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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Creating College Culture: A Systematic Approach to Attaining College-Knowledge at an Elementary School

  • Author(s): Garcia, Maribel
  • Advisor(s): Tucker, Eugene
  • Wilms, Wellford W.
  • et al.

This study documents the process for creating a college-knowledge curriculum in an urban elementary school. Research widely recognizes the disproportionate advantage white middle class students have over minority students of low socio-economic status when it comes to college access. Social capital amongst privileged students positions them to know the differences between different types of universities and colleges, understand the different admission requirements for colleges and universities, know the costs and resources available to them to help pay for college tuition, take the right classes in middle school and high school, understand the significance and nuances of tests leading up to college admission, and are aware of the skills needed to be successful in college.

The aim of the study was to explicitly teach students in 1st through 6th grade developmentally appropriate "college-knowledge." Working with a team of teachers in an urban elementary school, grade level appropriate objectives beginning in first grade were created with the intent of establishing a foundation for college-knowledge at the elementary level. This curriculum was designed to mitigate the lack of college-knowledge among students in a predominately minority and low-socio economic urban elementary school. The intent was to explicitly teach college-knowledge as a series of objectives from first through sixth grade, with an understanding that each grade level, through vertical articulation, would build on the concepts and knowledge every year the student advances through his or her elementary education.

The key findings indicate that students who are explicitly taught about college show gains in their understanding of college entry requirements (when using a pre- and post-assessment). In addition, teacher's awareness of college-knowledge also show gains (using pre- and post-data). These gains solidify the role that teacher play as social capital proxies of college-knowledge for students. Lastly, teacher interviews regarding their perceptions of this process show that they see the benefit of teaching college-knowledge to elementary students because it reinforces and contextualizes mastery of grade level standards, proficiency on state testing and reclassification for English Language Learners at the elementary level--all traits that lend to students' eventual attainment of college-knowledge and eventual acceptance at four-year institutions.

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