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High schools that bridge the achievement gap

  • Author(s): Hargrove, Michael S.
  • et al.
Abstract

This study examines comprehensive high schools in California, focusing especially on those having the greatest academic success with large populations of students who are traditionally under-represented in higher education. It first gives a quantitative statewide overview of academic performance relative to school demographics. Using data collected by the state during the 2004-05 school year, the study identifies high schools with large African American, Hispanic, and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged populations that have the highest academic performance as measured by California's Academic Performance Index (API). It compares the practices of these higher achieving schools with schools of similar demographics that are less successful. The study focuses on several school-related factors that differentiate high performing schools with large under- represented populations from lower performing schools with similar demographics. The research follows a three-stage process. It first examines the statewide patterns of high school performance as measured by California's Academic Performance Index (API) particularly in relation to student groups that are traditionally under-represented in higher education. Secondly, the research identifies schools with large populations of African American, Hispanic, and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged students that have either very high or very low APIs, then statistically explores the differences between these schools on a variety of publicly available student achievement and staff characteristics data. Lastly, this quantitative data is integrated with survey responses from principals at a sample of the previously identified schools. The discrepancies between African American, Hispanic, and SED subgroup APIs on the one hand and Asian and White APIs on the other are profound and pervasive. However, the findings also indicate that the higher performing schools are more likely to press their students academically by encouraging them to take advanced courses and helping them to be admissible to college. Teacher experience and education are markedly lower at low performing schools. District-level support may also have substantial impact on students' academic success

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