Organizing Schools and Classrooms to Engage Latina/o Youth in Academically Challenging Work

What accounts for the success of high schools that have positive academic outcomes for urban, low-income Latino students?

Research shows that youth from ethnic and linguistic minority communities are more engaged and achieve more success in school when teachers access home culture and language, provide opportunities for collaborative work, and explicitly teach skills to help students decipher and navigate the school system. Little is known, however, about how and to what extent specific classroom interactions support Latino students’ learning, and how elements of school organization (e.g., normative social structures, capital) shape teachers’ ability to implement these innovative practices. This three-year project includes case studies of three California high schools that have demonstrated some successful academic outcomes and serve predominantly urban, low-income Latino students. The investigators are examining the ways math and English teachers in these schools are using instructional activities meant to support Latino youth engagement in academically challenging work. The team is also exploring how schools’ normative social structures and physical, social, human, and cultural capital influence classroom interactions that affect learning. The investigators are observing classrooms, and school and department meetings; conducting focus groups with teachers, students, and parents; collecting samples of student work; administering school-wide surveys; and interviewing department chairs and school administrators.

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