Scholarship Girls Aren't the Only Chicanas Who Go to College: Former Chicana Continuation High School Students Disrupting the Educational Achievement Binary

Summer, 2010

Source: Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 80, Iss. 2; pg. 149-173. Summer 2010.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors re-conceptualize the way educational scholarship defines "high achieving." The authors claim that this definition should be expanded to include the personal qualities of students as they confront challenges and barriers along their educational trajectory. These obstacles include the possibility of being pushed out of a comprehensive high school and subsequently sent to a continuation high school, a remedial educational space not necessarily focused on preparing students for matriculation into institutions of higher learning.

The authors use critical race theory, Latina/o critical theory, and Chicana feminist epistemologies to address the following questions:
What are the educational experiences of Chicanas in continuation high schools?
How do these experiences affect their educational trajectories as they matriculate into higher education?

Data was collected through oral history interviews with the collaborators.


The participants were five self-identified Chicana women who attended a continuation high school in California. All of the participants were the first in their families to attend college, all self-identified as coming from working-class backgrounds, and three considered English their second language. All of the women had a history of student activism and received mentorship of some sort. One of the women was a parent, and all were employed while attending college.
Four of the participants had attained baccalaureate degrees and three had earned graduate degrees or were currently enrolled in graduate programs.

Conclusions and Implications

The narratives of these young women reveal that Chicanas in continuation high schools face various barriers in their pursuit of high levels of educational attainment. The authors argue that the inequities in academic preparation that originate in K-1 2 schooling institutions are exacerbated for Chicana students in continuation high school, where the focus of academic preparation is remedial and even more substandard than in the comprehensive schools.
The authors highlight the resistance strategies these young women employ through their critique of social oppression.

Based on the data from these interviews, the authors offer the following recommendations to help educators and policy makers prepare this growing number of students for postsecondary schooling:

1. Prioritize and strengthen a college-going culture in continuation high schools and programs to inform students of opportunities available to them in higher education.
2. Work toward transforming continuation programs that solely focus on remediation, including training and hiring teachers and other school staff who challenge deficit perceptions of continuation students. Create programs and provide resources that support and build on students' aspirations, including programs and services that encourage academic motivation and civic engagement.

Updated: Nov. 10, 2010


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