Date of Award

Fall 11-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Jeffrey Kuzmic

Second Advisor

Joseph Gardner

Third Advisor

Enora Brown


African-American graduation rates fall behind all other ethnic groups in the United States. Due to intensifying racial inequalities in Chicago, schools in low-income minority communities have confronted augmented segregation in educational opportunities. The closing of numerous schools, high-stakes, and standardized testing mandates, along with new educative options such as charters and military academies, have resulted in a dual-tiered educational system. These new educative options are entrenched in the neo-liberal ideology of free marketization and privatization of education and encourages the expansion of elite selective enrollment high schools. This expansion has marginalized and alienated many African-American students in addition to fostering more apprehension within the African-American community. The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate the perspectives of African-American high school students attending selective enrollment and neighborhood schools as they experience inequity, racism, and the political process within and outside the school setting. The research design for this study is described best as a qualitatively framed critical ethnography. Data was collected from a total of 19 interviews with African-American high school students concerning their views on each other’s academic ability as well as their perspective on success and school disparities. A constant comparative approach was used in analyzing the data collected. What was also revealed was that 13 students were political activists. Results from the data revealed that students were mostly concerned with testing, school budgeting practices, and self-perceptions of race and academic success. Of the ten selective enrollment students, six thought that students attending neighborhood high schools were marginalized, a belief also shared by seven of the nine students attending neighborhood high schools. Of all 19 students interviewed, sixteen believed that attending a selective enrollment school garnered better chances for success. This study concludes with a discussion from students on ways to remediate the educational gap and the researcher’s suggestion that more studies focus on within-group variation. Also included is a discussion on the necessity of cultivating student voice through political activism.

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