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Adolescent Lives in Transition

How Social Class Influences the Adjustment to Middle School

Donna Marie San Antonio

Publication Year: 2004

Addressing the issues of educational equity and social class diversity, Donna Marie San Antonio documents the challenges adolescents face when making the transition from elementary school to middle school. The book explores the values, resources, and ways of interacting that students from diverse economic backgrounds bring from their families and communities, and how they are enabled or discouraged from integrating these assets in their new school environment.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix


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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xvi

When I began this inquiry I knew immediately that the thirty research participants whose wisdom fills these pages would be amazing teachers, but I did not know that they would continue to bless my life in wonderful ways. Their generosity, compassion, and insight carried me through this process ...

List of People

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pp. xvii

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Introduction: Social Class and Adjustment to School in Rural Places

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pp. 1-16

Christine,1 a perky seventh grader and research participant, is a perceptive and articulate observer of seventh grade life. In the eighteen months since we began meeting, Christine left her beloved elementary school teachers and transitioned to her new school, a regional middle school for grades seven and eight. ...

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Chapter 1. A Methodology for Research with Young Students

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pp. 17-46

It quickly became clear to me that if I wanted to compare experiences of social adjustment to middle school, I needed to understand the cultural contexts in which this adjustment was taking place. Clifford Geertz (1973) describes culture and the study of culture in this way: “. . . man is an animal suspended in webs of significance ...

Part I—The Towns

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pp. 49-52

Lakeview and Hillside1 are geographically beautiful small towns located in the northeast, surrounded by lakes and rolling hills. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they shared a similar social and economic development history. First farming and then manufacturing helped these communities to flourish. ...

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Chapter 2. Hillside—On the Way to Somewhere Else

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pp. 53-70

Hillside is a northern New England community of subtle beauty and ecological diversity. It encompasses an abundance of geographic gems—the gentle Hillside Mountains, deep pine forests, and dozens of ponds, lakes, bogs, and marshlands. Three rivers run through it, as well as three state highways. ...

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Chapter 3. Lakeview–Journey’s End

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pp. 71-86

The night after Hillside’s sixth grade promotion, I went to promotion night at Lakeview Elementary School. The difference is so remarkable, it is hard to imagine that the students are the same age and attending schools only twenty miles apart. I hurry toward the entrance with small groups of parents and ...

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pp. 87-92

These towns, one that is only known to outsiders as they are “on their way to somewhere else,” and the other, a popular tourist destination, each have abundant resources, rich histories, broad social networks, and involved citizens. But there are gaps of understanding in the ways both communities are perceived. ...

Part II—The School and its Teachers and Students

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pp. 95-112

Middle grades teachers must balance the varied concerns of parents, students, and taxpayers within the context of a broader political agenda that increasingly focuses on outputs, such as test scores, rather than inputs, such as class size. Middle grades schools, at their best, encourage children to build successful bonds ...

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Chapter 4. Mountainview Middle School

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pp. 113-122

Mountainview Regional School District (MRSD) was established in 1964 with the opening of a four-year high school located in Lakeview. Sixty-five miles from one end to the other, the school district serves six rural communities, each with a year-round population of between 500 and 5,000 residents. ...

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Chapter 5. Sixth Grade Hopes, Seventh Grade Discoveries

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pp. 123-134

The students in my study perceived the transition to Mountainview Middle School as a challenge and as an opportunity. The task before them seemed both scary and exciting, offering new experiences, friends, and teachers. Their answers to my questions when they were in the sixth grade indicated that they felt ...

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Chapter 6. A Transition for Parents and Teachers

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pp. 135-142

At the end of the 1999–2000 school year, I visited the middle school to see some of the research participants who were now nearly at the end of their seventh grade year. As I walked into the middle school, I saw several research participants, now experienced seventh graders, conducting orientation sessions with small groups ...

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Chapter 7. Classrooms, Teams, and Teaching Styles

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pp. 143-158

United States society views schools as the principal institution charged with the responsibility of socializing children and preparing them for the future (Dreeben, 1968; Parsons, 1959; Seeley et al., 1956). Parents entrust the school with preparing their children for life—intellectually, socially, and morally ...

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Chapter 8. How Students Shape Less-Structured Environments

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pp. 159-172

Perhaps the most important time to observe students’ peer interactions is during unstructured periods when students are together with less teacher supervision. The school bus, the halls during morning break, and the lunchroom quickly became important instructional venues for me. It is in these places and at ...

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pp. 173-176

Students do not necessarily lose ground when they transition to middle school, especially when their own resilient efforts are matched by a supportive, developmentally appropriate school environment (Eccles and Midgely, 1989; Carnegie Council on Early Adolescent Development, 1989; Dryfoos, 1990; Lipsitz, 1981). ...

Part III—The Emotional, Participatory, and Academic Realms of Students’ Lives

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pp. 179-180

When I began this study, I hypothesized that children from Hillside and Two Rivers would have a harder time during the transition. So far, my findings do not demonstrate more difficult transition for Hillside-Two Rivers children, even though they had to adjust to more dramatic changes: they got up earlier, ...

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Chapter 9. Peer, Home, and School Self-Esteem

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pp. 181-202

One wintry afternoon I met with Daria, Ethan, and Jeff after school to discuss my observations of that day. I was struck by Daria’s appearance: she had twenty or so braids in her auburn hair, held together with multicolored elastics and beads and silver safety pins. She wore several necklaces, bracelets, and rings, ...

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Chapter 10. Extracurricular Participation

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pp. 203-224

Students named a variety of reasons for valuing participation in activities and no one summed it up better than Will. In his answer to the question, “If you are active in sports or clubs, what is it about these activities that you enjoy?” he wrote, “The exercise, the fun, the thinking, the friend activities, the excitement, ...

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Chapter 11. Ability Grouping

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pp. 225-248

Perhaps no other school policy influences student experience more than how students are evaluated and grouped academically. Middle schools have typically embraced heterogeneous grouping but, in economically diverse school districts, heterogeneous grouping is criticized by some parents who worry ...

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Chapter 12. Success and Struggle in the Transition to Middle School

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pp. 249-260

Successful or unsuccessful adjustment over the transition from elementary to middle school was a result of interconnected dynamics in several arenas: community and family cultures and educational and social values; the environments and resources of sending and receiving schools; the social, cognitive, emotional, ...

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Chapter 13. Implications for Research, Policy, and Practice

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pp. 261-268

Giroux (1988) argued that schools are “cultural and political spheres actively engaged in the production and struggle for voice . . . Schools do not allow students from subordinate groups to authenticate their problems and lived experiences through their own individual and collective voices” (p. 206). Four research recommendations ...

Appendix 1. Comparisons of Educational and Economic Factors

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pp. 269-270

Appendix 2. Rubric for Defining Socioeconomic Status Categories

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pp. 271-272

Appendix 3. Recommendations of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development

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pp. 273-274

Appendix 4. Sample Student Questionnaire

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pp. 275-282

Appendix 5. Table of Self-Esteem Means

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pp. 283-286

Appendix 6. Student Participation Survey

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pp. 287-288

Appendix 7. Town and Gender Comparisons of California Achievement Test Scores

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pp. 289-292


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pp. 293-298


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pp. 299-312


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pp. 313-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485347
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791460351
Print-ISBN-10: 0791460355

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 3 maps, 5 tables, 7 figures
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Middle schools -- United States -- Sociological aspects -- Case studies.
  • Middle school students -- United States -- Social conditions -- 21st century -- Case studies.
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