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Title:High school principals’ influence in college and career readiness for students from historically underserved populations: practices that build upon capital within schools
Author(s):Gioiosa, Carmen
Director of Research:Hackmann, Donald G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Welton, Anjalé
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bragg, Debra; Sloat, Linda
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):High school
Leadership for social justice
College and career readiness
Historically underserved students
Abstract:The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate the practices of high school principals who have built a culture in their high schools focused on college and career readiness for all students, but in particular students from historically underserved backgrounds, and to identify and describe the characteristics that they shared (Stake, 2005, 2006). This study involved case study research methods, with two case study sites. I completed the investigation with a detailed, holistic case study report of two principals with data collected between October 2014 and May 2015 at two high schools located in the metropolitan area of a large Midwestern city. Data collection involved individual interviews of principals; focus group interviews with teachers, students, and parents/legal guardians; several observations of the principals in meetings or in their schools, and document review. The findings reveal that the high school principals engaged in a number of behaviors beginning with a personal, justice-oriented mindset that strives for equitable outcomes for all students through their leadership and advocacy in interpersonal and pedagogical relationships. For both principals, it was more than just striving for equitable outcomes—they laid a foundation and began carving a path that any student could take and end wherever her/his interests or passions resided. The flexibility of this path was mindfully and deliberately crafted by looking forward to the future, postsecondary, needs of students and mapping backwards to the first day of high school. The two justice-oriented high school principals undertook the task of carving a path for students by creating career pathway structures in their schools that build a culture focused on both college and careers, supporting teachers and faculty as they reinforced the career pathway structures in their classrooms, through internships or mentorships, and exposing students to college and career experiences and opportunities that contextualized the classroom and school experiences. A career pathway structure is not a model that silos students and teachers into choosing career preparation over college preparation but instead is a mutually inclusive approach of embedding career development into the academic curriculum. Both principals were mindful and deliberate in the programmatic structure of their career pathways or courses as to not isolate or pre-determine paths for students. All students were exposed to college and career experiences or opportunities in contextualized learning environments in and out of the classroom. The justice-oriented high school principals recognized student and family diversity as an integral and unifying factor in their schools and community and ensured that every willing student participated in all college and career experiences, even if obstacles or challenges may have existed. Diversity was a common thread in discussions with both principals and their teachers, parents, and students and wove many of the study’s findings together. Diversity was described by participants as rich, foundational, an asset, a unifying agent, and a perceived strength in the classrooms, in the hallways, and in the overall school community. At both schools, diversity was not regarded or celebrated as a theatrical production, but a common fiber that linked the daily occurrences or activities at both schools. Whether in the form of multilingual communications that were produced orally and in print, in the languages overheard in hallway conversations, or in the fundraising and community outreach of school faculty and staff, parents, and community partners, cultural, linguistic, and economic diversity was packaged into all shapes and sizes and the entire school community reaped its benefits.
Issue Date:2017-04-20
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Carmen Gioiosa
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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