When you grow up under precarious conditions school is not particularly the place you want to be. Your “community of practice” lies elsewhere. Thriving there is rewarding. School’s standard curriculum has not much to offer. Recognition from your mates gives rewards that exceed far more success in passing a high stakes test. Under these circumstances schools have a difficult responsibility and challenging task to realize “communities of inquiry” in their mission not to loose or waste talent. Creating a college-going culture would be one of the first targets for schools to get students inside the building. A battle would be won when schooling would become attractive again to students coming from underprivileged areas. It is of great concern to schools to find the right response here. A definitely wrong response would be to lower expectations for students in an attempt to make sense to them. But then imagine a school that would stick to State exit exams. It would create hugh problems in (trying to) raising motivation of students. Schools are facing real dilemmas and often support programs fall short in finding the right balance between solutions offered and contexts present.
This is precisely the point made in a publication by the Project Muse which conducted a study on state accountability sanctions. Regulations were held against the prospects of creating a college going culture by schools. From the fine and detailed critical ethnographic study we learn that what schools do, for instance by the support and documentation they provide to students, really misses connection with what students need. State sanctions force schools to adhere to instructional approaches not at all adapted to students’ life perceptions. Hard pressures by state school officers to improve accountability ratings are putting schools in a position at the expense of creating an open entry for students coming from high poverty backgrounds (1) . The critical message from the study being that accountability standards can undermine school readiness.
An easy escape out of this dilemma is not available. Acknowledging the dilemma would already be a victory achieved. Connecting the high and low world: standards with needs; regulations with educational opportunities; state policy with local school activity; accountability measures with instructional process is where a possible answer lies (2) . That is; if we acknowledge that schools are the center spots were all students must be able to find time for education.
Walton, A. & Williams, M. Accountability, Strain,College Readiness Drain; sociopolitical tensions involved in maintaining a college-going culture in a high ‘minority’, high poverty Texas high school
The High School Journal, Volume 98, Number 2, Winter 2015, pp. 181-204