth.

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