Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Education Evaluation and Research

First Advisor

Karen Tonso


To examine disparities in education, the researcher utilized a naturalistic approach to uncover how youth think, talk, and feel about their response to schooling. Findings are based on in-depth conversations with 12 inner city African-American kids enrolled in Urban, USA middle and high schools, rarely heard from in the scholarly literature. Students conveyed a belief system that schooling was the route to upward mobility, however, their responses to academic exercises seem to suggest an indifference. Primary findings suggest that students' (a) sense of safety and family tradition were key factors of student school selection; (b) understanding of how levels of success correlate with the opportunity structure was limited; (c) decision to not give voice was an attribution of respect for their teachers; (d) choice for "social life," often to the neglect of schooling, was to have a balanced teen experience rather than opposition to schooling. Future research recommended was to help students discover how their own contradictions impact their educational opportunities.