Date of Award

Spring 6-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Jason Goulah

Second Advisor

Gonzalo Obelleiro

Third Advisor

William Ayers


The struggle to provide all children with an equitable education remains one of the most concerning and significant social, political, and moral problems in our nation. Although neoliberal accountability reform efforts have been set in place to alleviate such gaps, inequalities persist and disproportionately affect historically marginalized groups. This dissertation in curriculum studies aims to understand the perspectives of Latina teachers, an underrepresented group both in teaching and in educational research, on the effects of neoliberal accountability measures. This qualitative, multisite instrumental case study was guided by the following research questions: 1) When thinking about education under the effects of neoliberal politics, how do Latina teachers who work in a charter school conceive the purpose of education? 2) How do these teachers describe their experiences teaching in a charter school in the context of neoliberal accountability politics? 3) How is their identity implicated in the teaching process? and 4) Do these teachers subscribe to educational philosophies resonant with those of John Dewey and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi? To answer these questions, six Latina teachers were interviewed regarding their experiences within the Midwest Charter Network. Teachers’ responses and public documents were analyzed using critical theory, Dewey’s Democratic Education, and Makiguchi’s Value-Creating Education as theoretical lens. Five main themes emerged: 1) personal identity shaped aspects of these teachers’ philosophies of education, curricula, and pedagogy, 2) teachers share common epistemologies resonant with the educational philosophies of Dewey and Makiguchi using social inequalities as a lens, 3) teachers have positive experiences working within their schools, 4) however, also experience personal conflict with neoliberal accountability measures, and 5) the student-teacher relationship is critical in the growth and learning process. This research has theoretical and practical significance. These findings challenge the neoliberal discourse surrounding teacher roles by recognizing the complex ways identity, beliefs, and context shape these six teachers’ teaching experience. This study finds that these teachers do not just see their role as presenting a curriculum, but as intellectual practitioners charged with and committed to improving the lives of students. While these teachers understand the expectations of accountability, they practice agency and negotiate their own autonomy to provide a democratic and value-creating environment for their students. These teachers are not subordinate to neoliberal understanding of education but are able to re-imagine education’s potential in the lives of students to resist these notions and actively work against them.