Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: Three High Schools with Three Distinct Ideas about School Success

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pp. 1-14

Deshawn, a high school freshman, sits with me for an interview during his lunch break.1 It’s a Tuesday in January, but Deshawn is not at school. Instead, he is at his internship, where he works from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, busing tables, running the cash register, and learning the ropes of food service at a popular lunch café in a busy suburban shopping and business...

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1. Alternative High: Effort Explains School Success

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pp. 15-29

Alternative High is a small school. It is also a new school, opening just two years before I began my research in 2005. At the time I started my observations and interviews, the student body consisted of only freshman and sophomores, fewer than one hundred students in all. The school’s design and mission is based on a school reform effort that was launched on the East Coast, although...

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2. Fearing Failure at Alternative High

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pp. 30-44

Students at Alternative High are very concerned about avoiding failure. In this way they are different from students at the other two schools I studied. At Elite Charter High, the topic of failing a class rarely came up in my interviews; instead, students are focusing on how to reach the highest levels of school success. At Comprehensive High, where C grades are the minimum level...

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3. Comprehensive High: Effort Is Helpful, but Intelligence Limits School Success

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pp. 45-59

Comprehensive High’s campus covers a city block. The main entrance opens off a busy thoroughfare, and the school is sandwiched among large six- lane boulevards that feed miles of strip malls, restaurants, supermarkets, auto repair shops, and the like. Although Comprehensive High is considered a suburban school, the surrounding landscape does not have the quiet residential peacefulness...

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4. Separate Worlds, Separate Concerns: AP versus College- Prep Track at Comprehensive High

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pp. 60-74

Comprehensive High’s Academic Performance Index (API) score at the time of my research was slightly higher than 700 but nearly a hundred points below California’s goal of 800 for all its schools.1 By comparison, the state’s average API that year was 687, meaning that the school’s standing was a bit higher than average, although it remained well beneath the state goal. As I mentioned...

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5. Elite Charter High: Intelligence plus Initiative Bring School Success

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pp. 75-88

Elite Charter High is located in an upper-middle-class, largely white, residential neighborhood. Although it is a high-performing school with much to be proud of, it is not the star of its district. Another high school upstages it dramatically in terms of academic performance, placement of graduates in elite colleges, and state-of-the-art facilities. As one might expect, the district boundaries around...

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6. Competitive Classmates at Elite Charter High

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pp. 89-106

Many students at Elite Charter High believe that they can have a happy, balanced teenage life or straight As, but not both. They are under extreme pressure to achieve high academic success, and they worry that attaining straight As might require them to sacrifice their emotional and mental sanity. Jenny, whom we met in chapter 5, derides her schoolmates’ emotional investment in...

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7. Beyond Identity:Consequences of School Beliefs on Students’ Futures

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pp. 107-126

Beliefs about school success influence not only students’ success identities but their future in higher education, and a school’s cultural wisdom can boost or compromise students’ pursuit of higher education at elite institutions. In this regard, the advantage and disadvantage inherent in the beliefs about school success at Alternative High, Comprehensive High, and Elite Charter...

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Afterword

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pp. 127-130

The ideas that formed this project bgean long before I was an academic sociologist. Freshly out of college, I joined the Peace Corps to teach English in Latvia on the Baltic Sea. In a small town called Limbaži I set about trying to learn teaching norms in a Latvian high school. It was not easy. I was faced with an entirely new set of ideas about how to grade student work. My Latvian colleagues believed...

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Appendix A: Identity Theory and Inhabited Institutionalism

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pp. 131-136

Investigating student success identities offers a useful bridge between the work on identity done in social psychology and cultural sociology. As Tim Hallett, David Shulman, and Gary Alan Fine show, symbolic interactionism (one important strain of social psychology) lays a foundation for inhabited institutionalism’s focus on “the constitutive role of people in...

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Appendix B: Methodology

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pp. 137-140

During the 2005–6 school year, I conducted in-depth, one-on-one interviews with fifty-seven students, approximately nineteen at each school.1 The interviews ranged from about forty minutes to more than two hours long, but most lasted about an hour and a half. I recorded and transcribed each of them verbatim. My interview respondents were students in classrooms in which I...

Notes

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pp. 141-158

Bibliography

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pp. 159-168

Index, About the Author

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pp. 169-176