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Academic Profiling

Academic Profiling: Latinos, Asian Americans, and the Achievement Gap

Gilda L. Ochoa
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Academic Profiling
    Book Description:

    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. InAcademic 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 Profilingfinds 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4012-0
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Academic Profiling at a Southern California High School
    (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 different—such as “punkers,” “skaters,” “jocks,” and “cheerleaders,” the school spaces and the groups who occupy them are often unequally valued. At Southern California High School (SCHS), these peer groups also vary by race/ethnicity—leading one student to describe the clusters as...


    • CHAPTER ONE Framing the “Gap”: Dominant Discourses of Achievement
      (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 “smart” and “stupid.” These constant distinctions were made between the two largest panethnic groups at the school—usually referred to by school officials and students as Asians and Hispanics. These two groups were cast in opposition to each other, and analyses of their academic performances were often rooted in supposed biological and cultural differences, as when administrator Joe Berk describes an emphasis among Latinas/os on...

    • CHAPTER TWO Welcome to High School: Tracking from Middle School to International Baccalaureate Programs
      (pp. 57-106)

      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 schools—La Montaña and Maple Grove—are stark. As detailed in this chapter, these reputations and unequally valued schools interact with the segregation structured in SCHS’s tracking system. This system sorts, divides, and treats students disparately, fueling their separation and the feeling of being different and unequal, which Rebecca Ramos critiques in the previous quote....


    • CHAPTER THREE “I’m Watching Your Group”: Regulating Students Unequally
      (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 drug-sniffing dogs scour it. Security and punishment are part of what has been called a discipline regime in public schools (Morris 2006; Kupchik 2010). These practices of social control are part of the movement from a welfare state to a penal state characterizing the neoliberal agenda (Fleury-Steiner 2008). Emerging in the context of “tough on crime” polices and fueled by a culture of fear and the demonizing of youth of color, schools are increasingly using prisonlike tactics, including...

    • CHAPTER FOUR “Parents Spend Half a Million on Tutoring”: Standardized Tests and Tutoring Gaps
      (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.

      Globally, tutoring is a multibillion-dollar enterprise, and tutoring franchises are increasingly popular for investors to open and to trade publically (King 2011). For example, with its 26,000 centers around the world, the fifty-year-old Japanese company Kumon reported over $800 million in annual sales in 2008 (Davidson 2008). In 2009, the Kaplan Review, one of the largest test preparation companies, earned...


    • CHAPTER FIVE “They Just Judge Us by Our Cover”: Students’ Everyday Experiences with Race
      (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 schools across the nation, it publically congratulated students who have been able to fulfill dominant expectations of schooling. In so doing, it reinforced the power-evasive discourses detailed in chapter 1 and the beliefs of individualism and meritocracy. The disparate resources influencing academic success were...

    • CHAPTER SIX “Breaking the Mind-Set”: Forms of Resistance and Change
      (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 in everyday and organizational forms of resistance to the very discourses and practices that shape schooling, relationships, and opportunities.

      Scholars have written about many forms of students’ resistance. Most have focused on what has been considered “self-defeating resistance,” where students may critique schooling, but they engage in...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Processes of Change: Cycles of Reflection, Dialogue, and Implementation
      (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, one not often provided to researchers. While the school principals who had influenced the research topic in 2001 and agreed to the study during the 2007–2008 academic year were no longer on campus, I was optimistic that some of...

  10. CONCLUSION: Possibilities and Pitfalls in Any School, U.S.A.
    (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 AFFIRMS (Achieving Fantastically through Individual Responsibility and Motivating Success) program that was designed to “close some of the achievement gap between the two main subgroups” at the school.¹

    A week later, I was back at...

  11. APPENDIX: Student Participants, Staffulty, and Parents
    (pp. 275-288)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 289-294)
    (pp. 295-308)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 309-315)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 316-316)