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Social Reproduction of Inequality: The Racial Composition of Feeder Schools to the University of California

by Robert Teranishi & Tara L. Parker - 2010

Background/Context: Previous research has pointed to the dismal state of secondary education in California and its implications for college access. These studies identified the extent to which disparities in access and outcomes in California are correlated with school demographics and the relative levels of segregation that exist in California’s public high schools.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Our research advances understandings of this association within California’s most selective sector of public higher education: the University of California. Three research questions guided our study: (1) In what ways, if any, are the racial compositions of high schools different for first-time freshmen (FTF) at different UC campuses? (2) How are the racial compositions of high schools that are the source of underrepresented minorities (URMs) at each UC campus different, if at all, from the racial compositions of high schools that are the source of White FTF? (3) Do the racial compositions of public high schools in California have an independent net effect on the likelihood that a school will send graduates to the University of California and individual UC campuses, controlling for other school characteristics?

Research Design: To answer our research questions, this quantitative study used descriptive correlations and multiple regressions to examine the high school source of FTF for 8 out of 9 UC campuses for the 2000–2001 academic year.

Findings/Results: Although the University of California as a whole may appear to be making gains in providing opportunities for students of color, accessibility to individual UC campuses for Black and Latino students varied depending on URM or White high school attendance. At 5 of the 8 campuses in this study, a greater proportion of URM FTF originated from White schools, as opposed to URM schools, where they were most concentrated.

Conclusions and Recommendations: Educational policies and practices in the UC system that hold some campuses accountable for goals of equity yet allow other campuses to exclude whole groups of students based primarily on the high school they attended are neither effective nor equitable. Researchers, policy makers, and educational leaders should examine the ways in which admissions policies may inherently privilege one group (those from White schools) and disadvantage other groups (those from URM schools). This problem needs to be addressed by both policy makers and practitioners in higher education and the K–12 system.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 6, 2010, p. 1575-1601
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15689, Date Accessed: 1/16/2021 6:43:49 AM

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About the Author
  • Robert Teranishi
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    ROBERT T. TERANISHI is associate professor of higher education at New York University, a faculty affiliate with the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy, and codirector for The National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education. His research interrogates the complex relationship between the social construction of race and ethnicity, the stratification of college opportunity, and the social mobility of racial and ethnic minorities in American society.
  • Tara Parker
    University of Massachusetts Boston
    TARA L. PARKER is assistant professor of higher education at the University of Massachusetts Boston and director of the National Access and Remedial Education Policy Project. Her research focuses on higher education policy related to access and equity for historically underrepresented groups, particularly students of color. She is the author of “A Tale of Two Univer(cities): Race, Inequality, and Remediation” (with Leticia Tomas Bustillos).
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