Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
These KidsIdentity, Agency, and Social Justice at a Last Chance High School$

Kysa Nygreen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226031422

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226031736.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use (for details see http://www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 30 March 2017

(p.179) Appendix: Last Chance Literature Review Coding Methods

(p.179) Appendix: Last Chance Literature Review Coding Methods

Source:
These Kids
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press

This appendix describes the procedures used in my review of policy, practitioner, and research texts about last chance high schools and their students.1 The purpose of this review was to examine the national-level discourse defining who last chance students are, what they are like, and what the purpose of schooling is for them. The insights gleaned from this review are the basis of my arguments about the nature and contours of the discourse of these kids (chapter 1).

Text Selection

From three database searches in ERIC (the Education Resources Information Center) and Google Scholar, I selected all published works dated 1990 or later that I determined to be “about” last chance high schools and/or their students. After all applicable texts were combined and redundancies eliminated, the sample consisted of 221 published works.

  1. 1. A search in Google Scholar for “continuation high school” (conducted March 2, 2009) yielded 492 hits, of which 88 were determined to be applicable.

  2. 2. A search in ERIC for “continuation high school,” “continuation school,” and “continuation education” (conducted February 10, 2009) yielded 48 hits, of which 23 were determined to be applicable.

  3. (p.180) 3. A search in ERIC for “alternative high school” or “alternative education” or “alternative school” AND “fail*” or “risk” or “dropout” (conducted April 15, 2009) yielded 163 hits, of which 142 were determined to be applicable. (The asterisk after the word fail instructs the search engine to include all terms beginning with those letters, including failure and failing).

To determine if a text was applicable, I applied two criteria:

  1. 1. It was published in the United States, based on research conducted in the United States, in 1990 or later. I defined as “published” all doctoral dissertations (EdD and PhD), conference papers, and professional association newsletters, but excluded master's theses.

  2. 2. It was “about” last chance high schools or their students. I determined a text to be about last chance high schools or their students if it met any one of the following three qualifications:

    1. a. A last chance high school, group of last chance high schools, or the continuation high school system was a primary unit of analysis in the study or text. (Last chance high schools included all continuation high schools in California and any alternative high schools specifically targeting low-scoring or at-risk students.)

    2. b. Last chance high school students as a group constituted a significant unit of analysis in the text, either on their own or in comparison to another group of students. (This included students in any continuation high school in California or any alternative high school specifically targeting low-scoring or at-risk students.)

    3. c. The sample of research subjects in the study was comprised wholly or partially of continuation/alternative high school students, and identified as such in the text.

The most common reasons for excluding a text from the sample were the following:

  1. 1. Last chance high schools or their students were mentioned in the text but were neither a central unit of analysis nor an explicit part of the sample of the research subjects.

  2. 2. An alternative high school was featured that did not specifically target low-scoring or at-risk students.

  3. 3. The text was not published (this included all master's theses).

  4. (p.181) 4. The text was published or based on research done outside the United States.

  5. 5. The text was published before 1990.

Coding and Analysis Procedures

After determining the sample from the three database searches, I coded each text to identify its central topic, audience, and disciplinary orientation. I employed an open coding approach in the first round, choosing codes for each text based on the abstract and, when necessary, a cursory reading of the text. From this first round of open coding, I identified three topics that repeated most frequently across the sample: substance abuse, criminality/violence, and explaining school failure. I conducted a second round of coding with these three topics as codes to apply systematically. I applied the following criteria to determine if a text could be categorized in each one:

  • Substance abuse: A text was considered to be about substance abuse if its focus was wholly or partially about substance abuse, including risk factors, treatment models, prevention models, intervention programs, and so forth. Substance abuse texts include those focused on the use or abuse of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, marijuana, and other illicit drugs. This category includes articles focused solely on substance abuse as well as those looking at substance abuse in conjunction with other issues (such as violence, academic achievement, and self-esteem).

  • Violence/criminality: A text was considered to be about violence/criminality if its focus was wholly or partially about violence, gun possession, gun violence, gang membership, or criminal behavior. This category includes articles in which the primary research subjects are identified as juvenile offenders or students on parole. The texts may be focused solely on violence/criminality, or they may examine violence/criminality in conjunction with other issues (such as substance abuse, academic achievement, and self-esteem).

  • Explaining failure: A text was considered to be about explaining failure if its focus was wholly or partially about explaining why students in the study performed poorly in school (including dropping out, receiving failing grades, transferring to a continuation high school, etc.). This category also included articles/studies focused on explaining strategies/reforms to help such students perform better in school (whether by graduating, not transferring to a continuation high school, raising test scores, etc.).

(p.182) The second round of coding also involved categorizing research texts by academic discipline. I skipped this step in ERIC because all of the texts in the database come from education, but in Google Scholar I found a significant number of texts from fields such as public health, psychology, and criminology. Therefore, in the second round of coding, I added the primary academic discipline for each text. To determine the discipline for a journal article, I looked up the journal to determine how it defined itself. When in doubt, I looked up the author to find her or his departmental affiliation.

I knew from the first two rounds of coding that a large proportion of texts in the sample focused on problem- or deviant-coded behaviors of students. Therefore, in the third round, I added an additional set of codes to gather more systematic information about what types of behaviors dominated the literature. I coded each text according to:

  1. 1. Audience: Texts were coded as research, policy, or practitioner texts based on their primary audience.

    • Research: academic articles published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, written by and for academic researchers. This includes all doctoral dissertations.

    • Policy: policy documents and texts written by and/or for educational policymakers, including district-level and school administrators. This category includes actual policy documents in the sample, as well as policy analyses and executive summaries of policy analyses, when their intended audience is primarily policymakers (rather than policy researchers).

    • Practice: texts written by and/or for practicing teachers, other educators, and education support professionals. This category includes texts presenting curriculum ideas or teaching strategies, reflecting on teaching practice, and so forth.

  2. 2. Problem-focused: Texts were coded according to whether they focused on a deviant-coded behavior of students (e.g., teen pregnancy, delinquency, violence, or dropping out).

  3. 3. Problem definition: If coded as a problem-focused text, the problem(s) at the center of the analysis was/were identified. An attempt was made to systematize the categories as much as possible. (For example, the text was coded as “dropout” if it focused on dropouts, pushouts, retention, or attrition.) If the text was not considered to be problem focused, then this code was left blank.

  4. (p.183)

    TABLE A.1. Most common textual descriptions of last chance students in abstracts

    Concept/term

    Number

    Percentage of samples*

    Risk (at-risk, high-risk)

    108

    49

    Delinquent

    10

    5

    Dropout / potential dropout

    22

    10

    Low-achieving / failing

    17

    8

    Disruptive / problem behavior

    21

    10

    (*) Sample = 221 articles.

    4. Textual descriptions of students: For each text, I recorded the primary terms used to describe last chance students in the abstract or opening paragraph of the text. (See table A.1 for a summary.)

At this stage, I conducted a basic analysis of the findings in order to determine the dominant audiences, topics, and disciplinary orientations in the published literature on last chance high schools and their students. I ran numerical tallies to sort the results by topic, disciplinary orientation, audience, purpose, and “problem” under study. I also looked for correlations and relationships among different categories—for example, whether texts from different academic disciplines focused on different topics and problems. I also examined whether texts for different audiences (researchers, policymakers, practitioners) employed different frames or focused on different topics. In the final coding stage, I combined all the available abstracts into a single document and read them as a whole, identifying statements about who last chance students are, what they are like, and what the purpose of the last chance high school is or should be. I paid attention to what key terms were used to describe last chance students and to repeated phrases, terminology, and frames.

Findings

More than three-quarters of the texts in the sample—77 percent (N = 168)—focused on a problem or deviant-coded behavior of students such as criminal activity, substance abuse, failing, or dropping out of school. (See tables A.2 and A.3.) These were more or less evenly distributed across policy, practitioner, and research texts. As is to be expected, articles about substance abuse were more common in the research literature from public health; those about violence and criminality were more (p.184)

TABLE A.2. Problem-focused texts in sample

Number

Proportion (%) of text in sample (N = 221)

Problem-focused

148

67

Not problem-focused

73

33

TABLE A.3. Breakdown of problem-coded texts

Problem-or deviant-coded behavior

Number of texts about this problem

Proportion (%) of problem-coded texts (N = 168)*

Proportion (%) of all texts in sample (N = 221)

Substance abuse

73

43

33

Dropout, pushout, attrition, or retention

37

22

17

Academic failure, low achievement

24

14

11

Criminality, violence, or delinquent behavior

24

14

11

Depression, stress, low self-esteem

8

5

4

Sexual behavior, teen pregnancy

7

4

3

Truancy, attendance problems, tardiness

5

3

2

Poor physical health, nutrition, exercise

3

2

1

Lack of motivation

2

1

−1

Other**

5

3

2

(*) Does not add to 100% because some texts focused on more than one problem.

(**) These were: “problem-saturated families,” “social dysfunction,” “risk behavior,” “poor attitude,” and “motorvehicle safety”

TABLE A.4. Deficit and antideficit perspectives in problem-focused texts

Analytical perspective

Number of texts

Percentage of problem-coded texts (N = 168)

Percentage of sample (N = 221)

Deficit

112

67

51

Mixed

12

7

6

Antideficit

21

12.5

9.5

Not applicable / could not determine

23

14

10

common in the research literature from criminology; and those about school failure were more common in the research literature from education. I coded each of these problem-focused texts for its primary unit of analysis, or where it located the cause/solution of the problematic behavior under study. I specifically sought to determine the degree to which social context, social structure, and/or social inequality were considered (p.185) in the discussion of the students' problematic behavior. I coded 67 percent (N = 112) of these problem-focused texts as reflecting a primarily deficit perspective because they focused solely on problems with the student, his or her family, peer group, culture/ethnic group, or community as the primary unit of analysis or cause of the deviant-coded behavior. An additional 7 percent of the texts (N = 12) were coded as mixed because they focused on problems with the student or his or her immediate surroundings as well as a larger social-institutional cause, and 12.5 percent (N = 21) were coded as antideficit because they focused primarily on social-institutional levels of analysis such as the school, curriculum, district policy, or educational inequality (table A.4).

Of the 21 problem-focused texts that I coded as antideficit, only 2 had analyses focused on structural or institutional factors beyond the level of the school. The first of these was Deirdre Kelly's Last Chance High 1993a, coded as problem focused because it examines the issue of high school dropouts, and antideficit because its analysis of why students drop out considers historical factors, racial inequality, gender inequality, formal and hidden curricula (ideology), school and district-level tracking policies, state-level educational policies, and peer group influence. The second antideficit text to include larger-level structural analysis beyond the school was Debbie Smith and Kathryn Whitmore's Literacy and Advocacy in Adolescent Family, Gang, School, and Juvenile Court Communities 2006. This book was coded as problem focused because it examines youth gang activity, and antideficit because its analysis of youth gangs considers the influences of social, economic, political, and ideological factors such as social injustice, institutionalized racism, and educational inequality. In other words, just 2 out of the 168 texts that focused on last chance students' problem-or deviant-coded behavior paid serious consideration to social-structural inequalities beyond the level of the school, such as historical forces; district-level tracking policies; state-level education policies; ideological forces; or racial/gender/economic inequalities in education, housing, and labor markets. These findings are the basis of my claim, in chapter 1, that decontextualized and deficitoriented analyses are prevalent within the literature on last chance schools and their students. (p.186)

Notes:

(1) . This review was completed with a team of research assistants at the University of California–Santa Cruz. Yazmin Duarte served from September 2008 to June 2009. Yolanda Diaz-Houston and Mariella Saba served from March to June 2009. Linnea Becket served from June to August 2009.