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Sean J. Drake, Ph.D.

Provost's Postdoctoral Fellow, Sociology of Education

Administration, Leadership, and Technology

212 998 5478

Sean J. Drake, Ph.D., is Provost's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Applied Statistics, Social Science, and Humanities at NYU Steinhardt. He also teaches in the Department of Administration, Leadership, and Technology. Dr. Drake holds a B.A. in Social Psychology (with honors) from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine. 

Dr. Drake's research interests include school and neighborhood segregation, immigrant incorporation, homeless students, incarcerated students, and ethnography. Dr. Drake's latest paper is forthcoming in the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), and his research has been published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies and Urban Education, and Additionally, he has authored or co-authored several book chapters in volumes that address racial and ethnic inequality in education.  

He is currently working on a book project titled Academic Apartheid: Race, Achievement Culture, and the Criminalization of "Failures". Drawing on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork at two dissimilar high schools in an affluent Southern California suburb, as well as 122 in-depth interviews with students, teachers, and parents, Academic Apartheid uncovers hidden institutional mechanisms by which between-school segregation and inequality are reproduced.  Dr. Drake finds that students who struggle academically at prestigious “Pinnacle High School” are pressured by administrators to transfer to nearby “Crossroads High School.”  Crossroads is a continuation school that draws its students from the four comprehensive high schools in academically rigorous “Valley View Unified School District."  Though students transfer due to academic struggles and not behavioral issues, Crossroads features an austere, prison-like appearance, constant surveillance of students by staff and local police, and a sparse curriculum that disqualifies graduates from matriculating at a four-year college. Crossroads is the only high school in the district with these punitive characteristics. Transfer is voluntary, but Dr. Drake highlights aspects of the district’s policies and practices around continuation schools that disproportionately affect lower-income, black, and Latinx students, and that result in the gross overrepresentation of those students at Crossroads.     

Moreover, concentrating struggling students in a school such as Crossroads facilitates an institutional culture of academic apathy that runs counter to the school’s purpose as an academic rehabilitation center.  Just as residential segregation purposefully creates and maintains racially homogenous neighborhoods and concentrates social problems in lower-income neighborhoods, the segregation of students to Crossroads concentrates struggling students and students of color in a stigmatizing educational context with far fewer resources and opportunities.

Dr. Drake has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation (Dissertation Fellowship) and the Yale Urban Ethnography Project. He is also Diversity Scholar with the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan, and has presented his research at several national gatherings, including the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, the Annual Conference of Ford Fellows, and the Yale Urban Ethnography Project Conference.

Selected Publications

  • Drake, S. J. (Forthcoming). “The Segregation of ‘Failures’: Unequal Schools and Disadvantaged Students in a Middle-Class Neighborhood.” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR).
  • Drake, S. J. (2019). “Academic Segregation and the Institutional Success Frame: Unequal Schooling and Racial Disparity in an Integrated, Affluent Community.” Chapter 9 in Asian Migration and Education Cultures in the Anglosphere, edited by M. Watkins, C. Ho, and R. Butler. New York, NY: Routledge. (This book was originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.)
  • Lee, J., Drake, S. J., & Zhou, M. (2019). “The ‘Asian F’ and the Racialization of Achievement.” In Education & Society, edited by T. Domina, B. Gibbs, L. Nunn, and A. Penner. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Drake, S. J. (2019). "Exposing the Rules of Racial Inequality." Contemporary Sociology. (48)2: https://doi.org/10.1177/0094306119828696n
  • Drake, S. (2017). “Academic Segregation and the Institutional Success Frame: Unequal Schooling and Racial Disparity in an Integrated, Affluent Community.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studieshttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2017.1315868
  • Drake, S., Conchas, G. Q., Oseguera, L. (2015). “I Am Not the Stereotype”: How an Academic Club in an Urban School Empowered Black Male Youth to Succeed.” In G. Q. Conchas & M. A. Gottfried (Eds.), Inequality, power, and school success: Case studies on racial disparity and opportunity in education (pp. 62-82). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Drake, S., Conchas, G. Q., Hinga, B. M., & Gottfried, M. A. (2015). “Introduction.” In G. Q. Conchas & M. A. Gottfried (Eds.), Inequality, power, and school success: Case studies on racial disparity and opportunity in education (pp. 1-14). New York, NY: Routledge.