NEITHER LATINO NOR WHITE ENOUGH:
THE PHENOMENA OF MESO HISPANIC MESO AMERICAN SUCCESS
IN URBAN PUBLIC SECONDARY HIGH SCHOOLS
Paula Marie Gallegos
B.A., Metropolitan State College, 1989
M. Ed., University of Nevada Las Vegas, 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
Doctorate of Philosophy by Paula Marie Gallegos
All rights reserved.
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Paula M. Gallegos
has been approved
Gallegos, Paula, M. (Ph D Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Neither Latino nor White Enough: The Phenomena of Meso Hispanic Meso
American Success in Urban Public Secondary High Schools
Dissertation directed by Rodney Muth Ph D
Influences on academic success in high school that allowed students to matriculate
to college were studied among Hispanic American high school graduates. Students
were studied from two different settings: suburban public high schools and urban
public high schools. The Hispanic American students studied neither spoke Spanish
as a first language nor fluently. These students were then designated Meso Hispanic
Meso Americans because of characteristics that excluded them from being full
members of the Hispanic society or American society.
Data were gathered using semi-structured interviews and narrative story telling.
Findings suggest that district policies, school policies and daily bell schedule, and
low expectations inhibit academic success of Meso Hispanic Meso American high
school students. Conversely, student success was attributed to having at least one
strong parental influence, a strong teacher influence, and characteristics of
doggedness to continue in education to achieve a four-year college degree.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates dissertation. I
recommend its publication.
This book is dedicated to my family, friends, and students.
I dedicate this book to my father, Prudenso Samuel Gallegos, who never stopped
pushing education and for his example of passion and faith. And I dedicate this
book to my mother, Jane Gallegos, who held our family together, who gave her all
for her kids, and who served as a great role model of dedication and loyalty.
To my committee who spent countless hours reviewing my work to provide me
with feedback to improve my writing and thinking, who challenged my process,
and who challenged all my beliefs about education and learning. To my committee
who always looked out for me as a human being, would drop everything for me,
and who supported me through the hardest times.
To my friends who have always supported me.
And my students over the last ten years, who have watched over me, encouraged
me, and to whom I owe much happiness.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. HISPANIC AMERICANS AND PUBLIC EDUCAITON.........1
2. FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH SUCCESS;PARENTS, TEACHING
3. THEORETICAL, METHODOLOGICAL, AND CONCEPTUAL
4. PRESENTATION OF DATA..........................129
Urban Meso Hispanic Meso American Students
We Taught Ourselves......................131
5. SUBURBAN MESO HISPANIC MESO AMERICAN
6. MESO HISPANIC MESO AMERICAN STUDENTS
Composite Structural Description.............250
7. OUTCEOMS AND IMPLICATIONS.....................275
A. CONSENT FORM..................................340
B. PHONE SCREEENING SCRIPT.......................344
C. IN-CLASS MEETING SCRIPT
D. RECRUITMENT HANDOUT..........................348
LIST OF FIGURES
3.1 EDUCATIONAL SUCCESS LENS
LIST OF TABLES
1.1 National High School Statistics 2003...............................18
1.2 Colorado High School Graduation Rates by Year.......................19
1.3 Colorado Dropout Rates 2006, 2008...................................20
1.4 Colorado ACT Scores by Year.........................................25
1.5 Colorado Advance Placement Testing Population 2000..................26
6.1 Colorado Hispanic Dropout Rates....................................256
7.1 Education Staff Data for Colorado..................................306
HISPANIC AMERICANS AND PUBLIC EDUCATION
When one has no stake in the way things are, when ones needs or opinions
are provided no forum, when one sees oneself as the object of unilateral
actions, it takes no particular wisdom to suggest that one would rather be
elsewhere. (Sarason, 1990, p.83)
Meso is a concept and construct used in many academic disciplines such as
geography, history, and literature, to describe the middle. Geographically, Meso
refers to Middle America as the land between South America and Mexico. The term
Meso American has been used in academic disciplines to describe the people who
are indigenous to the land between Central America and the northern territories
now known as the southwest United StatesCalifornia, Arizona, New Mexico,
southern Colorado, Texas, and Mexico, and to describe the cultural groups of
people now labeled as Hispanic, Chicano, Mexican, and Latino. Historical
literature also refers to Mesos as people between, in the middle.
Many Mexicans and Spaniards became Meso Americans with the signing of
the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Historiography is used here to narrate
the story of the treaty briefly. Historiography, which is explained with greater detail
in Chapter 3, is an analysis and reporting method that will be used throughout this
study to narrate and recount history or what has come to be known as accepted
history, counter stories, and stories of participants and the researcher.
Historiography, in part, is the study of historical writing. Historiography is
practiced through the critiquing of historical documents and narratives and those
who wrote them employing critical examination of narratives to uncover erasure, to
tell alternative interpretations, and to critique current narratives for structures that
oppress and silence specific groups of people for the benefit of others.
There are varying accounts of how the treaty was agreed to and how it took
place, but here are a few facts that appear consistently throughout most accounts
most of which came to light 50 years after through the examination of Polks and
other key officials journals and mail. The story of the Treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo started when Texas had become part of the US through the Louisiana
Purchase. In 1819 Texas was ceded to Spain as part of the negotiations for Florida.
In 1821 Mexico and Texas became independent from Spain. After two failed
attempts to purchase Texas from Mexico, Texas was annexed (Treaty with Mexico,
n.d.). War ensued over land and borders between the US and Mexico after the US
unsuccessfully tried to take over Texas. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was
initiated to end the US and Mexican War by President Polk.
Because Mexicos President Herrera did not accept President Polks
proposal to fix U.S. borders at the Rio Grande, the U.S. Army attacked and
conquered Vera Cruz to force Mexico into a treaty. Eventually the army worked its
way north to attack and control Mexico City, the capitol. After taking the capitol,
U.S. General Scott defeated Mexican President Antonio Loped de Santa Anna and
the Mexican army. Soon after, Santa Ana resigned as president and negotiations
fell apart. Polk resigned himself to annexing all of Mexico because he could not
negotiate a border treaty even though the U.S. Army controlled the capitol. Even
though Polk chose to annex Mexico, Trist, Polks initial negotiation representative,
stayed in Mexico and continued to carry out Polks original orders and negotiated
the treaty as Polk originally desired even though he no longer possessed
governmental powers to do so (Hispanic Reading Room, 2005; Reeves, 1905;
Teaching with Documents: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, n. d.).
It took Trist and three Mexican commissioners only two months to
negotiate the terms of the treaty. The two months were not spent negotiating
boarders, but rather negotiating terms for the inhabitants of ceded territories. In the
final ratification of the treaty, Article VIII dealt with the inhabitants of the ceded
land which outlines that those inhabitants must decide within one years time to
stay on the land and become U.S. citizens or stay in the territory and remain
Mexican citizens, or move to Mexican Republic land and remain Mexican citizens.
They were also allowed to leave the land and take all possession without taxation
or charge. The last paragraph of Article VIII, 57 words, guaranteed that land and
property contracts will be inviolably respected for the owners and their heirs,
regardless of Mexican or U.S. citizenship.
Although the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was known as the treaty of peace,
friendship, limits, and settlement, it did not live up to the title. It only took two
drafts and approximately nine months to negotiate and ratify a settlement from both
the US and Mexican governments. The two major aspects of the treaty included
setting the U.S. border at the Rio Grande River, and providing rights and protection
for Mexican nationals who would be living on ceded U.S. land. These people lived
on much of the northern Mexico territory: California, New Mexico, Arizona, and
southern Colorado. Those living on newly acquired U.S. landMexicans, Spanish,
Mestizos, and Creolloswere told that the US would honor their Spanish land
grants if they became U.S. citizens. Approximately 80,000 Mexican citizens lived
on the ceded lands, and all but approximately 4, 000 became U.S. citizens (The
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, n.d.).
Article X, which was stricken by the U.S. Senate, further guaranteed the
rights of landowners and transferred rights and power over land and real property
from Mexico to the US (Treaty with Mexico, n.d.). But with the endorsement of
greedy bankers and politicians, Polk took away land. By the turn of the century,
most Mexican nationals had lost their lands. In California 27% of Mexican national
and new U.S. citizen land grant claims were rejected, and in New Mexico 76% of
their claims were rejected (The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, n.d.). Additionally,
Mexicans in Texas were not allowed to vote and Greaser Laws in California
violated other civil rights of new citizens (The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, n.d.).
Forced to leave their land, these new citizens had nowhere to go, no wealth to
relocate back to Mexico or Spain, so they stayed in the USMesoU.S. citizens
without homes, land, work, rights or wealth from either country.
As mentioned previously, Meso Americans had their land grants, homeland
citizenship, and rights erased with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The act of
erasing, dissolving, taking away and denying is erasure. Erasure has also been
expressed as the wiping out of indigenous people and others (Kaomea, 2003).
Erasure is a special feature of Meso Americans and other colonized peoples. For
Meso Americans today, erasure extends far beyond the effects of the treaty to
include the erasure of civil rights, social justice, and native language. As adapted
from social studies theory and basic English root definitions, I define and describe
Meso American children of the United States as those of Spanish or Mexican
descent who are U.S. citizens like their parents and grandparents. I expand and
further this concept of Meso American to Meso Hispanic Meso American because
unlike their grandparents, they do not speak Spanishfluently or as a first
languagebecause their native language has been erased within the last two
In addition to being between languages, not fluent in English or Spanish,
Meso Hispanic Meso Americans are between social groups: Whites1 and Spanish-
speaking Mexicans and Hispanics, between citizens and immigrants, and are
ostracized by both sides.
And although some might argue that the Spanish language had been lost
through interracial breeding, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, or through
assimilation, examination of history shows as evident by the presence of the
Spanish language in the WWII generation of Hispanics that language was not lost
but erased. The erasure of Spanish was an intentional act by schools, public and
private, to punish children for not speaking English. Although I have not collected
data on a large scale, or reported it officially, through formal and informal
interviews most Meso Hispanic Meso Americans have an oral tradition of how
parents and grandparents were beaten for speaking Spanish in school and their
names changed to English to erase all aspects of the Spanish language.
Additionally, Chicanos and Hispanics under the age of 60, the tail end of the baby-
boomers, are the first full generation in which most do not speak Spanish. As
reported by family, friends, and study participant stories, this loss of language can
be attributed to the surge in assimilation after World War II, due to patriotism and
1 The term White is used throughout this study to describe the majority
group, also called Caucasian, per the construction of race according to Ian Haney
the corporal punishment experienced by their ancestors in the first half of the 20th
Meso also took on additional meaning in the 1960s as expressed through the
nonfiction literature about Chicanos in Jose Burciagas (1993) collection of
Chicano stories Drink Cultura: Chicanismo. Writing about the importance of and
changes in his generation and culture, Burciaga used the term Meso Americans,
and defines it as ChicanosUnited States bom citizens of Mexican ancestry. He
defines Chicanos as people in the middle, center, or Meso. They are people who are
between vastly different countries, cultures, languages, and beliefs-American
versus Mexican or Spanish. And even though Americans and Mexicans generally
condemn Chicanos, who try to identify as both American and Mexican or Spanish,
The Chicano loves being allAmerican, Mexican, Spanish, and other2
(Burciaga, 1993, pp. 62-66). Not only do they find themselves between cultures,
but also between America and their parents, and between assimilation and tradition.
This also puts the Meso Hispanic Meso American at difference with other Spanish-
speaking immigrants because of their own set of social injustices and differential
2 Other is used to refer to Chicanos that are a mix of cultures, assimilated,
different and undefined by traditional standards. Other can also refer to a hybrid
culture, a third space that is a combination of American, Spanish, and Mexican.
Even though 21st century Meso Hispanic Meso Americans did not directly
experience the oppression of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, social reproduction
theory explains that generations later still feel the effects of oppression. Social
reproduction is the passing of learned behaviors from one generation to the next.
Social reproduction theory acknowledges that governmental agencies and
institutions like public education can provide upward mobility and equal
opportunity for the oppressed, yet they perpetuate inequities of society and the
stratification of the labor force (Kaomea, 2003). In this perpetuation, the oppressed
minorities react to the system and take on characteristics of fear, resentment,
confusion, second-class mannerisms and routines, and destructive habits which are
passed on from generation to generation as seen with African Americans and
Native Hawaiians. The Meso Hispanic Meso Americans, similar to African
Americans and Native Hawaiians, then begin to oppress themselves, as well as
continue to be oppressed by the societal system through micro-aggressions,
prescription, and acts of racism embedded in society (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001;
Kaomea, 2003; Ogbu, 1978, 1987, 1990; Ogbu & Simons, 1998).
Social reproduction then can manifest into an oppressed identity. Ogbu
(1987) showed that African American children who did not have a pre-developed
identity before assimilating into a new culture tended to have lower levels of
identity. Applying Ogbus theory, it could be said that Meso Hispanic Meso
American children are not between languages, but have totally lost one language,
(Spanish) and because of that loss have also foregone a considerable amount of
identity. The loss of identity, the loss of land in the treaty, the loss of Mexican or
Spanish citizenship, and the loss of culture also categorizes this specific group of
Hispanic people as involuntary minorities (Ogbu, 1987).
Again, historiography is the study of historical writings (The Oxford
Dictionary of Difficult Words, 2004; White, 1986) and historicism is the theory that
social and cultural phenomena are determined by history. In challenging history,
historicism challenges the concept and value of knowledge in society as
representation of a few that oppresses other (Johnson, 1995; Payne, 1996; The
Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words, 2004). The data represented here is presented
with the perspective that this information is limited and controlled and that the
retelling of educational history here is through a limited lens, but all the same is a
starting point for discussion.
A Statistical History of Public Education
Although limiting and reductionist in nature, much can be understood
through statistics. What follows is a brief overview of the statistical narratives on
Hispanics and of public education in the United States.
Hispanic is a term that originated with the Romans to refer to people of the
Iberian Peninsula who spoke Spanish. In the United States, the definition, more
recently, refers to any people having origins in Spanish speaking countries (The
Free Dictionary, n.d.; Oxford Online Dictionary, n.d.). The term Hispanic is used
today to include Latinos/as (those with origins in South America), Chicanos/as
(U.S. citizens of Mexican descent), Mexicans (descendants of Mexico), Cubans,
Puerto Ricans, Mestizos (those of mixed race: Mexican mixed with Spanish
colonizers) and any other group of people from Spanish speaking countries (The
Free Dictionary, n.d.; Oxford Online Dictionary, n.d.).
The ethnic category of Hispanic as constructed by the U.S. Department of
Census includes anyone self-identified as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican
Republican, Central or South American, Mexican or Mexican American, Chicano,
Hispanic, Hispano, Spanish, Spanish American, Spanish speaking, or Latino. For
the census conducted in 2000 (U.S. Census, 2000), the majority of Hispanics
identified themselves as Mexican 58.5%, followed by Hispanic 17.3%, Puerto
Rican 9.6%, Central American 4.8%, South American 3.8%, Cuban 3.5%,
Dominican 2.2% and Spaniard 0.3%.
According to the U.S. Census 2000, 281.4 million people reside in the US
and 35.3 million, 13%, self-identified as Hispanic. The U.S. Census reported an
overall 13.2 % population growth between 1990 and 2000, whereas the Hispanic
population increased 57.9%; a subgroup of Hispanics, the Mexican population,
increased 52.9%. Mexicans are defined as from Mexico, bom in Mexico or in the
US, and can be U.S. citizens, legal immigrants, or illegal immigrants.
The U.S. Census (2000) also reported that 43.5% of Hispanics live in the
West and 80.3% of that population live in metropolitan areas. From 1990 to 2000,
the population of all people living in metropolitan areas increased 14% whereas
rural area populations only increased 10%.
The average high school in America has 741 studentsranging from 493 to
1145 students), has on average 32% free and reduced price lunch eligibility, and are
in different parts of the city (Fry, 2005). Only 10% of Americas high schools have
88% minority enrollment. Half of all Hispanic students in America are in public
schools in California and Texas. More than half of the Hispanic students in
America attend high schools that are very large, having more than 1,800 students,
that have greater than 67% free and reduced price lunch eligibility, and that are in
the central cities; these patterns are mostly attributed to residential patterns. Thirty-
nine percent of high schools Hispanics attend are Title I eligible. Half of all
Hispanic students attend a school in a central city.
Lee and Burkam (2003) found that in urban and suburban high schools
students who attended medium size high schools, fewer than 1,500 students,
dropped out less. Schools with fewer than 600 students or more than 900 learn less,
and those students who attend schools with more than 2,100 students learn
considerably less (Lee & Smith, 1997). Although larger schools have been shown
to provide much more differentiation in curriculum, variety has been linked to
negative effects on academic achievement (Lee & Bryk, 1989).
Larger schools in general have fewer instructional resources causing a
higher teacher to student ratio than schools that whites and African Americans
attend (Fry, 2005). Fifty-six percent of Flispanics attend large high schools.
Teacher student ratios of big schools are greater than 22 to 1 as compared to
smaller schools that have ratios of 16 to l(Fry, 2005). Schools in urban areas that
have higher student to teacher ratios have higher dropout rates, and neither minority
nor ethnic concentration was associated with dropout rates (Rumberger & Thomas,
The National Center for Educational Statistics (Llagas & Snyder 2003)
through examining trends for Hispanic secondary students suggest that smaller
schools foster academic success especially for economically disadvantaged students
(Llagas & Snyder, 2003). Analysis of statistics for these Hispanic students found
that those attending large schools learned less and were more likely to drop out.
Part of the issue is that most Whites and African Americans are distributed
throughout the United States and can attend a smaller school, whereas Hispanics
are concentrated80% of Hispanics live in seven states: California, Texas, Florida,
New York, Arizona, Illinois, and New Jersey, so they are geographically located
where large schools exist (Fry, 2005; U.S. Census, 2000).
Colorado is one of eight states in which the percentage of the Hispanic
population is larger than the national percentage of Hispanic population and is one
of five states in which Mexicans are the largest Hispanic subgroup (U. S. Census,
2000). Colorados Hispanic population grew from 12.9% in 1990 to 17.1% in 2000.
Of that growth 25.6% were under the age 18 or school age (U.S. Census Bureau
State and County QuickFacts, 2004). Additionally, the Hispanic population was
reported as having grown 8.4% from 2000 to 2005 (U.S. Census Bureau State and
County QuickFacts Colorado Facts, 2005).
It has also been reported that Colorados Hispanic population increased
10.5% from 2000 to 2006 and 24.6% of Hispanics are under the age of 18. The
median income reported for Hispanics in Colorado for 2004 was $50,105 with
10.2% of Hispanics reporting an income below the poverty level as opposed to
12.7% nationally (U.S. Census Bureau State and County QuickFacts, 2004).
Eighty-six percent of Colorado adults 25 and older graduated from high
school as compared to 80.4% nationally and 32.7% of adults 25 years and older had
earned a bachelors degree or higher (U.S. Census Bureau State and County
QuickFacts Colorado Facts, 2005).
Public Education in Colorado
Colorado ranks number one among the fifty states in percentage of adults
with a bachelors degree (34.6%), the third lowest of the fifty states for 16-19 year
olds who are not enrolled in a high school and are not high school graduates (13%),
and twenty-seventh out of the fifty states for continual matriculation of high school
graduates to any college (39%) (U.S. Census, 2000).
Local educational statistics show that Hispanic students comprise 14% of
the population of Colorados K-12 public schools. The Western Interstate
Commission on Higher Education projects that by 2015 Hispanic students in
Colorados public K-12 schools will rise to be 36% of the overall population
(Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2005). As of January 2009, Hispanic
students comprised 27.1% of the total K-12 population in Colorado (U.S.
Department of Education, 2009) and 27.9% of Denver County ls student
population, up from 19.3% in 1997 (Colorado Department of Education, 2000-
2009). Another identified factor of the achievement gap is the mis-assignment of
teachers. Mis-assigned teachers are those who do not have a major or a minor in the
subject that they teach (Haycock, 2004). According to Haycock (2004), Colorado
schools with the most poor and minority students have more mis-assigned teachers
than the national average or than low poor and low minority schools. Colorados
high-minority schools have 34% mis-assigned teachers as compared to 21%
nationally, and Colorados high-poverty schools have 35% mis-assigned teachers
as compared to 20% nationally.
Additionally, it is important to acknowledge that within the context of these
issues is a lack of educational funding. Funding, or the lack of, impacts the quality
of education for minorities (Haycock, 2004; Ogbu, 1990; Ogbu & Simons, 1998).
Colorado school districts with the highest percentage of children in poverty spent
$580 fewer dollars per student than other Colorado districts. Districts with the most
minority students spent $550 fewer dollars per student than other Colorado districts
with fewer minorities (Haycock, 2004). These gaps in educational spending can
add up to a difference of $40 million in educational funding for Colorados districts
with the most minority students and students in poverty.
Further, Colorado spends $680 less per student annually in districts with the
most Hispanic and African American students than those Colorado districts with
the fewest (Haycock, 2004). Overall, Colorado allocated approximately $3,600 per
student for the 2009 2010 school year. Although the amount allocated per student
for educational funding seems adequate, in comparison to the $24,167 dollars
Colorado spends to maintain one individual in prison annually, and as compared to
the annual cost of Colorado college tuition and room and board of $7,763,
Colorado could double the money per student for public education and pay for one
full year of college for all1 secondary students and still only spend half the amount
of money it takes to keep someone in jail.
Denver County 1/Denver Public Schools (DPS) is the second largest school
district in the metropolitan area and the state. In 2008 DPS also reported that
66.5% of their students qualified for the free or reduced price lunch program. DPS
has the largest Hispanic population in the state and is struggling to help Hispanic
students succeed. In this district, Hispanics constitute 41,176 students or
approximately 55% of the total district population as reported by Colorado
Department of Education (CDE) in 2008. Of this group 19,879, approximately
26.5%, are reported as English Language Learners (ELLs). This ELL number not
only includes Spanish speakers, but also Russian, Vietnamese, and several other
languages. What can be projected from these numbers is that at the very least
21,297, or 52% of the Hispanic population in this district, are either Hispanic
students who do not speak English or are students who have transitioned out of an
ELL program, which means that the other 48% of Hispanic students are not English
Hispanics in DPS graduate at 51.98%, achieve an average composite score
of 16.3 of 32 on the ACT, and 33.23% of 10th-grade Hispanics and 30.5% of ninth-
grade Hispanics tested proficient in reading (Colorado Department of Education,
Background on the Education Gap
With Hispanic populations on the rise, the fact that 48% of current Hispanic
students underperform academically in public schools, as shown by dropout and
graduation rates, is of great concern. While many causes for this academic
underperformance are articulated in government reports, school district reports, and
independent research and point to a wide variety of factors such as Socio Economic
Status (SES) to curriculum, addressing all issues would be a daunting task. Because
of the breadth of factors, this study focuses on only very specific factors that are
fundamental in academic success. Causes addressed here focus on social inequities
that specifically relate to Hispanic student underachievement in high school and
One indicator of a secondary education achievement gap is that Hispanics
graduate from high school at a much lower rate than Whites (see Tables 1 and 2).
The dropout rate for Hispanics is high and enrollment in college-prep courses while
in high school is low (see Tables 2 and 3). Hispanics are underrepresented in
college prerequisite courses offered in high school as compared to Whites (see
Table 1). Lack of access to rigor is a cause for failure (Haycock, 2004; Ogbu &
Simons, 1998; Peng, Wang, & Walberg, 1992). Additionally, minority students
who feel like they do not belong at their high schools tend to drop out at a greater
and faster rate than those who feel they are a part of their school. Additionally,
school non-responsiveness is significantly linked to leaving school while dropping
out is also linked to low SES, lower academic achievement, and lower levels of
engagement at school (Catterall, 1998). As the following tables (see Tables 1, 2,
and 3) further emphasize, there are gaps between Hispanics and Whites in
educational attainment, achievement, and performance.
National High School Performance Statistics 2003
Statistical description Hispanic White
Graduation rates 52.0% 72.0%
Enrollment in algebra courses while in high school 44.0% 62.5%
Enrollment in chemistry courses while in high school 45.0% 63.0%
Note. Haycock, 2004
Furthermore, Hispanic high school students drop out of school at the same
rates regardless of generation in the Unites States (Fry, 2003). Fry asserts that third
generation Hispanic students are significantly less likely to finish college. It would
seem that third generation Hispanic students would fare better in school because
their parents are U.S. citizens, graduated high school, have better SES status
because of a high school diploma, and are role models for their children, but this
parental advantage does not produce better performance in their childrenthe third
generation. Actually, third generation Hispanic students graduate on time at the
same rate as first and second generation Hispanic students and at a much lower rate
than White students (Fry, 2003).
The National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988data revealed that
86% of Hispanics graduate high school by the age of 26 and according to census
data, 80% of native bom Hispanics finish high school or a GED between the ages
of 25 and 29 (Swail, Cabrera, & Lee, 2004; Vemez & Mizell, 2002).
Colorado High School Graduation Rates by Year
Year All Colorado Hispanic White
1998 80.1 63.4 84.7
1999 79.9 64.0 84.3
2000 80.9 65.0 85.3
2001 80.5 64.3 85.3
2002 81.8 65.5 86.4
2003 83.6 69.6 87.5
2004 82.5 69.0 86.6
2005 80.1 63.7 85.5
2006 74.1 56.7 80.8
2007 75.0 57.1 82.1
Note. Colorado Department of Education, 2000-2009.
For every 100 White kindergartners, 93 will graduate high school, 65 will
complete some college, and 33 will earn a bachelors degree or higher (Education
Trust, 2004). For every 100 Hispanic kindergarteners, 63 will graduate high school,
32 will complete some college, and 11 will earn a bachelors degree or higher
(Education Trust, 2004).
Colorado Dropout Rates (in percents), Denver Metro Area Districts
County District Hispanic White Hispanic White
Adams Adams 12 7.8 5.1 6.6 3.5
Adams 14 15.2 7.6 9.7 8.3
Mapleton 10.9 10.5 5.4 5.2
Westminster 50 6.5 5.6 4.0 4.5
Arapahoe Englewood 1 14.3 9.3 16.7 9.7
Sheridan 2 4.2 2.4 4.6 6.8
Cherry Creek 5 4.1 1.4 6.2 2.2
Littleton 6 4.7 1.2 3.1 0.6
Denver Denver 1 12.5 8.3 8.3 5.3
Jefferson Jefferson R-l 5.5 2.6 6.3 2.4
Pueblo Pueblo City 60 6.8 3.6 5.4 3.7
Note. Colorado Department of Education 2000-2009.
The achievement gap between Hispanics and Whites in Colorado is larger
than in 38 other states and has not decreased in any significant way since 1995.
Best estimates from various national data sources suggest that Hispanics and other
minorities are two to three grade levels behind Whites in academic grade-level
performance. Poverty is the most attributable factor for the achievement gap in
Colorado (The Achievement Gap: Colorados Biggest (Educational) Problem,
The Colorado pipeline tracked students from the 1990s and found that
Whites were 67% of the population in K-12 education, 69% of the population in
two year colleges after high school graduation, and 72% of the population in
Colorado universities two or more years after high school graduation (The
Education Trust, 2004). In the same timeframe, Hispanics were 23% of the public
education population of Colorado, 15% in two year colleges, and 8% in four year
Colorado universities (The Education Trust, 2004).
Hispanic students are the largest group matriculating to college behind
Whites (Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2005). At two year
institutions, Hispanics are one-fourth the number of Whites and five times the
number of African Americans. At four year institutions, Hispanics are one-seventh
the number of Whites and twice the number African American students (Colorado
Commission on Higher Education, 2005). College readiness rates for the class of
2004 report that 24% of Colorado high school seniors prepared for college by
taking college biology, 35% took college algebra, and 62% for college English
(Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2005).
In 1998, 38.8% of all 19 year olds were enrolled in an institution of higher
education (The Education Trust, 2001). In the same year, Hispanics were 12.9% of
high school graduates as compared to 16.6% of the eighth grade population four
years earlier. Additionally in 1997, 6.5% of bachelor degrees awarded went to
Hispanics; four years earlier, Hispanics were 11.3% of the incoming freshman
class. As the percentages indicate, the Hispanic student population drops drastically
from the eighth grade year to attaining a bachelors degree (The Education Trust,
Remediation rates are higher for students who come from families who
have an annual income of over $25,000 a year to $75,000 a year. Remediation rates
are lowest for those students whose families made less than $25,000 dollars
annually. One-half to one-third of those needing remediation in college come from
families making over $25,000 dollars annually (Colorado Commission on Higher
Of the thirty high schools having the highest remediation rates, six were in
Denver County l(DPS) and five were in Jefferson County 1, the two largest school
districts in the state (Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2005).
Conversely, Jefferson County 1 had four high schools with the lowest remediation
rates in the state, whereas none of Denver County 1 high schools had low
Because remedial courses are reimbursed by the state, and because they do
not count as credit towards a college degree, students who begin their college
career in remediation are less likely to earn a college degree (Colorado Commission
on Higher Education, 2005). Students requiring remediation upon matriculating to
college graduate at a lower rate (30% to 57%) than those who do not require
remediation (Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2005). In examining the
scores by school district and specific high schools in the state, those schools that
suffer the highest remediation rates (72.41%) to the lowest (1.39%) (Colorado
Commission on Higher Education, 2005) are all in urban areas, within 10 miles of
each other. Remedial instruction was higher at four-year institutions than two-year
institutions. More minorities, other than Asian Americans, were assigned to
remediation than Whites. At the four-year institutions, Hispanics, African
Americans, and American Indians were assigned to remediation at a rate of two to
three times that of Whites, Asian Americans and Pacific Islander students
(Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2005).
Even though 57.17% of Hispanics graduate high school, 35% of these
Hispanic students attend Colorado colleges and universities having to retake high
school level core curriculum. In 2005 the Colorado Commission on Higher
Education (CCHE) reported that a large problem facing Hispanic Colorado high
school graduates entering colleges in Colorado is remediation. Among Hispanic
Colorado high school graduates who entered a two-year community college
Remediation and readiness rates are calculated based on Colorado public
high school students who matriculate to Colorado public colleges and universities
program, 62.96% required remediation in at least one content area. Almost 35% of
Hispanic students who graduated from a Colorado high school and entered a four-
year institution required remediation in at least one content area. In the same
timeframe, only 14.43% of White students needed remediation in one to two
content areas (Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2005).
Adelman (2006) posits that no one variable can predict college readiness
and success better than intensity and quality of academic preparationrigor. The
problem of remediation is blamed on not enough rigorous and core curriculum
classes in high school (Adelman, 2006).
Some Colorado institutions of higher education use ACT college entrance
exam test scores to assign incoming college students to remediation. Cut scores for
math and writing are 19 and 18 respectively as reported by several college and
university websites. As indicated by scores reported in Table 4, the majority of
graduating Hispanics in 2003 and later would require remediation.
Colorado ACT Scores by Year
Year Average Composite Score Hispanics Chicano and Mexican American White
1997- 1999 21.0
2000a 21.0 18.8 22.0
2002 20.8 18.8 18.2b 21.7
2003 20.1 17.0 21.2
2004 20.3 17.1 21.4
2005 20.2 17.0 21.5
2006 20.3 17.3 21.7
2007 20.4 17.2 21.8
2008c 20.5 17.2 21.9
2009 20.8 17.6 22.2
Note. ACT 2002-2009; Colorado Department of Education, 2000-2009.
a ACT scores previous to the 2001 legislation mandating ACT testing for all high
school juniors were scores of individuals who were college bound only; the test
population was approximately 30% of graduating seniors.
b The second score was disaggregated data specifically labeled Chicano and
Mexican American versus Hispanic.
c ACT scores reported for all years are only for those students who graduated as of
August in the reporting year. Some scores are those taken in 11th grade only and
some scores are those who retook the test in 12th grade.
Colorado initiated legislation in 2003 that by 2008 high school graduates
would be required to take a regimen of courses that would better prepare them for
college. By 2010, requirements would increase from core curriculum to include two
years of world language and increases in math and science. Legislation was
designed to decrease the number of students needing remediation and increasing
the college graduation rates (Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2005).
As shown in Tables 1 through 4and in the following table, there exists an
educational gap between racial groups.
Colorado Advanced Placement (AP) Testing Population 2000
Population Category Hispanics Whites
Percentage of K-12 public education population 19.3 71.3
Percentage taking English/Composition 5.6 86.7
Percentage taking Calculus AB 6.1 84.3
Percentage taking Biology 4.5 82.2
Note. The Education Trust, 2001.
Additionally, the percentage of Hispanics students at four-year institutions
of higher education in Colorado from 1998 to 2006 only increased from 9.8% to
10.2% in eight years (Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2007).
Although all information about education and factors that influence
academic performance and achievement are not presented here, in spite of the lack
of success, a large amount of mis-assigned teachers, lack of funding, and other
problems with public education, roughly 35% of Hispanic students who graduate
high school go on to attend college.
Current data reporting for Hispanics is ambiguous at best. As discussed
earlier in this chapter, Hispanic is an overarching term used to group many different
nationalities and races with the common language of Spanish. With such a large
and diverse grouping, educational data collection and reporting are vague. When
the U.S. Department of Education reports data about Hispanics, the data are unclear
because of differences in language and citizenship. The census groups many
different nationalities together under the heading of Hispanic and this is
troublesome because many non-citizen, monolingual Spanish speakers do not
report/are not counted, or report fewer family members than exist, skewing the data
that could effectively help educational decision making, funding, and research.
Data reported by an assortment of agencies are generalsimilar to that of the
census bureauand not helpful in pinpointing specific problems with Hispanic
student academic achievement. Gaps in data, specifically between Spanish
speaking and non-Spanish speaking Hispanics, have lead to ineffective attempts to
create and implement effective reforms for the educational gap of Hispanics such as
the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation (Escamilla, Chavez, & Vigil, 2005).
The National Census Bureau (United States Census Bureau, 2000, 2004)
reported that Hispanics lag behind Whites in educational attainment, annual earned
income, and home ownership. These data suggest that educational and opportunity
gaps exist between Whites and Hispanics. Escamilla et al. (2005) were convinced
that an achievement gap did not exist for English Language Learner (ELL)
Hispanics if the data were disaggregated between Spanish speaking and non-
Spanish speaking Hispanics. Escamilla et al. examined problems with policy,
reporting, and paradigms of ELLs in public elementary schools in Colorado.
Although their intent was to debunk state reports that ELLs were the cause of the
Hispanic achievement gap, their investigation of the data told another story.
Escamilla et al. disaggregated the data between Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-
speaking Hispanic third-graders and found Spanish-speakers out performed White
English-speakers on all of the 2004 3rd grade Colorado Student Assessment
Program (CSAP) testsmath, reading and writing. The Spanish speakers took the
CSAPs in Spanish and the English speakers took the test in English. Although not
directly stated, the test data suggests that Spanish-speakers also outperformed their
non-Spanish speaking Hispanic counterparts through comparison of Escamilla et
al.s data to overall Hispanic student datathe Hispanics who took the test in
Englishand White student data as reported by DPS for the same year.
Reporting test scores and interpreting the achievement gap can be
problematic because ELLs and non-Spanish speaking Hispanic data generally are
not disaggregated. Because it can be approximated that 66% of all Hispanics in K-
12 public education are English-only-speakers, and because only 33% of ELLs are
in a bilingual program, interventions that have targeted all Hispanics as a unified
group have been largely ineffective for both groups. Interventions have the mindset
of fixing the ELLs to fix the achievement gap for Hispanics as a whole. If
interventions to decrease the achievement gap are to be effective, schools need to
differentiate Spanish-speaking Hispanics and English as a second language
Hispanics from non-Spanish speaking Hispanicshere referred to as Meso
Hispanic Meso Americans.
Purpose of the Research
Because Meso American children are no longer in the middle of language,
Meso American no longer accurately or appropriately describes this group. Mezo,
as in Meztiso, is a prefix used to mean a mix or blend of cultures and ethnicities.
From here forward I refer to this specific subgroup that has lost its language, and
has blended with America, as Meso Hispanic Meso Americans: in between Spanish
speaking Hispanics and English speaking Whites, between American and Spanish
or Mexican cultures, as well as a blend of Spanish or Mexican and American
As discussed earlier in this chapter and as pointed out by Escamilla et. al.
(2005), Meso Hispanics Meso Americans are a key issue to address when looking
at the achievement gap. In spite of past injustices, loss of language, and loss of
identity, and the statistics that show educational failure of Hispanics, some Meso
Hispanics Meso Americans have been academically successful. This study
examines how those Meso Hispanics Meso Americans have broken through the
boundaries and obstacles present in education today to become academically
successful. Most research on success, and risk, defines success as graduating from
high school. When beginning this study, I chose to interview valedictorians and
high-achieving high school seniors through two pilot studies at local high schools.
Through formal and informal conversations I established that many high-achieving
high school students and graduates did not plan to go to college. With this
knowledge at hand, for purposes of this study, I chose to define an academically
successful participant as one who has graduated high school with a diploma, has
applied to and has been accepted to an institution of higher education, matriculated,
and as of this study earned enough college credits to achieve a junior or senior
The primary goal of this study is to gather data that will elucidate the
educational experiences of the specific subgroup of Meso Hispanics Meso
American high school students and develop a definition for successful high school
academic performance based on the data collected. This study also attempts to
create a demographic and socioeconomic student profile, a family profile, and a
Meso Hispanic Meso American school profile. A secondary goal is to examine the
educational experiences of successful Meso Hispanic Meso American students in
an attempt to understand this group and their special needs for academic success.
Lastly, it is my wish to initiate discussions that will reform education for Meso
Hispanics Meso Americans and document cultural traits specific to this group as a
separate and specific sub-cultural group through this research. Thus, the hope of
this study is that this group will be recognized as a separate and specific group with
specific academic needs so that attention will be given to improving their
educational outcomes. Additionally, I hope to bring to light narratives that account
for this groups identity, ability to learn, and ability to achieve. My methodological
approach to accomplish this goal is phenomenology about which I say more in
Chapter 3 along with the conceptual framework of the problem.
Other goals of this study are (a) to collect data that can be used to inform
instruction of Meso Hispanic Meso American students in the form of teacher
instructional methodologies and practices, (b) to communicate new understandings
of ways in which Meso Hispanic Meso American students learn and advance
achievement, and (c) to use the findings from this study to guide future studies to
improve the quality of education for Meso Hispanic Meso Americans.
The following questions were designed to guide data collection and gather
rich textual descriptions of Meso Hispanic Meso American experience.
1. When it comes to secondary education, what really matters to Meso
Hispanic Meso American students?
a. What educational experiences are most meaningful to Meso
Hispanic Meso American students?
b. What impact do parents and teachers have on academic success?
c. What explains their academic success?
2. What is the Meso Hispanic Meso American students path to learning?
a. What helps Meso Hispanic Meso American students succeed
b. If not, what hinders learning and/or academic success?
Definition of Terms
Social justice is a critical theory and sociological construct which states that
all people should equally carry the burdens and benefits of a society. There should
not be a disproportionate amount of burden to any one group. Benefits and burdens
come in the form of the distribution of wealth, jobs, educational opportunities, and
access to health care and civil rights (Capeheart & Milovanovic, 2007; Clayton &
Williams, 2004; Miller, 1999).
Voluntary minorities are minorities, a smaller sample of the population, that
chose to come to the US for access to opportunities that they were not afforded in
their country of origin.
Involuntary minorities are minorities that did not choose, or were not given
a choice, to come to the US. They were forcibly brought to or incorporated in the
US population as second-class citizens. They have a different country of origin.
Involuntary minorities are not to be confused with refugees who come to the US
out of necessity, but are not forced.
Oppression is to keep someone in subservience and hardship through the
unjust exercise of authority, power, and privilege.
Some limitations of this study include sample size and sample method.
Although seven is a good sample size for a qualitative phenomenological study
(Creswell, 1998; Polkinghome, 1989), more participants or similar studies would
help validate the findings of this study or suggest other factors to investigate. The
populations for this study were volunteers and because of their reasons for
participation, they may not fully represent the Meso Hispanic Meso American
population at the three urban institutions of higher education: They may represent
the most involved and least at-risk of college students, thereby skewing the data.
Other limitations of this study include location of interviews, questions,
follow-up questions, and clarification of details. Questions were open-ended to
allow for student participants to give narratives and talk about the specific
experience in question and related experiences, but what was not anticipated was
that it took three interviews before the student participants relaxed enough to open
up to me. Because it took more time than expected to collect data on parents,
teachers, and learning, I was unable to follow up on some experiences and
relationships mentioned due to time constraints. I had to limit the scope of
experiences explored. Furthermore, students gave information at every interview,
but it took them three interviews to feel their storytelling legs. Much more
interaction and natural dialog happened at the last interview than during the
previous two. This was the first participation in a study for all of my participants;
due to the inexperience of the participants, some stories and details were lost or
remained uncovered during the course of the three interviews.
Follow-up questions for the second and third interviews allowed
clarification of experiences and narratives from interview one and two, but due to
time constraints, class schedules, and respect for the participants time, I was not
able to validate much data on success. Data were eliminated because they could not
Other limitations include the research on Hispanic-student achievement in
Colorado public schools. When trying to create a profile for Meso Hispanic Meso
American student achievement and schools they attend, data reported by
governmental agencies and private organizations were fragmented, measured
differently from one year to the next, reported for differing demographic group
from year to year, and were just missing in many cases. Reporting has improved
since NCLB, but that data only go back eight years and do not separate out non-
Spanish-speaking Hispanics from Spanish-speaking Hispanics. Other data are
embedded in or mixed with ELL data, urban education data, and the like.
Additionally, at-risk students, success, academic achievement, and such
educational concepts lack definitions, making it difficult to interpret or understand
the data being reported.
Research on Meso Hispanic Meso Americans is needed because of the
projected population growth in the next four decades and the need to improve
educational outcomes to sustain our society and keep it functional: Meso Hispanic
Meso Americans and other Hispanic minorities will benefit from this type of
research and need to be allowed to be productive citizens. Treating this specific
group of students like the aforementioned groups reinforces a second-class-citizen
mentality, reduces these students to stereotypes and location of trait based on race
(Echevarria, Short, & Vogt, 2008), is misleading to educators about how to
improve achievement for this group, is unfair and harmful to the students, and can
permanently change the course of their future.
I am a Hispanic American. I am of Spanish descent from both parents. Both
my parents are the oldest siblings of their families and both my parents had both of
their parents at home while growing up. All of my grandparents and both of my
parents speak Spanish fluently. By the time my parents younger siblings were
bom, they were not taught Spanish as a first language. As was the case for my
family; none of my siblings were taught to speak Spanish. Because Spanish was
corporally punished in and by the public education systems during the first half of
the 20th century, my family experienced a loss of language halfway through the
generation before mine, and fully in my generation.
I am a product of public schools in Colorado and also a public secondary
school teacher. I teach mostly Hispanic children. I choose to teach Hispanic
children purposefully because I learned from my parents, especially from their
volunteer work, that Hispanics need to support each other. I love teaching and I
love my students, but many days are fdled with frustration. I teach in high minority
(87%), high poverty (89% free and reduced lunch), hard-to-serve, and hard-to-staff
urban secondary schools; my students generally are not academically successful.
The urban schools where I have taught and still teach are rated low on academic
performance by the state (Denver County 1, 2007). Overall, 29% of schools in my
district are rated low performing (Colorado Childrens Campaign, June 2009).
The yearly district progress report for one of my schools included statistics
such as a pupil to teacher ratio of 16.7 for my grade level, when I actually had 26 to
33 students in every class, teaching experience of teachers in the building averaged
six years, well below, the district average of nine, sixty-one percent of teachers in
the building were in their first three years of teaching versus the district average of
41%, and teachers called in sick an average of 12.35 days a year compared to 9.6
days for the district (Denver Public Schools, 2007).
From my years as an educator, I have observed many activities and
attributes of Hispanic children in public secondary schools. The typical low-
performing student in my classroom is Hispanic. This typical student has good
attendance and concerned parents, but is often unprepared for class, generally does
not complete homework or in class assignments, and does not perform well on
authentic assessments or standardized tests. In my experience, my Hispanic
students often are preoccupied, have trouble remembering, retaining, and recalling
academic information and content. Most students read between a first grade and a
fifth grade level and are not academically independent in the classroom: They need
constant cueing through academic tasks. When confronted about low academic
performance, even though they do not outwardly show that they care about
academics, student reactions suggests they do not like being bad students. On the
contrary, after doing well on an assessment, students smile, blush, and chatter a lot.
They also become more physically active in the class and volunteer to help with
Many parents and family members of these low-performing students are in
jail or have been through the prison system in recent years while many other
parents or siblings are active gang members. Due to these issues and others, many
of my students are technically homeless: living with someone other than their
biological parent, excluding adoption.
The students often talk and write about their families and parents, most are
positive, but every now and then a student will write about parents drinking to
excess, leaving a child at friends houses until 10:30 p.m. on school nights, the
police busting down doors and taking the children to social services, and children
not seeing their parents for several days due to conflicting school and work
Contacting parents about lack of class performance or homework is most
often a positive experience but rarely effective in changing the childs academic
behaviors. Not only are these students struggling, but other parts of Denver and
Colorado also are struggling with the academic failure of many Hispanic children
in the public educational system, yet success is possible.
An example of success existed in one high-poverty low-performing urban
school. In contrast to mostly low-performing Hispanic students, a small group of
eight full White or half White students were all, except for one, high-performing
students in the same school. They were avid readers, read three to five levels above
grade level, performed well on tests (authentic and standardized), appeared to have
minimal worries as indicated by positive attitudes on a consistent basis, asked
questions, self-advocated, and regularly completed homework and class work.
Most came from divorced families, but had extended family support such as
grandparents and stepparents. These students lived in the neighborhood and their
parents were actively involved in school.
Within the first three years of my teaching career, I realized that urban
teaching myths about minority underachievement propagated the faculty lounge.
Positive experiences with students made me realize that real problems exist with
the public education system and that current teaching method and policies were
ineffective for reform. For these reasons, I began to undertake a doctoral degree.
Teaching in economically disadvantaged Hispanic schools and observing large
gaps in academic achievement led me to the specific study of Hispanic students; I
knew the answer had to be somewhere. As a teacher, I understand that some
obstacles for students could be compensated for in the classroom and those areas
would be the focus of my study: What makes a student successful?
For the study of academic success, it is important to recognize the
separation of Hispanics into specific categories: ELLs who speak Spanish as their
first language and are first generation citizens, legal immigrants or illegal
immigrants, and then there are Meso Hispanic Meso Americans who do not speak
Spanish, are English dominant, and whose family has been citizens in the U.S. for
three or more generations. And although many other classifications of language and
citizenship describe Hispanics, these two are the dominant classifications in the
Denver-metropolitan-area public schools and will suffice for understanding the
subjects of this study. This distinction is important and constitutes the basis for my
study and my hope that understanding the Meso Hispanic Meso American group
may help teachers and students succeed in our schools. Full considerations of the
distinctions are addressed throughout this dissertation.
Because I examined successful Meso Hispanic Meso American students, a
review of the literature on success, although not specifically on Hispanic students,
will provide a framework from which I determined the factors for exploration in
this study. Additionally, the data collection methods of phenomenology and
analysis methods of defamiliarization, from Russian Formalism, will be discussed
further in Chapter 3.
The conceptual framework used to make sense of the data is discussed
briefly here. Critical Race Theory (CRT) started as legal theory that addresses the
issues of civil rights and ethnic studies for and about underserved minorities, and
on a broader scope includes economics, history, context, group-interest, self-
interest, feelings, and the unconscious. CRT is different than civil rights, but
similar to historiography, in that it questions the foundations of order, power,
racism, and equality. CRT is used in this study to understand issues in education
such as discipline, hierarchy, tracking, curriculum, history, IQ testing, and
achievement testing (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). CRT tries to understand issues
around race and power to change the social situation. CRT started in the law to
change how cases were decided emphasizing that not every legal case has one
correct outcome (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001).
In addition to CRT, historiography helps make sense of the data.
Historiography is the process of understanding the present through deconstruction
of the past (White, 1986). Examination of the past and present together puts the
text, or in this case the participants narratives, into context of the historical
situation. Deconstruction of information rescues meaning that is lost by the
reporters one point of view. Historiography emphasizes multiple points of view,
multiple outcomes, and multiple truths, similar to Critical Race Theory. The
conceptual framework of Critical Race Theory, historiography, and erasure will be
discussed in greater detail at the end of Chapter 3.
Although all research about learning, parents, minorities and factors that
affect minority student learning will not be addressed in the next chapter, Chapter
2, the intent of this study is to use this review of literature to guide the exploration
of factors of academic success such as teachers expectations, teaching methods,
time spent with Meso Hispanic Meso American students, parent behavior, parent
support, parenting style, and other factors that affect learning.
FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH SUCCESS:
PARENTS, TEACHING AND LEARNING
Through educational, psychological, and sociological research in the last
sixty years we have come to know many factors related to academic success.
Because there is not existing literature specifically on Meso Hispanic Meso
American student success, to initiate a discussion and better understand how and
why Meso Hispanics Meso Americans are successful, I examined research and
documented how other mainstream and minority students have been academically
successful. This brief review of the literature and research examines well-
established basic factors related to academic success for any child regardless of
race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. Research here was gathered and put
together based on the concept, supported in research, that intelligence is not fixed,
but incremental. The focus is on factors other than IQ such as emotional
intelligence, outlook and control, parent involvement, as well as learning, teaching,
and teachers. The following sections provide the initial scope for this studys
examination of success.
Because innumerable factors exist that contribute to academic success, not
all factors can be presented here. Those presented are areas that are important to
recognize as foundational, or givens, for being successful excluding the influence
of intelligence but focusing on factors of students, parents, and teachers. The scope
of success factors discussed here was composed based on personal experience and
reflection on my own educational experience as well as my experiences as a
teachers of Meso Hispanic Meso Americans, and from informal and formal pilot
studiesobservations, writing samples, interviews, discussions with my former
studentssome Meso Hispanic Meso American, some ELLs who have transitioned
out of an English Language Acquisition (ELA) program, and some ELLs still in an
Factors Associated with Success
Studies have shown that a strong identity is highly associated with academic
success (Bergin & Cooks, 2002; Holland, Skinner, Lachicotte, & Cain, 1998;
Howard, 2003). Identity is the stories that we tell about ourselves to ourselves and
to others. Identities produce objectifications of self-understandings that guide
behavior. Objectifications are the imaginings of self in the world. Identities are the
means by which people decide what to care about in their world (Holland et al.,
1998). Two schools of thought focus on identity development: culturalthat
depends on living in and through a cultural world and is caste and embodied in the
person, culturally guided actions; and constructivistdriven by social situations
and caste systems, situation guided actions, outcomes are based on situations
(Holland et al., 1998; Ogbu 1978).
Identity formation is influenced by ethnic and racial groups, the school
community, peers, and parents, and several studies of minority students have
shown that minorities have had an oppositional identity toward education (Clark,
1983; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Matute-Bianchi, 1986; Suarez-Orozco, 1989).
Minority groups most oppositional are those that have been forcibly incorporated
into the US and tend to oppose the majority because of identity loss through
incorporation and assimilation (Clark, 1983; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Matute-
Bianchi, 1986; Suarez-Orozco, 1989). Involuntary minorities refer to those who
were forcibly incorporated into the United States because they did not choose to
become citizens. Some examples of involuntary minorities are the Africans brought
to the US in the slave trade and Spanish, Mexicans, and Indians who were traded to
the US in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Ogbu, 1978).
Fordham and Ogbu (1986) studied oppositional identity, the fear of acting
White and ethnic identity for African American high school students. They found
that minority students who were academically successful in an ethnically diverse
high school in Washington, DC, had strong ethnic identities but weak academic
identities. Students changed behaviors to hide their success or did not try as hard in
school, lessening their success, to keep their ethnic group identity. Ethnic identity
and acceptance by ones ethnic group were more important for these students than
individual accomplishment. What constituted African American identity in these
students was not only being African and American but also being the opposite of
Whites which meant that they needed to oppose education, assimilation, correct
English language, and other characteristics of being White.
Bergin and Cooks (2002) interviewed 38 high achieving Mexican American
and African American secondary students from the Midwest about accusations of
acting White. Acting White was defined as listening to White music, studying,
getting good grades and being stuck up. They found that students who were
accused of acting White on average had a cumulative GPA of 3.3 and did not report
loss of ethnic identity because of the accusation of acting White, but reported only
being bothered by it. The accusation did not change their behavior nor did it hurt
the childs identity.
Secondly, this study (Bergin & Cooks, 2002) also examined the influence of
the school student body on accusations of acting White. Students from schools that
were a mix of races reported that accusations of acting White were not based on
good academic performance but rather were based on having proper speech,
dressing White, acting stuck up, hanging around with White students, and for other
White things. In schools that were predominately White, accusations of acting
White were less likely. Overall, no evidence was found that accusations of acting
White caused academically successful minority students to alter their behavior,
hide their behavior, or try less.
Spencer, Noll, Stoltzfus, and Harpalani (2001), through a study challenging
the acting-White assumptions as established by several researchers (Fordham &
Ogbu, 1986; Ogbu, 1978 ), found that academically successful minority students
did not have a high Eurocentric identity yet still performed well and had good self-
esteem; these successful students did not identify with White values. Hemmings
(1996) and Flores Gonzalez (1999) also found that students did not identify
academic achievement with White values, but rather associated their academic
achievement with middle class values.
Identity and acting White were examined in high-achieving and low-
achieving minority high school students by Flores Gonzalez (1999). Several
differences appeared between high-achieving and low-achieving students: (a) high
achievers participated in one or more extracurricular activities where low-achievers
did not participate at all, (b) school administration recognized achievement, but
only offered academic opportunities to a limited number of students, and (c) the
school structure was designed to exclude most students from participating in
accelerated classes and other aspects of school life.
Another finding from Flores Gonzalez (1999) was that low-achieving
students had conflicting identities. Conflicting identities are those involved when in
a gang or a pregnant teen and the identities conflict or compete with being a
student. Poverty also causes conflicts with student identity in that some students are
also caregivers for younger siblings or working to help support the family. High-
achieving students did not display characteristics of conflicting identities.
Flores Gonzalez (1999) also suggests that the academic performance of
involuntary minorities is more closely associated to the structural conditions of
being poor (family health problems, violence, neighborhood, and gangs) and
minority than being ethnichow they do in school is a reflection of their social
status more than other associations.
Phinney (1990) also corroborated that identity formation might include
rejecting other ethnic values such as White values. Phinney points out that as more
people are of mixed races, identity formation will shift more to personal
construction than group construction. Additionally, Hemmings (1996) proposed
that students associate acting White with middle class status rather than racial or
However Flores Gonzalez (1999) did not find a pattern of how minorities
dealt with academic success in her study of one inner-city high school with a
majority population of minorities, a large population of free and reduced lunch
qualified students, and a graduation rate percentage of 35% annually. Flores
Gonzalez (1999) found no connection between one ethnic group and academic
failure. The school itself encouraged high achievement, but limited the
opportunities to a small percentage of the students. One finding that stood out as
the difference between high achievers and low achievers was their participation in
extracurricular activities: Low achievers did not participate in afiter-school activities
at all. The school structure also was found to prevent more students from taking
advantage of academic opportunities. Additionally, Flores Gonzalez determined
that low-achieving students did not oppose an academic identity but rather
succumbed to conflicting identities. Flores Gonzalez defines conflicting identities
as when a student has to be a caregiver for younger siblings or a parent, an income
provider, or another role that encroaches on academics. In the end, Flores Gonzalez
surmises that academic failure is caused by effects of poverty and school structure
rather than oppositional identity or involuntary minority status.
Other research has shown that identity is formed through race and gender
role model matches and positive parental involvement (Zirkel, 2002). A study of
adolescents and development of identity based on race and gender match role
models established that students of color who had race and gender match role
models at school improved motivation and identity. The role model matches not
only provided ideas for future opportunities, but also provided students with a view
of their own potential, self-value, and opportunities. The role models allowed
students of color to see themselves and their place in the world causing the student
to be more motivated to achieve. Zirkel continues to suggest that role models not
only model roles in education, but also model wealth, social respect, and
intelligence. Also, teachers can be confidants and positive role models (Benard,
1993; Werner, 1990).
Students who reported having a race and gender role model match had
higher levels of achievement, reported enjoyment of achievement activities,
thought more about their future, and focused on adults as idols rather than peers.
The central finding was that students who listed at least one role model match were
the only students who were measured as having an increase in achievement and
academic performance (Zirkel, 2002).
Race and gender role models also provided clear and concrete images that
represented their value in society and the larger community. It is also interesting to
note that of Zirkels (2002) participants, 15% did not or could not make a list about
what they would want to be when they grew up. Of this group, 67% who could not
make a list were students of colorthe largest population being Hispanic. Findings
suggesting that they had few to no race or gender role models.
Additionally, parents affect adolescent identity through socialization.
Barber (1997) developed a model of parenting that strengthens identity as well as
independence. Two keys to developing identity are, first that parents must regulate
behavior for children to learn self-regulation, and second parents must monitor
behavior which introduces the concepts of norms of society and conformity.
In 2003, Howard documented that parents were the most powerful influence
on academic identity with African American urban high school students. As stated
by the African American high school students, Parents influence academic careers
through their expectations of the student to attend college (p. 8). Parents also
spoke of college since the time children were in elementary school, stayed on
them (monitored and controlled) academic activities, talked about college, and
told counter-stories to offset negative peer influences (pp. 8-9). These students had
confidence in their intelligence and abilities and consciously did not want to let
down their parents.
Additional findings from Howard (2003) affirmed that parent belief in their
child helped the child believe in her/himself. Parents of strong identity successful
children had not punished or scolded their children for bad grades, and parents
helped with homework. Even though parents were crucial to identity, Howard
found that schools had a considerable amount of influence on identity as well.
Clark (1983) uncovered that high school age children who had a developed
identity were less at risk for academic failure. She calls these students bicultural
academic and racial or ethnic identities. However, having a bicultural identity
causes alienation from peer groups when identity development depends greatly on
As indicated by the studies included here, identity development, the
negotiation of identity, and exposure to role models to form identity are related to
academic success. Although unclear about how racial and ethnic minorities,
specifically Hispanics, develop identity and to what extent that identity influences
academic identity and success, it is clear that identity is a key factor to be examined
when researching academic success.
Emotional intelligence can include any factor having to do with the ability
to learn that are not a measurement of intelligence. A few factors discussed here
include goal orientation, motivation, outlook, optimism, and doggedness.
Goal orientation. Successful students hold specific beliefs about themselves
and education and have very specific outlooks on their future. Dweck (1986)
researched student learning with respect to how students see themselves as learners.
Based on her data, Dweck established two categories of student goal orientation:
leaming-goal-orientation and performance-goal-orientation. The performance-
goal-oriented student believes that intelligence and ability is fixed from birth-
intelligence is unchangeable. Because of this belief, the child then looks for
opportunities to be praised for her or his existing intelligence and avoids challenges
that may highlight lack of intelligence. In avoiding challenges, performance-
oriented children seek out classes and situations where they can appear intelligent.
They also seek out teachers or schools that praise them and allow them to avoid
challenging work. These children do not associate effort with learning, but believe
instead that no matter what effort is undertaken, learning does occur.
On the other hand, learning-oriented children believe that intelligence is
incremental (Dweck, 1986); they can learn anything given the right amount of time
and effort. These children take on challenges and associate effort with learning.
They persist through obstacles and have a positive outlook on the future.
Outlook and control. Seligman (1991) tested Olympic swimmers for
dispositions of optimism or pessimism and their effects on performance. Swimmers
were told that they did poorly in a race, their times were reported as worse than
actual, and then asked to perform again. The optimists then performed better and
the pessimists performed worse. Thus, perception and predisposition affect
From Seligmans study, Goleman (1995) concluded that a childs belief in
self has a profound effect on how he or she performs. Perception of ability allows
children to bounce back from failure (efficacy) and focus on how to handle life
rather than worrying about all of the possible problems to come. While these
children who are anxious, angry, or depressed have the physiological intelligence to
learn, children who focus on their emotional state cannot focus on tasks in the
classroom. They lack focus on anything other than their emotional stress causing
learning deficits (Goleman, 1995). He also says that it is important for a child to
shake off a bad mood in order to learn and is clear that emotions define the limits of
human capacity to use our thinking brain and this capacity translates into how well
we do in life.
Locus of control. Locus of control is another factor associated with success.
Locus of control is a phenomenon in which children are internally motivated or
externally motivated in all that they do (Ormrod, 2000). Children with an internal
locus of control feel that the control of life outcomes lies within themselves, not
within their environment. Such children accept responsibility for their learning,
take pride in their work, try harder when faced with academic obstacles, and
attribute failure to a lack of effort. To the contrary, children who have an external
locus of control do not feel that they can control their life outcomes, but rather
control comes from society (Ormond, 2000). Extemal-locus-of-control children
blame people around them, society, or bad luck for failure. When successful, these
children usually credit good luck rather than effort, talent, or intelligence.
Resilient children have been found to possess an intemal-locus-of-control:
believing that one has control over ones fate is positively linked to academic
achievement in middle school and high school (Cappella & Weinstein, 2001).
Additionally, parental control and involvement in a childs life were found to be
related to intemal-locus-of-control whereas parental control without involvement
manifested an external locus of control (Trusty & Lampe, 1997).
Emotions. Goleman (1995) also addresses the power of emotional control,
not the power of IQ, in learning and success. He conducted a secondary analysis of .
several studies on Asian students in America and Asian American students and
discovered that, although Asian students had only a two to three point higher IQ
over White Americans, Asians were able to obtain jobs normally requiring IQs of
110 to 120 points, 10 to 20 points above their actual IQs, at a higher rate than
Whites of the same IQ. This group bridged the IQ gap through emotional
intelligence, in this case a strong cultural work ethic and high motivation. Asian
students who are equal to White Americans out performed Whites in great part due
to the belief that educational weaknesses are not acceptable and that with the right
effort anyone can do well. Asian students were found to study 40% more than their
Delay of gratification. Successful students can delay gratification to achieve
their goals. Children were tested for delay of gratification (Shoda, Mischel, &
Peake, 1990) to determine which children could delay eating a marshmallow for 20
minutes in order to gain another, two in total. When observing the four-year-olds,
Shoda et al. found that some children ate the marshmallow within seconds of being
left alone while others sang to themselves, looked away, and found other ways to
distract themselves so that they would receive the second marshmallow.
A follow-up study 14 years later (Shoda et al., 1990) found that those
children who could delay gratification for the marshmallow at age four were happy
and more satisfied adults. As when they were children, as adults, they are able to
read a situation and see that the delay of impulses would benefit them. They were
also able to persevere towards a goal and were able to distract themselves to meet
the goal. Poor impulse control resulted in dissatisfaction as an adult and lower ACT
scores. Poor impulse control has also been linked to delinquency more than low IQ
level (Shoda et al., 1990).
The only exception to persistence as a factor of success is when it is met
with discrimination. Students who experience discrimination or feel discriminated
against are not able to persist through academic goals impairing academic
achievement (Steele, 1997; Steele & Aronson, 1995). Other students who have
difficulty persisting can also be called at-risk.
Resiliency is defined as possessing characteristics such as coping that allow
a child to overcome obstacles, coping with difficulties of life, bouncing back
despite exposure to severe risks, the ability to use internal and external resources,
and to be successful (Benard, 1993; Cappella & Weinstein, 2001; Cobum &
Nelson, 1989; Geary, 1988; McMillan & Reed, 1993). Rutter (1990) refines this
definition to point out that resilience is how an individual responds to factors of
risk and that responses are as varied as individuals. Resiliency also involves
reducing risks, reducing the negative chain reaction following risk exposure,
establishing self-efficacy, esteem, and identity, and opening self to opportunities
In educational research and within working school districts, children are
labeled at-risk if they have two or more risk factors that put them at risk of not
graduating from high school with a diploma (Benard, 1993; Cappella & Weinstein,
2001; Catterall, 1998; McMillan & Reed, 1993). Some identified risk factors
related to resilience include low SES, mobility, single-parent households, divorce,
maternal stress, dysfunctional family, low educational aspirations, low academic
achievement, low early academic achievement, drug use, teen pregnancy, attempted
suicide, and cultural alienation (Benard, 1993; Cappella & Weinstein, 2001;
Catterall, 1998; McMillan & Reed, 1993). Additionally, where a child lives, the
childs English language proficiency, ethnic group status, and racial group status
are other factors which affect a childs ability to graduate (Winfield, 1991). While
close to 20% of at-risk students were found to succeed sufficiently to graduate high
school (McMillan & Reed, 1993), Cappella and Weinstein (2001) found it to be
closer to 15% through their analysis of the National Educational Longitudinal
Study of 1988 data.
In another study, Catterall (1998) points out that children who are of a
higher SES have more parental involvement, are more engaged at school, are less
at-risk, and are more resilient. Cappella and Weinstein (2001) established that the
most resilient child in the United States is white, female, has an intemal-locus-of-
control, and takes challenging academic curricula in high school.
Caregivers. Resilient children have close relationships with at least one
caregiver allowing a child to establish a sense of trust in people (McMillan & Reed,
1993). Caregivers can be any adult at home or outside of the home. Resilient
children are good at finding substitute caregivers and engaging him or her to assist
the child (Werner, 1984). Cobum and Nelson (1989) and Clark (1983) also
identified that resilient children create networks of people they can turn to in a
crisis: caregivers, outside of the home family, school adults, and peers. Peers
motivate each other and help each other with school.
Other characteristics. Other resiliency characteristics include being able to
elicit positive response from others, the ability to ask for help, the ability to reach
out to others, being optimistic, having a sense of humor, respecting others, being
prepared, being flexible, communicating well, being empathetic and caring, the
ability to read others and know how to act, having an internal locus of control, and
setting and achieving goals (Benard, 1993; Cobum & Nelson, 1989; McMillan &
Reed, 1993). Educationally, resilient students are socially competent, are problem-
solvers, are autonomous (having a sense of ones own identity allowing
independence and control over self and environment), and have a sense of purpose
(Benard, 1993). They participate in class, are attentive in class, have good
attendance, and are prepared (Cappella & Weinstein, 2001). Problem solving
includes thinking abstractly, being reflective, seeking out alternate solutions,
planning (having control), and seeking help from school personnel. Additionally,
resilient students use their time positively, take personal responsibility for their
actions, and participate in at least one extracurricular activity (Cobum & Nelson,
1989; Geary, 1989; McMillan & Reed, 1993).
Role of parents. Parents of resilient children have higher expectations for
their childrens education, interact with their children more often, have more
learning materials at home, and are involved in more out-of-school activities than
parents of non-resilient not at-risk children (Peng et al., 1992; Peng, 1994). Parents
provide a caring relationship which fosters resiliency (Catterall, 1998). Finally,
McMillan and Reed (1993) found that family composition, divorced or single
parent, had no effect on resilient children; all that mattered was that there was one
caring parent or caregiver.
Doggedness and persistence. When resilient and academically successful
students approach a task they persist. There are several approaches to persisting,
some better than others, but all end in successful academic outcomes. Doggedness
is the sheer desire to achieve (Bruner, 1961) and aside from any other factor, can be
the difference between learning or not. Goleman (1995) also recognizes
doggedness as a factor in learning, but defines it as the emotional traits of
enthusiasm and persistence in the face of setbacks. Persistence which comes from
organizational qualities a child brings to a task (Bruner, 1961) also influences the
ability to leam and achieve.
Flow. Another aspect of learning that is similar to doggedness is flow. Flow
is the state in which people become utterly absorbed in what they do losing all track
of time and place. Csikszentmihalyi (1990) recognized that flow is a feeling that
students can experience only when they are challenged to the fullest. If children are
not challenged, they become bored, if they are challenged too much they become
anxious. High-achieving students in Csikszentmihalyis study on flow averaged 25
hours a week of study time whereas low-achieving students studied an average of
only 15 hours a week. High-achieving students were in the flow 40% of the time,
whereas low achieving student reached flow only 16% of the time. Low-achieving
students realized this gap and acknowledged that they are not being challenged and
that they do not challenge themselves. They acknowledged that television is boring
(not challenging), but instead of doing something challenging they socialize with
friends for their flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), which is not academically
Goal orientation, control of emotions, and resiliency are emotional
disciplines that have been exhibited in successful children. These internal factors
combined with identity, but separate from intelligence, play a major role in how a
child navigates her/his life and thus determine success. This understanding of the
importance of emotional intelligence is significant when considering the concept of
It is evident that emotional intelligence plays an important role in a childs
ability to learn, but it is important to also examine the role that parents play in the
facilitation of academic success. Parent involvement has been a popular topic of
much research in education and although studies cover a wide range of topics from
parent involvement at home to parent involvement at school, this review
specifically looks at parent involvement and practices at home. Involvement for
this study is defined as any activity that takes place between family members that
aids or supports the general well being of the child/student.
Considerable empirical data collected to date has linked parental
involvement to improving a childs learning and academic achievement. Finn
(1998) established three areas of parental engagement that specifically improve
academic outcomes for high-poverty minority students: home environment,
parental engagement at home, and parental engagement at school. Additionally,
parental involvement at home has also been shown influential in changing
academic outcomes as measured by academic achievement (Finn; Gonzalez, 2002;
Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997; Zellman & Waterman, 1998), as measured by
parenting type (Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001), and as measured by student views of
parent involvement (Deslandes & Bertrand, 2005; Rumberger et al., 1990).
Extant literature recognizes that specific forms of child rearing and home
atmospheres facilitate learning (Bruner, 1961; Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001;
Deslandes & Bertrand, 2005; Gonzalez, 2002; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997;
Rumberger, Ghatak, Poulos, Ritter, & Dombusch, 1990; Zellman & Waterman,
1998). Parents of high-achieving students allocated a time and place for homework
When it comes to learning, it is most effective to set a child on a positive
path at a young age; if positive educational habits are not established early,
dysfunction tends to be sustained and increases over time (Finn, 1993). Finn
defines forms of parent involvement at home that inhibit dysfunction and facilitate
academic success as the management of time and monitoring of a childs activities,
emotional support and involvement in a childs life, and parenting style. Research
has shown that parental interventions such as reading to children, talking to
children, and playing with children (Brice Heath, 1983; Finn, 1998; Gonzales,
2002) are invaluable to and highly correlated to academic success (Hill & Taylor,
When engaging children at home, positively involved parents actively
organize and monitor their childs time, monitor and exercise control over time for
non-school activities and television watching, establish routines, monitor progress,
and help with and take responsibility for completing homework (Catterall, 1998;
Clark, 1983; Deslandes & Bertrand, 2005; Finn, 1998; Hill & Taylor, 2004;
Hoover-Dempsey, Bassler, & Burow, 1995; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Sartor &
Youniss, 2002; Xu & Como, 2003). Helping with homework was also found to
fight off negative feelings about homework because of the parent participation and
engagement (Xu & Como, 2003). And although direct help with homework in the
middle school and high school years declines, other early-years involvement is
associated with an increase in time spent on homework and an increase in amount
of homework completed in the secondary school years (Epstein & Sanders, 2002).
Furthermore, families that had rules governing television viewing were linked to
higher academic performance (Catterall, 1998).
Data collected on high school students have found that students succeeded
when parents were actively involved by monitoring student behavior, discussed
school matters and other interests of the teen with the teen, talked about plans for
the future, and attended some school related activities (Clark, 1983; Epstein, 1984).
Further, supportive parents viewed school performance as a function of regular
practice and work, and they accepted responsibility for assisting their children to
acquire learning strategies and general knowledge (Deslandes, Royer, Turcotte, &
Bertrand., 1997; Simon, 2001).Moreover, children whose parents provided a great
deal of emotional support, monitored their whereabouts, encouraged them to
express their individuality within the family, and had fewer contacts with the
childs teachers tended to have higher grades than their peers (Deslandes et al.,
Furthermore, Gonzalez, Doan Holbein, and Quilter (2001) tested the
relationship between parental involvement, mastery orientation, and performance
goal orientation of learning and how it promoted student achievement in two
Florida high schools. One hundred ninety-six students were surveyed about the
level of active engagement in their lives by their parents in helping with homework,
attending school and extracurricular events, keeping up with student grades, and
advising and talking about which courses to take. Gonzalez et al. (2001) and
Steinberg, Lambom, Dornbusch, and Darling (1992) found that actively involved
parents encouraged students to persist and find satisfaction in their schoolwork. Not
only did active involvement promote success, it also held off negative peer
influence that could lead to detrimental behaviors and social attitudes, as also
determined by Rumberger et al.,(1990).
Parental involvement generally diminishes as the child becomes more
independent in middle school and high school (Epstein, 1984) so it is important for
parental influence to stay strong through the high school years to facilitate
academic success. In this regard, Simon (2001) examined the relationship between
different types of parental involvement and the completion of math and English
courses by their children. Simon reported that children whose parents were
involved in their life completed more math and English classes, had better
attendance and behavior, and came to class more prepared to learn than children
whose parents were less involved and did not monitor their childs behavior.
In another study, Dombusch and Ritter (1992) found that praise,
encouragement to try harder, and offers of help from parents promoted good grades
in secondary students. On the other hand, Trusty and Lampe (1997) established that
parental support is beneficial to identity development in high school students and a
positive identity is positively linked to academic success. Identity among
minorities, which historically has been found to be much lower than Whites, was
found to be the best predictor of wellness in a study by Rayle and Myers (2004)
and wellness has been linked directly to academic success (Goleman, 1995).
Academic success. Childrens academic success varied depending on tenor
and volume of parent-child interaction. Children whose parents interacted less with
them or interacted negatively, or interacted more often negatively than positively,
tended to not do well in school and were less likely to want to please their parents
(Hart & Risley, 1995).
Parental aspirations. Parents educational aspirations for their children
stood out as reported by Hispanic American, African American, Asian American,
and White American students (Fan, 2001). Fan pointed out that aspirations and
expectations are different. Aspirations are about how the child will live his or her
life, not to be confused with expectations which are linked to a parents perceived
potential of the child.
In-school involvement. Again, even though this review of research points to
parent involvement outside of school as an important factor of academic success, it
is acknowledged that in-school involvement can also contribute to academic
success. But it is my belief based on personal experience and literature that in-
school involvement is really about the relationship between the parent and child
and that any positive outcomes from in-school involvement cannot truly be
attributed to the school, but rather to providing an opportunity for the parent and
child to bond. Somewhat in support of this position, Steinberg (1996) found a small
but statistically significant correlation between parental attendance at school
activities and student achievement: The correlation of achievement, although
positive, was explained and attributed to the fact that teachers pay more attention to
students whose parents are involved at school rather than paying more attention to
Aside from monitoring and managing student time in the home environment
of high-achieving students, parents provided emotional support and are involved in
their childs life (Deslandes et ah, 1997; Finn, 1998). Emotional support
encompasses emotional support for the child, relationship support, decision-making
support, and support for learning. Emotional support focuses on the parents regular
reassurance of their children when they encountered failure (Deslandes et ah, 1997;
In a similar vein Trusty and Lampe (1997) surveyed White middle-class
ninth-grade students about their parents parenting style. Students who saw their
parents as firm (controlling the childs behaviors), warm, granting psychological
autonomy, involved, and democratic performed better in school as reported by
grades (Deslandes et al., 1997).
Conversely, studying students who fail in school gives us insight to what
makes successful students successful. Hispanic and African American urban high
school students were interviewed about failing high school; they named several
ways in which they felt the school, teachers, and counselors aided in their failure.
Students cited teacher centered classrooms, perceived racism and /or
discrimination, low expectations, lack of teacher-student relationships, and lack of
caring for the student (Lee, 1999).
While Fernandez and Shu (1988) found that Hispanic students dropped out
of high school at a higher rate than all other groups, it was not because of inability
to perform or graduate, but because of policy shifts in curriculum and rules for
students. Many students felt as though they were being pushed out, that they were
invisible, or that they were not a part of the school. Another study found that
Hispanics felt that they were treated and thought to be less worthy of services than
other students (Zanger, 1993).
A study conducted in 2003 for the National Center for Public Policy by
Immerwahr interviewed 50 public high school Hispanic seniors about their plans
for post-secondary education and their high school experience in preparing for
college. Immerwahr wanted to know why Hispanic students were less likely to
attend college in light of national survey evidence that Hispanic parents overall
value a college education. The interview process helped interviewers identify seven
obstacles for getting to college for two groups of students: college-maybes and
non-college-bound students. College-bound students had obstacles, but none that
would prevent their matriculation into a two or four year institution.
Of the college-maybe group (Immerwahr, 2003), the obstacles faced in high
school and in preparing for college included (a) they were the children in charge
(they had to make all the decisions about college without adult support from
parents and counselors), (b) most Hispanic students received mixed signals from
teachers in the form of lower expectations and little interest in their education, (c)
misinformation kept students from applying to and being accepted into a college,
(d) they wanted to work now rather than attend college (not willing to delay short-
term earnings for long-term earnings), (e) they held the misconception that college
is only worthwhile if you know what you want to major in, and (f) they made poor
choices (these Hispanic teens make poor choices like any other, but they lack an
adult in their life to set them back on the college track). Unfortunately most
decisions made by these Hispanic teens are ill-informed. Finally, (g) college-maybe
or non-college-bound Hispanic students lack planning, discipline, follow through,
resources, support, and faith in the system to get to college.
Of the 50 students interviewed by Immerwahr (2003), the successful
students pointed to the intervention of one adult as the difference between going to
college or not. Students said that either one teacher or one parent who was willing
to spend time working with them over a sustained period of timein some cases
over four yearsmade the difference between attending or not attending college.
Parents can set a child on the path to success through their behavior,
support, and parenting style. The literature suggests that children learn habits and
routines that aid in success from parents. Since many Hispanics are dropping out of
high school, and parent involvement is a key complaint by school districts, it will
be imperative to identify parent behaviors, support, and style for successful Meso
Hispanic MesoAmerican students.
Thinking and Learning
Since high school teachers cannot change the previous knowledge and
learning of a child enrolled in her or his class, cannot control the background
experiences a child brings to learning, and cannot influence parenting style, this
section of literature review focuses on what teachers can do to promote and
accelerate learning. Although the focus of this review is positive teaching methods
and practices, teacher practices that hinder learning are also reviewed to illuminate
the scope of teacher influence over students and how that influence can adversely
affect student academic outcomes. The research literature was compiled to create a
model of successful teaching regardless of student intelligence or background
experience that could be applied to any child in any situation and facilitate learning.
Dewey (1997) determined that learning occurs when a child is challenged to
think; thinking must involve a connected process of thoughts and not just random
thoughts. Dewey also asserts that learning occurs only with reflective thought and
critical questioning: Thinking is purposeful and directed. Dewey places the process
of learning in the interaction between child and teacher, not just within the teacher
or just the child. His model of learning established that to continue to be a learner
throughout a persons life, one must develop sound mental habits, practices, and
Deweys (1997) findings expand and define the general belief that thinking
is a conscious process, not something that happens spontaneously; it is a process
where information is given and received. Thinking is a lifelong process, a
conscious process, and a purposeful process. This suggests that intelligence is only
part of the equation of success in education and that problem solving and
engagement are large parts of academic success.
Like Dewey, Bruner (1961) affirms that learning occurs when people are
put in situations when learning is necessary to solve a problem or necessary to
interact with the world. In The Act of Discovery, Bruner discusses the process of
learning through the act of discovery and says that discovery, along with heuristics
and memory organization, produces good thinking that will lead to sustained
learning. Bruner also summated that discovery learning occurs when children
develop a model to impose on difficulties to recast the difficulty into a form with
which the child can work.
Looking at instruction as another end to learning, examining several studies
on randomness and organization, Bruner (1961) concluded that when children are
given an active reason to remember information, they were able to recall 95% of
information as compared to only 50% for children who had no instruction or reason
to organize the information they were given. The review of randomness and
organization research suggests that instruction must be purposeful; teachers must
provide reasons for information need and instruction on organization of
information for learning to occur.
Another aspect of what we consider learning is the ability to recall. Bruner
assert that the problem with memory is not storage but recall. Organizing
information in the brain improves a persons ability to recall it when needed, also
termed as learning. Children who cannot organize information for recall are thought
to not be learning, but what happens is they get discouraged more easily and are
confused more quickly than children who can organize information mentally.
The ability to ask and answer questions is another indicator of learning.
Constraint-location questioning is the ability to utilize information previously
obtained through questioning, identify constraints that can limit a hypothesis, and
then form a hypothesis based on cumulative data. Put simply, children who can ask
and answer questions and apply information can learn. In Brice Heaths (1983)
study of African American children, she documented that parents taught children
through the use of questioning to verify the understanding of information.
Beliefs About Learning
A childs belief in learning also affects learning itself. Incremental learning
is a belief that one can increase intelligence through practice over time, where fixed
learning is the belief that intelligence is fixed from birth and no amount of effort or
practice can change intelligence. When students were taught the basic concepts of
incremental versus fixed learning theory, students in an inner-city Midwest high
school improved their academic achievement (Howard, 1991).
To improve learning, the banking of knowledge (Freire, 1970) must be
avoided. Freire asserts that the banking of knowledge is a situation or set of beliefs
in the teaching situation where the child is a receptacle or container to be filled by
the teacher. Then the child is to store the information to use later in life.
Additionally, banking is the belief and methodology where the child does not
know, the teacher knows, the child listens, the child complies and conforms to
the teacher, and the teacher is the authority on learning or not learning. Freire
points out that banking happens with underrepresented minorities, and in this
situation, learning does not occur. Additionally, learning cannot occur if a child is
not engaged, cannot connect to the material, or if the student is emotionally
distressed or preoccupied (Dweck, 1986; Vygotsky, 1986; Goleman, 1995).
Howard (2003) also points to the lack of learning because students were bored in
school, they were not moved by what they did in school, and so their apathy
resulted in bad grades.
How a child and her/his teacher view learning and approach thinking and
learning can profoundly affect learning. It is another piece that affects success as do
parents, emotional intelligence, and identity. If a child approaches learning with the
view of helplessness or passivity, learning will not occur. Conversely if a child
approached learning as empowers and active, they can succeed.
As expressed at the beginning of this chapter, I posit that regardless of
intelligence or IQ, any child can learn if she can master appropriate emotional
intelligences and if she has parent support. Additionally, to grow and sustain
success in the classroom, a child also needs a teacher who facilitates learning. I
define facilitation in the classroom as spending time with students, differentiating
instruction without tracking, and using informed decision-making to guide
Teaching is the moment-to-moment sharing of resources to create a rich
zone of development (Dweck, 1986; Vygotsky, 1986). As a formal part of teaching,
instruction is imperative to academic success for African American students.
Young, Wright, and Laster (2005) realized the importance of varying learning
styles in classrooms to make instruction as equitable and accessible for African
American students as it was for their White peers. Young et al. recognized that
instruction should not be limited to just lecture, but should include kinesthetic
learning (hands on), small group, and one-on-one instruction. In this regard,
Goodlad (1983) also determined that variability of instruction is not present in most
American classrooms while Boykins (1986) suggests that African American
students learn with verve in their community and homes. Verve is an African
American childs spirituality, time perspective, and expressive individualism that is
involved when learning (Boykins, 1986).
Shirley Brice Heath (1983) also found that African American children learn
through questioning and answering with their parents as small childrenbefore
kindergarten age. Learning also occurred in these African American families
through mimicking, apprenticeship, and watching. However, when African
American students enter educational settings where sitting down and observing was
the predominant method of learning, learning did not occur.
Overgeneralization. Even though research has shown that cultures have
similar practices, Gutierrez and Rogoff (2003) caution against thinking about and
treating minority students as having cultural traits located inside them and as all
the same. Rather, teachers need to think of minority students as individuals, and
they need to remember that histories and experiences individualize each student.
Overgeneralization of traits to minority groups often creates a deficit model and
deficit models translate to low expectations. This translates into the location of
failure with the student which also relieves the teacher of blame for failure, and
with time overgeneralization creates a classroom where teaching or learning does
Because overgeneralization can lead to tracking, or the separation of
students based on perceived ability level, several methods to combat tracking have
been identified. One method used to help teachers and students promote learning
and avoid tracking is the mixed grouping method. The need for this method is
highlighted in an investigation of classrooms in high minority and high poverty
districts, neighborhoods, and schools by Rist in the 1970s (2000). When children
are grouped by ability level, teachers track students and treat perceived lower
ability level groups in discriminatory ways. To the contrary, teachers who are
minority group members tend to be proactive in involving parents in the
educational process (Zellman & Waterman, 1998).
Grouping and perception. Rist (2000), for example, studied teacher
expectation and student achievement in one urban school classroom of African
American students with an African American teacher in the 1960s. He found that
several factors such as clothing, smell of urine, and processing of hair were factors
the teacher associated with a lower SES level which translated into the teachers
belief of an inability to learn. The teacher used these physical factors to group
students into fast and slow learners. The slow learners had worn and faded clothes,
smelled of urine, and did not have processed hair. Fast learners had newer clothes,
did not smell of urine and had processed/straightened hair. Then the teacher spent
the majority of her time teaching to the fast learners and not teaching the slow
learners, only correcting their behavior. This teacher, and other teachers of this all
African American school, used the faculty lounge to exchange predetermined
judgments of each student, perpetuating student classifications as slow or fast
learners without the consideration of data or instruction. Over the course of three
years, Rist demonstrated that students classified in kindergarten as slow learners
were never able to change groups or move up to the fast-learner group.
Echevarria, et al. (2000) also found that teachers can use differentiated
instruction, which is intended to stifle tracking, in negative ways that re-enforce
tracking. One way is when students are grouped in negative ways; perceptions of
ability diminish teaching and learning. Ways that decrease learning include (a)
talking more than the students, (b) using more structure, (c) covering less material,
(d) asking lower-level questions, (e) spending more time on skill and drill, (f)
providing fewer opportunities for leadership and independent research, (g)
encouraging more oral than silent reading, (h) teaching less vocabulary, (i)
allowing less wait time during questioning, and (j) spending twice as much time on
behavior modification as compared to those groups who were considered to be fast
learners. In positive ways, a mixed group of students keeps teachers from tracking
and allows for students to flourish. Mixed groups facilitate equal access to
curriculum that might be denied if students are placed in ability leveled groups.
Consistently providing academically and socially heterogeneous learning groups is
associated with positive academic outcomes for all student and especially low-
achievers (Benard, 1993).
Time with students. Goodlad (1983) found that in classroom situations
teachers respond to questions or statements made by students only 5% of the time
throughout the school day. This statistic highlights what Skinner (1984) argues, that
if teachers did not have so many daily tasks to perform they could spend more time
with students. He suggests that teachers need to talk to students about everything
undertaken in school including reading and writing. As indicated earlier, training
the minds of children is oneof the daily tasks for teachers and learning cannot occur
if a child is not engaged (Dweck, 1986). Because teaching is the moment-to-
moment sharing of resources, engaging students, and creating a zone of
development (Bruner, 1961; Dewey, 1997; Freire, 1970; Vygotsky, 1986), teachers
must be free to spend as much time as possible with students.
Physical attractiveness. In line with Rists (2000) study, Clifford and
Walster (1973) examined the effect of physical attractiveness on perceived
educational and social potential. They conducted this research out of concern for
the discriminating way that teachers and districts used report card data to place
students into classes and group them at the beginning of each academic year. At
issue is that this placement happened before classes started and before teachers or
counselors ever met the students. As with Rist, Clifford and Walster hypothesized
that physical attractiveness influences teachers expectations of behavior and
achievement. Four hundred and four fifth-grade teachers were given a report card
with academic data and social data, and a school picture of a student. The picture
was one of twelve fourth-grade students. Pictures were pre-selected as looking
either happy or tranquil (Clifford & Walster, 1973). All pictures were given the
exact same data of above average academics and good behavior. Teachers were
asked to answer four questions on the childs potential. Through their responses,
teachers demonstrated a belief that attractive children had higher potential than
unattractive children. The sex of teacher or child did not play any part in
determining learning potential, but teachers did rate girls higher on social potential
than boys (Clifford & Walster, 1973).
In studying the effects of differential treatment, Weinstein, Marshall, Sharp,
and Botkin (1987) validated that for a child to be affected by the differential
treatment of a teacher, the child must be self-aware enough to understand the verbal
and non-verbal cues of the teacher. The child must also recognize the treatment as
differential, and the child must link their self-perceptions, motivations, and
academic performance to differential treatment.
Weinstein et al. (1987) first demonstrate that differential treatment by
teachers had been found consistently in classrooms across the US; second, they
proved that students as young as first grade recognize and are aware of the
differential treatment they receive. Finally, Weinstein et al.s study examined the
childrens perceptions and those perceptions aligned to teacher expectation.
Findings showed that there was differentiation in high-expectation groups along
with more opportunity, more choice, less negative feedback, less teacher direction,
less work, and less rule orientation. Findings also indicated that girls in first and
third grades received more rule-oriented differentiation than boys until the fifth
grade where it reversed, when significant differences were not present between the
treatment of boys and girls. The overarching findings were that expectations and
differential treatment are recognized and understood by children and such treatment
can affect the learning potential and academic outcomes of children.
Good teachers. Successful teachers are caring, respectful, have a positive
attitude, and are honest, patient, open-minded, and listen to students. They also
believe that students can learn and work with each students learning style and pace
of understanding (Geary, 1988; McMillan & Reed, 1993).
College-prep students voices came through when responding to questions
about teaching (Geary, 1988). Some students talked about how teachers did not
teach any new content, they just reviewed old content through repetitious
worksheets. Other comments stated low expectations of teachers as obstacles to
achievement (Geary, 1988).
Good teachers did not just give students a grade; they had to earn it (Geary,
1988). Good teachers insist on mastery of the content. Good teachers also respected
students, related well to teenagers, listened to students, took them seriously, helped
them, and cared. The students also felt good teachers considered reasons for bad
behavior and responded to the reasons and considered these when dealing with
students, rather than just reacting to the behavior. Good teachers are stem. They do
not wander off topic, they stick to the plan, and they connect content from lesson to
lesson. Students wanted teachers who were academically and pedagogically
competent. Students tested teachers on both aspects to ascertain teachers lack of
competence. Some teachers make you want to learn. Those teachers congratulated
students and praised students. Student also attributed smaller class sizes to better
teaching because teachers could give extra attention to each student (Geary, 1988).
Teachers that spend more time with students rather than on administrative
tasks and who are caring and open-minded help students become successful in the
classroom. Additionally, teachers of minority groups need to pay more attention to
varying instruction, using learning methods in the classroom that have been used at
home, and mixing groups to avoid tracking. And because most teachers are White,
as shown in chapter seven, rather than of a minority group, teachers must be aware
to avoid overgeneralizations and their own interpretation of physical
unattractiveness of minority children that can impede or halt the learning process.
Successful underrepresented at-risk American Indian students liked school,
liked the teachers, liked the school atmosphere or culture, participated in sports or
clubs, and participated in sports and church outside of school (Cobum & Nelson,
1989). They also felt that of in-school personnel, teachers influenced their success
the most (77%). Teachers complimented the students, respected them, cared,
listened, were concerned, were honest, were patient, and had expectations for the
students (Cobum & Nelson, 1989). Further, successful students were cited as
wanting caring teachers so often that Phelan, Locke Davidson, and Coa (1992)
point to how teachers help mediate the effects of loneliness and isolation
experienced by many children in our society.
A positive school climate with strong leaders who stress academic
achievement is a great influence on students to stay in school (McMillan & Reed,
1993). A positive climate includes high student interaction, positive reinforcement,
high expectations, a cooperative learning environment, and most of all a sense of
belonging. Providing a venue and system for student acknowledgment of
achievement and positive behavior develops a positive school climate which is
especially helpful in engaging at-risk students, improving self-esteem, and
preventing dropping out (McMillan & Reed, 1993).
A school must provide exposure to academic content and must have high
expectations (Cappella & Weinstein, 2001). Clear teacher expectations, following
the rules, student participation, and a variety of academic resources and
extracurricular activities were labeled as a supportive school by students (Benard,
1993). Providing a wide variety and structure of extracurricular activities improves
a sense of belonging (McMillan & Reed, 1993). Also, a school disciplinary system
that is fair (Catterall, 1998) and smaller class size that allows for more one on one
teacher student contact time (McMillan & Reed, 1993) were viewed as positive.
Critical Race Theory and Historiography
Although this review of literature has framed the factors that I examined
within teaching and learning from educational and psychological perspectives, the
lens through which I consider these factors is based in sociological theory. Critical
Race Theory (CRT) is a lens that I used to guide my study from conception of the
problem and participant recruitment to data collection and analysis. Additionally, I
used historiography to critique literature, theories, data, and my own writing. How I
applied CRT to the study of successful Meso Hispanic Meso American students is
discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3.
THEORETICAL, METHODOLOGICAL, AND
As discussed briefly in Chapter 2, an extended amount of research has
determined that positive identity and strong cultural identity (Gutierrez & Rogoff,
2003; Ogbu, 1987), self-efficacy, self-worth, peer influence, positive adult
interaction, and early parental interventions (Finn, 1998; Gonzales, 2002)
contribute to and are correlated to academic success. I contend that these factors are
present and important factors in the success of Meso Hispanic Meso American
students and are beyond the scope of this study. Instead, I concentrated on student
experiences, as related to success, with parents, teachers, and teaching and
learningwhat I consider external influences. Moreover, I chose to concentrate
only on these three aspects of success; the interactions among these three entities
are of great interest to me focusing on learning and relationships.
Many recently published studies address the needs of an increasingly
diverse Latino, Hispanic, and Mexican population in public education and focus on
linguistic issues, the effects of poverty, and parenting. However, Meso Hispanic
Meso American citizenswho do not speak Spanish and cannot be classified as
linguistically and culturally diverse because they have been U.S. citizens for
generations and are not new or of the first generation immigrant populationhave
not been studied specifically. Also, because specific data collection has not been
done on the SES of Meso Hispanic Meso American students it is not known exactly
where Meso Hispanic Meso Americans are socioeconomically, although many are
thought to be classified as middle class. If true, this group is not being addressed by
current research or reform. In this regard, Fernandez (2002) endorses my research
approach by articulating that data collected on Hispanics in the last two decades has
provided an adequate amount of quantitative indicators on academic failures. He
also advocates that more research needs to be conducted on success rather than
failure, and that qualitative research can provide more descriptive data for
improving education for Hispanics than statistical information.
In this way, I chose to frame this study so as to examine success factors that
influence Meso Hispanic Meso American student achievement. Parental
involvement, teachers, teaching and methods, and learning are the focus of this
inquiry. As a result of the data collection from interviews and narrative storytelling,
school structure, school and district policies, as well as peer relations will have a
limited focus in comparison to parents, teachers, and learning.
My study is ontological in nature in that by examining the nature of the high
school reality for Meso Hispanic Meso American children I plan to identify the
nature of their reality through words of multiple participants (Creswell, 1998). I
also envision this study as a first step to changing the current realities of public
education for Meso Hispanic Meso Americans so that they gain more access to
opportunities and resources as well as to improve success for this group in the
public education system.
I envision opening access and improve success for Meso Hispanic Meso
Americans in the current education system through the ideological perspective of
critical theoryorientation toward action (Creswell, 1998). This approach is
recognized as beneficial for marginalized groups and was the framework used to
guide my study. It focuses on the domination, alienation, and social struggle of
minorities and marginalized people through a critique of society. Change through a
critical theoretical approach comes from comprehending the underlying order of
social life. It involves exposing assumptions, critiquing research orientations,
critiquing the knowledge base, and through these critiques revealing effects on
teachers, schools, students, and views of education (Creswell, 1998; Macey, 2000).
Postmodernism, a more specific ideological perspective, embraces change
through changing thinking rather than initiating action. Postmodernism also
critiques ideologies of the past to change present day thinking (Macey, 2000).
Postmodernism perspectives in education emerged in the 1960s and 1970s with the
basic tenets that claims must be considered within the context of the world in which
they are studied, and multiple perspectives in class, race, gender, and other group
affiliation must be represented to change thinking (Creswell, 1998).
Multiple perspectives from multiple groups are necessary in postmodernism
to counter the meta-narrative or universal stories that have guided educational
policy and reform to this point. Meta-narratives and universals (stories) have been
told over and over and are held to be true by the general public regardless of social
condition or group affiliation. These narratives and stories about minorities and
marginalized population conceal and perpetuate contradictions, oppositions, and
hierarchies that oppress marginalized people and blame them for their failures
educationally, socially, and professionally. These narratives and stories continue to
and are designed to continue to oppress the minorities and perpetuate the
hierarchies that oppress them (Creswell, 1998; Ogbu, 1978).
A historic approach also guided the formation of this study in that
historicism is the theory that social and cultural phenomena are determined by
history (Macey, 2000; Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words, 2004; Oxford Online
Dictionary, n.d.). I approached the problem of academic failure of Hispanic
students in that history should help guide me to the root of the problem, or at least
to a few key factors. Historicism emphasizes that time and people play an
important role in the formation of the phenomena of failure and success.
CRT, another theory applied in this study, started as a legal movement to
study and change the relationship among race, racism, and power (Delgado &
Stefancic, 2001). CRT has a broad perspective of history, ethnic studies,
economics, and civil rights. But unlike civil rights, which has an incrementalist
approach to change, CRT focuses on the foundations of social order such as
equality, legal reasoning, enlightenment rationalism, and neutrality in applying the
principles of constitutional law. These foci have been applied to education to
understand issues of discipline, tracing, curriculum, and how the educational
system determines intelligence and achievement (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001).
CRT articulates that within the social system of the US, race and racism are
foundational to the structure of our systemracism is ordinary and normal,
everyday, and an experience of most people of color (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001;
Haney Lopez, 1994) and racism is hard to cure or address. CRT also maintains that
neither racism nor the system that perpetuates racism, are challenged or eradicated
due to interest convergence for both elites and working-class peopleeach group
is getting something out of the deal. Additionally, CRT postulates that race is a
product of social thought and relations; not fixed, not biological, not genetic, but
rather constructed from categories invented and destroyed by those in power in our
society, endowing marginalized people with socially created negative pseudo-
permanent characteristics (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001; Haney Lopez, 1994).
CRT also embraces the idea that minority status presumes a competency to
speak about race and racism because it is a daily lived experience for minorities and
marginalized people. CRT encourages the minority voice to tell stories to make
their experiences and histories known to their white counterparts.
The application of CRT in this study is used to help understand the social
situation of public education and change it through understanding how the public
education system organizes itself along racial classification and linguistic lines.
With this focus, phenomenology was chosen as the vehicle to gather data on the
phenomena of success.
The primary method of data collection and analysis for this study involved
phenomenology. Phenomenological methods involve exploring collected narrative
stories in rough description: using the words participants use to describe their
experiences, not using research terminology (Moran, 2000; Morse, 1994;
Moustakas, 1994; Pollio, Henley, & Thompson, 1997; Sokolowski, 2000). The
researchers attention is centered on the participants knowledge, experience,
consciousness, intentionality, intuition, and perception of experiences. Data
analysis more specifically utilized the phenomenological methods of narrative
retellings, imaginative variation, and reflection (Moran, 2000; Moustakas, 1994;
Pollio et al., 1997; Sokolowski, 2000).
My conceptual framework and lens though which I view the problem of
academic failure for Meso Hispanic Meso Americans is a combination of theories. I
worked to explain the phenomenon through the examination of success and present
data as solutions for failure from the point of view of students and myself as a
teacher. My framework focuses on aspects of experience that I hypothesized I
would need to key into during interviews and data analysis.
Phenomenology, my primary methodological framework, is used in social
science research to understand the meaning of experiences rather than explain
experiences. Meaning is derived from first person accounts: interviews and
narratives (Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 2006). Phenomenology is the study of parts
of life and experiences, understood against the backdrop of the whole experience.
In identifying meaning for a phenomenon, an investigator should examine the
whole, then through the parts draw relationships between experiences, and
summarize related experiences into global themes (Pollio et al., 1997; Sokolowski,
2000). Phenomenology helps researchers uncover and derive general or universal
meaningsessences and structures of experience that are common to all humans
(Cerbone, 2006; Moran, 2000; Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 2006; Sokolowski,
2000; Velmans, 2000). The phenomenological interview is one way to gather data
to describe human experience as lived and described by individuals (Pollio et al.,
1997). Interviews close together in time with open-ended questions are
recommended by phenomenological researchers. And as shown by Cobum and
Nelson (1989) through a study of American Indian children, open-ended survey
questions supplemented with extended answer interview questions gain
considerably rich data. Similarly, methods by Wemer (1984), Geary (1988), Phelan
et al. (1992), Ogbu and Simons (1998), and Howard (2003) also support the use of
the phenomenological interview to describe the meaning of human experiences.
Meaning is unearthed through the examination and interpretation of
experiences as well as the emotions tied to those experiences and events, which is
why looking at factors that can be attributed to success other than intelligence is
important (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Goleman, 1995). Phenomenology probes the
conscious knowledge of participants about their experiences and how those
experiences create meaning. Building meaning from descriptions of experiences
involves consideration of human horizons. Horizons are perceptual experiences,
and background, as well as environmental influences that construct the reality of
experiences. Horizons are all those things that affect how humans see objects in the
world and how people react to and with the world (Cerbone, 2006; Moran, 2000;
Moustakas, 1994; Pollio et al., 1997; Seidman, 2006; Sokolowski, 2000).
Examining horizons creates a complete picture of experience to expose the
meaning for the researcher. The researcher needs to beware of not involving their
horizons in others experiences.
Bracketing is a subtractive process to remove biases that can distort
interpretations (Pollio et al., 1997), but theorists point out that understanding and
meaning are created in the context of the human experience and so true bracketing
does not examine experience in isolation. The procedure of bracketing is to help
overcome researcher limitations. To bracket and provide the best understanding of
meaning, a researcher can (a) provide a personal statement as consideration for why
she is conducting the research so that her horizons are considered in the meaning,
(b) use words of the participants rather than technical terms or words of the
researcher, and (c) interpret findings of a group, not one individual, to validate data
(Pollio et al., 1997). Furthermore, Moustakas (1994) adds that bracketing aids a
researcher in looking at phenomenon naively and freshly through a purified
consciousness which improves the identification of meaning and understanding.
In handling the data and finding meaning, researchers also must be aware of
participants intentions. Intentionality is an awareness directed towards objects;
every experience or act of consciousness is connected to an object and is a
conscious relationship to an object (Sokolowski, 2000). Pollio et al. (1997) agree
with Husserls (1931) assessment of consciousness in that consciousness exists
within the context of something, so experiences need to describe the connection to
the objects and not make judgments about how it appears, or the objects, but about
the meaning of it all. It is important also for the researcher to epoche, or take no
position about an experience, holding at bay whatever colors the experience
Next, the researcher completes reduction. Reduction describes in textural
language what is seen: external objects, internal acts of consciousness, the
experience, the relationship between phenomenon and participant. Finally,
imaginative variation is employed as a reflective and personal process to check
for additional meaning. Many methods can be used to accomplish this;
historiography, examination for erasure, and defamiliarization will be used for this
Phenomenology uses narrative as a primary data source. Phenomenological
narrative protocol requires a descriptive approach so that the phenomenon speaks
for itself (Cerbone, 2006; Moustakas, 1994) to determine the experiences meaning
for the individual. Phenomenology, combined with CRT, facilitates this process,
empowering the Meso Hispanic Meso American population by allowing their
voices to be heard completely and thoroughly, not reducing their lives to numbers
or generalizations (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001; Fernandez, 2002).
The target population attended secondary public schools in Colorado from
various school districts. Additionally, the target population for this study was Meso
Hispanic Meso American college juniors and seniors attending one of three public
institutions of higher education in the Denver metropolitan area of Colorado. Junior
and senior status for Meso Hispanic Meso American students were preferred to
freshman and sophomore status students because most students who drop out of
four-year colleges and universities drop out in the first two years. College students
drop out at a rate of 34% after freshman year, 30% after sophomore year, 18% after
junior year, and 8% within the senior or subsequent years. Also, Hispanic college
students and African American students have the highest dropout rates of college