Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History

First Advisor

Michael B. Katz

Second Advisor

Stanton Wortham

Abstract

The Roots of Educational Inequality: Germantown High School, 1907 - 2011

Erika M. Kitzmiller

Dr. Michael B. Katz (History)

Dr. Stanton E.F. Wortham (Education)

This study, The Roots of Educational Inequality, examines the political, economic, and social factors that led to the transformation of Germantown High School and its urban community throughout the twentieth century. This longitudinal study, accomplished through a careful analysis of daily events rather than sampling key turning points, maximizes the benefits of a case study approach by connecting local conditions to the larger transformation of urban schools, urban communities, and the social welfare state. Using a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods and source materials, this dissertation links the school's history to the community and city's history to demonstrate how the influx of working class residents, the escalation of residential segregation, and the failures of urban renewal efforts affected the high school.

This dissertation suggests that white flight, alone, did not lead to the school's transformation. Rather the deterioration of this American high school is connected, at least in part, to the dramatic decrease in the levels of private funding that residents contributed to the high school and charitable organizations during the twentieth century. The availability of charitable funding supplemented government aid and enhanced the opportunities and support available to Germantown youth--this ensured the high school's early success and legitimacy. As the demographics of the community changed, this funding dwindled and the infrastructure that had supported the high school and its youth quickly deteriorated. By tracing this history over the course of entire century from the school's glorious promises to its current challenges, this dissertation provides a fresh understanding about the transformation of American public high schools, urban communities, and the social welfare state over the past 100 years.

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