Beneath and Beyond Outcomes: An Exploration of College Choice in the No Excuses Charter School Setting

Lori Ann Noll, University of Pennsylvania


This study aimed to understand how 35 focal students in a No Excuses high school, a charter school model designed to promote social mobility, made decisions about if and where to go to college. This study draws on college choice, cultural capital, and performance management literature to understand how the high school context at the focal school influenced students' college choice processes. Drawing on data from interviews, observations, and documents, this exploratory study found that Performance High provided extensive college resources and support to its students, which was consistent with how researchers conceptualize a "college-going culture" in high schools. Further, the high school used a performance management approach, in which administrators held teachers and students accountable for meeting particular college related metrics, such as the number and types of applications students were required to submit. The study found that focal students submitted applications and enrolled in college at high rates. Thirty-four of the 35 focal students planned to attend college the following fall. However, rather than exhibit the sense of entitlement and expectation that research describes for students who benefit from dominant forms of cultural capital, most of the focal students' college choice processes were characterized by hesitation, ambivalence, and doubt. Further, the findings suggest the performance management approach assimilated students to one model of college choice that did not easily accommodate students' preferences. These findings highlight the difficulties for schools in providing cultural capital for students independent of their families, and suggests the need to reconceptualize "college-going cultures" to not only consider the college outcomes and the density of resources in the high school context, but how well students absorb cultural capital, which may be important for social mobility.

Subject Area

Education|Secondary education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Noll, Lori Ann, "Beneath and Beyond Outcomes: An Exploration of College Choice in the No Excuses Charter School Setting" (2017). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10266969.