paper2 - 2,614 words Ryan Devine 11/2005 Slipping Through...

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2,614 words Ryan Devine 11/2005 Slipping Through the Cracks: The unexplained disappearance of poor students from high school The sociological factors affecting academic achievement are as many and as varied as the ways of defining “academic achievement.” Often, those factors are inextricably intertwined, such that none may untangle them. Sometimes, they present themselves as an impassable jungle lying between a student and his or her goals, preventing him or her from achieving. Sometimes, those same outside influences are better represented as a sweeping, blue sky of opportunity. The indicator of academic achievement I intend to use as a working definition is graduation from high school. As such, a school’s rate of graduation can be used as a large-scale measure of its level of success at promoting academic achievement. The sociological influence I intend to examine is that of socioeconomic class, as defined by a combination of income, education level, and profession, so the question to be answered is “why do so many high- schoolers from ‘low’ class backgrounds fail to graduate?” Naturally, a high school student’s social class is in a state of uncertainty due to their frequent lack of income, education, or a profession, and as such I will assume a student’s class to be the same as that of their parents. This intuitive leap is supported by the idea of “cultural capital” presented by Annette Lareau in Unequal Childhoods (2003), a certain set of assumptions and implicit knowledge passed from parents to their children. Lareau found cultural capital to provide the same sense of entitlement and empowerment possessed by middle-class parents in their children. Inversely, working- class children felt unempowered and controlled by the system in the same way that their 1
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parents did. As such, it is acceptable to assume that a parent’s class will be representative of that of their children, and therefore the data which will most interest this investigation into the influence of students’ social class and which will be examined later on will concern their parents. Social class, being as it is connected intimately to income and profession and therefore the state of the national and even international economy, and to the educational institution itself, is a very important concept. As such, a great deal of writing has been devoted to this subject already, and over and over sociologists have found that poor and working-class students are much less likely to succeed academically than their middle- and owning-class counterparts. Dropout rates, however, are merely one indicator of academic achievement (or lack thereof), so it is helpful along the way to consider other measures. In “High School Segregation and Access to the University of California” (Martin,
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paper2 - 2,614 words Ryan Devine 11/2005 Slipping Through...

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