"College for all" and other white lies : a case study exploring the college readiness definitions and practices of a college for all charter school
- The college readiness and success of all students continues to be of growing national concern due to the increasing number of jobs requiring a postsecondary degree (Gonzalez, 2012; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). The Obama administration formalized this concern into policy, making college and career readiness for all a national education priority (U.S. Department of Education, 2013). Concurrently, the number of students who have college aspirations has steadily increased over the past few decades, and gaps based on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status in regards to college aspirations are closing (Roderick, Nagaoka & Coca, 2009). As the second largest and fastest growing minority group in the country and the ethnic group with the lowest bachelor's degree attainment rates, Latino students' readiness, access, and persistence in college have earned special attention amidst this growing concern (Liu, 2011). While efforts have been made to increase the college going and readiness of Latino students, there is still a considerable gap between White and Latino students' bachelor's degree attainment rates. Latino students have shown considerable gains in college enrollment rates. In 2012, 49% of 18-24 year old recent Latino high school graduates enrolled in a 2 or 4-year college, exceeding the enrollment rate of White students for the first time by 2% (Krogstad & Fry, 2014). However, in that same year, only 15% of bachelor degree recipients identified as Latino (NCES, 2013). Researchers have begun to refer to this as the aspiration-attainment gap (Roderick, Nagaoka & Coca, 2009). While factors contributing to degree attainment are typically studied through the lens of college persistence and describe barriers and supports for students currently in college, previous research has shown that college preparation in high school can also be a predictor of college success, defined as persistence (Watt, Huerta & Alkan, 2011). This study will investigate, through the case study of one predominantly Latino high school, how all actors within the school define college readiness and what the process of becoming college ready looks like within this context. There are a number of definitions for college readiness (Strayhorn, 2014). College readiness can generally be understood as the level of academic preparation needed to enter into college and be successful in a college-level course without needing remediation (Conley, 2007). One model for understanding the construct of college readiness breaks it down into four different dimensions, which are key cognitive strategies, content knowledge, contextual skills and awareness, and academic behaviors. Key cognitive strategies include problem solving, structuring arguments, and interpretation. Content knowledge refers to the specific background knowledge of math, science, English, etc. to be able to perform in those classes. Contextual skills and awareness are also referred to as "college knowledge" which is understanding the admissions process, financial aid options, academic requirements, and academic and social norms of college (Conley, 2010; Hooker & Brand, 2010; McDonough, 1997). The fourth dimension of academic behaviors refers to study skills, time management, and the ability to work in groups with other students (Conley, 2010). Despite the general acknowledgement in the literature that college readiness concerns more than just high school GPA and coursework, and standardized test scores these are still the most commonly used measures of college readiness (Strayhorn, 2014; Roderick, Nagaoka & Coca, 2009). All three of these measures both perpetuate and reveal racial and ethnic disparities in students' readiness and access to college (Roderick, Nagaoka & Coca, 2009). Researchers have critiqued Conley's model for not completely addressing the needs of first generation students of color. Welton and Martinez (2014) argue that Conley's college readiness framework does not consider the larger context that the school is working within and the challenges that might bring up in addition to ignoring how students' cultural identities play into the college readiness process. Castro (2013) points out that the framework does not alert practitioners or policymakers to the racial and socioeconomic inequality that students may be facing as they attempt to access college. Martinez (2010) takes these critiques one step further and highlights that when this framework is applied to students of color it does not capture the heterogeneity of experiences within those groups. Not all Latino students may define or experience the college readiness process similarly and may differ based on geography, family's country of origin, immigrant status, etc. The definition of college readiness appears to be more complex for students of color and traditional models of college readiness do not appear to capture that complexity (Byrd & MacDonald, 2005). Another problematic limitation of the college readiness research is that when it is applied to students of color it tends to be deficit focused, highlighting what they may be lacking when compared to their White middle class counterparts and not acknowledging the assets that they could potentially bring to the process (Welton & Martinez, 2014; Castro, 2013). Castro (2013) suggests that one way to protect students and their communities from deficit ideology is to directly ask them what they think they need to be college ready before inferring what they might need based on our outsider and biased perspective as researchers. Education research often fails to include the perspective of students of color (Delgado-Bernal, 2002), so to do so would bring a new perspective into the literature. Data was gathered over the course of an academic year at a public charter high school in Northern California. The school was asked to participate in the study based on its demographics, serving predominantly Latino and first generation college going students, and its one hundred percent four-year college acceptance rate. The school is a part of the ASPIRE network whose mission is "college for certain." A descriptive case study methodology and ecological model framework was utilized to investigate how members of the school community define college readiness, and to document the process of becoming college ready for students at the school (Yin, 2003; Bronfenbrenner, 1977). Data sources consisted of observational and interview data. More than one hundred hours of observations of classroom practices, administrative meetings, parent workshops, and senior mentor sessions were collected. Interviews with thirty-five students (21), teachers (9), and administrators (5) were conducted. Students from every grade were interviewed and were selected via teacher nomination. Student interviews on average lasted thirty minutes and covered questions regarding what it means to be college ready, thoughts on how high school has prepared them for college, and what they knew about college. All teachers and administrators at the school were interviewed. Interviews were approximately forty-five minutes long and consisted of questions regarding teacher's definitions of college readiness, beliefs about students' ability to succeed in college, and what classroom practices they implemented to foster college readiness. Analytical induction theory served as the primary means of analysis for this study (Taylor & Bogden, 2003). Observational data was analyzed via the identification of themes and use of analytic memos (Emerson, Fretz, & Shaw, 2011). Interviews went through several cycles of coding and coding schemes were developed (Saldaña, 2015). The definitions for college readiness provided by students, teachers, school administrators, and the charter network administrator differed. The themes generated by those at the school site, however, emphasized mindsets and skills whereas the charter network administrator described college readiness using metrics such as SAT scores. In terms of what college readiness practices may look like in the classroom, there were several structural barriers to instruction in the classroom that made it difficult to maintain a rigorous, college-preparatory environment, despite teachers best intentions to prepare students and engage them with challenging content. Finally, while the aim of the school is to transmit the college knowledge necessary to be able to apply and be successful at a four-year college, much of the programming around this preparation does not begin until their senior year. As such, students described getting much of their information regarding the college application process and what college life is like, from family members or mentors outside of school. The implications and significance of these findings are discussed.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Rodriguez, Victoria Christine
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education.
|Padilla, Amado M
|Padilla, Amado M
|Antonio, Anthony Lising, 1966-
|Pope, Denise Clark, 1966-
|Antonio, Anthony Lising, 1966-
|Pope, Denise Clark, 1966-
|Statement of responsibility
|Victoria Christine Rodriguez.
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
- © 2017 by Victoria Christine R Rodriguez
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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