Date of Degree

9-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Urban Education

Advisor

Ofelia Garcia

Committee Members

Stephen Brier

Johanna Fernandez

Heather Lewis

John Hammond

Subject Categories

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Leadership | Elementary Education | Language and Literacy Education | Urban Education

Keywords

Language and Literacy Education, Bilingual Education, Multicultural Education, Puerto Ricans, Latino Civil Rights Movement, New York City History

Abstract

Through a methodology of oral history interviews with primary subjects and archival research, this dissertation explores the creation and evolution of P.S. 25, The Bilingual School, the first Spanish-English bilingual elementary school in New York City, as well as the entire Northeast. The Bilingual School, founded in 1968, was a product of the civil rights movement in the United States and one key manifestation of that movement in New York City, the struggle for community control of schools.

Latinos in general and Puerto Ricans in particular have been written out of the official narrative of the educational civil rights movement in New York City, although they played an integral role. This dissertation attempts to examine the contours of their participation through the lens of the creation of a single school, P.S. 25. In so doing, I highlight the singular contribution of Puerto Ricans in changing the educational landscape of New York City. The story of P.S. 25 also contributes to the body of literature that challenges the dominant narrative of the Bronx as solely a zone of destruction and despair during the 1960s and 1970s.

P.S. 25 exemplified the ideas of the movement for community control, confounding the conventional wisdom that community control of schools was attempted but failed in New York City. Its story contributes to a new narrative: that social justice movements of the 1960s did indeed lead to successful education reform, creating high-quality schools accountable to the communities they served. An examination of P.S. 25 during its early years gives us an indication of how education in New York City might have developed if the community control movement had prevailed. This dissertation explores why P.S. 25 succeeded in its endeavors whereas schools with similar goals in the same years failed.

Bold in its efforts to break with the status quo in language policy, pedagogy, curriculum, personnel and parental involvement, P.S. 25 served as a model for future bilingual schools in New York and as a petri dish for the fomentation of leadership in the field of bilingual education. Its history demonstrates how a group of committed educators in one school worked to realize activist goals that have had a lasting impact on the education of Latino and other marginalized students up to the present day.

While this dissertation tells the story of the founding and development of P.S. 25, it is at once the story of a little-known manifestation of the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty. The War on Poverty brought not just federal money but a philosophy that enabled communities to forge solutions for educational problems on their own terms. Through an examination of the founding and growth of P.S. 25, The Bilingual School, we can see one such design realized on the ground in the South Bronx. P.S. 25’s restructuring of standing educational paradigms represented a logical outcome of the War on Poverty’s maxim of “maximum feasible participation” of the poor. With autonomy and funding to back them, the founders of P.S. 25 created a prototype that I call a “Latino bilingual/bicultural community school.”

For the original visionaries of the Bilingual School, the purpose of bilingualism was not only to facilitate English acquisition and integration into American society but to reinforce the value of cultural and linguistic pluralism for Puerto Ricans and all Americans. At its inception, P.S. 25 exemplified this vision through a developmental bilingual education model and was poised to set the standard for bilingual education throughout New York City. This dissertation examines how upon implementation of the Aspira Consent Decree in 1974, transitional bilingual education programs became the new norm for bilingual students, thus destroying the possibility for a wide scale replication and expansion of the P.S. 25 model.

An analysis of P.S. 25 during its early years gives us an indication of how a school realized the demands of the Puerto Rican community in the 1960s in the form of holistic, decolonizing, community-centered bilingual and multicultural primary schooling. A look at P.S. 25 benefits all those interested in the education of English learners and the creation of bilingual subjects in today’s schools. An understanding of the unique pedagogical model, curriculum and environment established at P.S. 25 can provide social justice educators with an educational alternative that is both practical and additive.

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