The Journal of General Education 52.3 (2003) 226-232
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Tierney and Hagedorn, both members of the University of Southern California's academic community, have assembled a highly accomplished group of educational scholars to examine college preparatory programs as a strategy for increasing college access for underrepresented students. The book's conceptual focus on social theory is especially enlightening as a cultural critique of the current and future relationships between underrepresented students, K-12 schools, and colleges. The authors argue that recent challenges to race-sensitive college admissions policies have thrust intervention programs into more significant roles that mediate the entrance of underachieving minority students into college (Altbach, Lomotey, & Rivers, 2002). As an exploration and critique of college preparatory programs, the book provides renewed opportunities for academics and practitioners to ponder more culturally sensitive ways to develop, implement, and evaluate these programs.
The edited volume has three broad subsections: "The Landscape of College Access," "The Real World of College Preparatory Programs," and "Suggestions and Policy for the Future." Watson Swail and Laura Perna's chapter 1, entitled "Pre-college Outreach Programs," provides a descriptive analysis of these programs across the country. Using data received from the National Survey of Outreach Programs (N = 1,110), several programmatic features are summarized, ranging from financial support to program evaluation. They report that programs are not always similar in structure, except for a heavy reliance on the director's enduring commitment. Although limited by the data, a trend analysis could have strengthened their findings. As a result, the study offers a national picture of pre-college programs ripe for closer exploration and critique. "The [End Page 226] Relationship between Urbanicity and Education Outcomes", chapter 2, written by Clifford Adelman, presents several Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression analyses of postsecondary matriculation behavior by 'degree of urbanicity' (p. 35). The analysis of urban, suburban, and rural population demographics (urbanicity) effectively challenges monolithic assumptions about the educational phenomena in those areas. As a result, Adelman concludes that educational anticipation (i.e. "a students' vision of his/her future education," p. 50) and academic preparation are the most consistent predictors of college matriculation behavior, not race. At the end of his chapter, however, Adelman takes special effort to note that postsecondary institutions will likely place 'bets' on students who have the best odds of success and, in most instances, when institutional control can influence student change. His skepticism, as a consequence, casts doubt over the book's last section where we are persuaded to believe that school-centered institutional change is possible through college-to-school partnerships. The final chapter in the first section, "A Theoretical and Practical View of Student Adjustment and Academic Achievement," written by Amaury Nora, argues two fundamental positions. First, Nora posits, in contrast to critiques of generalizability (Tierney, 1992), theoretical frameworks of college persistence such as social integration are applicable across students' racial/ethnic groups. He asserts that it is the methodological distinctions in directionality and strength that require divergent forms of processes, measurements, and outcome interpretations. Second, Nora argues for the inclusion of psychosocial factors in qualitative and quantitative assessments of program specific outcomes and systematic reform. Recommending the inclusion of psychosocial variables in analyses that examine students' educational pipeline is obviously the chapter's strength, though it requires that we become familiar with literature on achievement motivation (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Stipek, 2002).
Patricia Gándara begins section two with "Meeting Common Goals," an examination of effective school-to-college strategies for increasing underrepresented college graduates. Gándara reminds us that most intervention, access, and outreach programs are student-centered. They focus on individual talent development; this is unlike school-centered approaches, which redistribute structural inequities [End Page 227] across ecological levels such as, neighborhoods, schools, peers, and families. While considering the difficulties and lack of assessment in evaluating these programs, Gándara describes five core program...