restricted access Accountability Strain, College Readiness Drain: Sociopolitical Tensions Involved in Maintaining a College-going Culture in a High “Minority”, High Poverty, Texas High School

Currently school reform discourse encourages states to adopt college readiness standards. Meanwhile, federal and state accountability and related mandated reforms remain a policy concern. As such, it is important to examine the interplay between accountability and the establishment of a college-going culture in high “minority”, high poverty high schools. This qualitative case study integrated critical ethnographic approaches to examine how a high “minority”, high poverty enrollment high school negotiated the politics of implementing a college-going culture in the midst of responding to state accountability sanctions. In-depth interviews with faculty and students as well as observations revealed that the state accountability sanctions were not the only stressors that conflicted with the establishment of a college-going culture. Multiple sociopolitical factors precipitated a negative academic climate as well. For instance, pressures to improve the high school’s poor accountability rating led to a school-wide instructional focus on the state exit exam, which interfered with the school’s college-going culture. Finally, while the school offered programs and supports that provided college information, this information was not disseminated in a systematic way that would reach all students.