Comprehensive Exam Day 1 Sociology of Education (General) Fall 2013

Comprehensive Exam Day 1
Sociology of Education (General)
Fall 2013
Set A: Please answer one of the following two questions.
1. Inequality has long been the central focus of sociology of education. Racial, socioeconomic,
gender, and other disparities in educational attainment seem to belie the idea of “equality of
opportunity” that motivated the creation and expansion of public education in the U.S.
Sociologists attempt to explain why this inequality exists in different ways, some focusing on
structural and systemic mechanisms underlying inequality and others focusing on ecological
and even interpersonal mechanisms. Summarize each side and make a case for which one
2. The U.S. educational system is incredibly cumulative, with early experiences strongly
predicting ultimate outcomes and pathways through different stages of schooling often
demonstrating a great deal of inertia. How does this cumulative process work, why does it
matter, and how can it be fixed?
Set B: Please answer one of the following two questions.
3. To what extent would a nationwide investment in improving teacher quality impact
socioeconomic stratification in educational quality among K-12 students in this country?
4. To what extent are differences in the qualifications of teachers across U.S. schools
responsible for educational stratification in achievement outcomes among racial/ethnic and
socioeconomic groups of K-12 children? In answering this question, be sure to discuss the
mechanisms driving differences in teacher qualifications.
Set C: Please answer one of the following two questions.
5. Students’ academic progress is a product of the formal curriculum (e.g., coursework, content
of what is taught) and the social context of the school. Do these formal and informal school
processes exacerbate or disrupt the intergenerational transmission of advantage and
disadvantage? Choose at least two theoretical perspectives and discuss the roles that schools
play in the process. Bolster each perspective with evidence from empirical research.
6. Some scholars have argued that the educational system favors girls and that the gender gap
that we should be most concerned about how schools fail to provide boys the opportunity to
reach their potential. Please discuss this debate with specific attention to at least one of the
following considerations: elementary school opportunities to learn; gendered adolescent
development and norms of masculinity and femininity; intersectionality of gender with social
class; intersectionality of gender with race and ethnicity; classroom processes; STEM fields
and/or field of study in higher education; school to work transitions and/or economic returns to
higher education.