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Academic Profiling

Latinos, Asian Americans, and the Achievement Gap

Gilda L. Ochoa

Publication Year: 2013

Today the achievement gap is hotly debated among pundits, politicians, and educators. In particular this conversation often focuses on the two fastest-growing demographic groups in the United States: Asian Americans and Latinos. In Academic Profiling, Gilda L. Ochoa addresses this so-called gap by going directly to the source. At one California public high school where the controversy is lived every day, Ochoa turns to the students, teachers, and parents to learn about the very real disparities—in opportunity, status, treatment, and assumptions—that lead to more than just gaps in achievement.

In candid and at times heart-wrenching detail, the students tell stories of encouragement and neglect on their paths to graduation. Separated by unequal middle schools and curriculum tracking, they are divided by race, class, and gender. While those channeled into an International Baccalaureate Program boast about Socratic classes and stress-release sessions, students left out of such programs commonly describe uninspired teaching and inaccessible counseling. Students unequally labeled encounter differential policing and assumptions based on their abilities—disparities compounded by the growth in the private tutoring industry that favors the already economically privileged.

Despite the entrenched inequality in today’s schools, Academic Profiling finds hope in the many ways students and teachers are affirming identities, creating alternative spaces, and fostering critical consciousness. When Ochoa shares the results of her research with the high school, we see the new possibilities—and limits—of change.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvi

On a June afternoon while meeting with twenty seniors in a transitional English class, I asked them about their four years at Southern California High School (SCHS).1 At first, they joked about the school’s yearbook; complained about student “drama”; and moaned about homework, mean ...


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pp. xvii-xx

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Introduction: Academic Profiling at a Southern California High School

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pp. 1-18

In most large school campuses in the United States, it is hard not to notice various groups of students clustered together. As high school sophomores Hector, George, and Tomas confer, they gather in distinct parts of their campuses— under trees, on benches, in hallways, and behind buildings. While over time and across schools, these groups’ names might be...

PART I. Prevailing Ideologies and School Structures

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1 Framing the “Gap”: Dominant Discourses of Achievement

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pp. 21-56

While at Southern California High School (SCHS), I frequently heard about “high- performing students,” “low- performing students,” and the “gap”—determined largely by standardized tests and course placement. Students more commonly described themselves and their schoolmates as ...

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2 Welcome to High School: Tracking from Middle School to International Baccalaureate Programs

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pp. 57-106

It should not be so separated because it makes people feel different.By the time students begin Southern California High School (SCHS), many are aware of the racialized and classed reputations that mark the middle schools feeding into the high school and the students who will soon be their schoolmates. The images of the two neighborhood middle ...

PART II.School Practices and Family Resources

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3 “I’m Watching Your Group”: Regulating Students Unequally

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pp. 109-132

Senior Angelica Vega believes that SCHS feels “like a prison.” Rod iron gates enclose it, several security guards patrol it, and occasionally drugsniffi ng dogs scour it. Security and punishment are part of what has been called a discipline regime in public schools (Morris 2006; Kupchik 2010)....

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4 “Parents Spend Half a Million on Tutoring”: Standardized Tests and Tutoring Gaps

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pp. 133-160

Taiwanese immigrant Mei Chee is angered by what she observes as the reproduction of inequality within education. The inequalities detailed in the previous chapters are aggravated by the rapid growth of a tutoring industry that reverberates throughout families and schools....

PART III. Everyday Relationships and Forms of Resistance

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5 “They Just Judge Us by Our Cover”: Students’ Everyday Experiences with Race

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pp. 163-204

The opening of the school’s final rally of the year encapsulates the racialized climate permeating SCHS and shaping everyday experiences. Organized by a student group and attended by students and staffulty, this rally used music, dance, and the quoted storyline to announce awards such as Most Improved Students, Salutatorian, Valedictorian, and Club of the Year. Like...

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6 “Breaking the Mind- Set”: Forms of Resistance and Change

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pp. 205-240

The dominant discourses, institutional structures, and everyday practices detailed in the preceding chapters converge to reproduce the stereotypes that teacher Michelle Mesa critiques. In spite of the power of these stereotypes and the exclusionary practices that accompany them, not all at SCHS are passively accepting others’ dictates. Some students and teachers are engaged...

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7 Processes of Change: Cycles of Reflection, Dialogue, and Implementation

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pp. 241-266

After spending over a year at Southern California High School, I eagerly presented what I had learned to school administrators, counselors, teachers, and other staff in the fall of 2008. I appreciated the chance to share the work with many of the people who had welcomed students from the Claremont Colleges and me onto campus. This was a unique opportunity,...

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Conclusion: Possibilities and Pitfalls in Any School, U.S.A.

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pp. 267-274

As a new school year was beginning and I was preparing for my classes, I was surprised by an e- mail from one of the SCHS administrators. Months had passed since we had last spoken, so I eagerly clicked on the message. Along with thanking me for “the impact” I made at the school, the e- mail invited me to campus to learn about the newly implemented ...

Appendix: Student Participants, Staffulty, and Parents

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pp. 275-288


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pp. 289-294


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pp. 295-308


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pp. 309-315

About the Author

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p. 316-316

E-ISBN-13: 9781452940120
E-ISBN-10: 1452940126
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816687404

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013