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Understanding the pathways to high school completion

Research Achievements

Understanding the pathways to high school completion

With NSF funding, UCLA Professor Sandra Graham and colleagues have followed a large, ethnically diverse sample of 1400 adolescents in Los Angeles who transitioned from 11 middle schools to more than 60 high schools. The project seeks to understand pathways to high school completion in a multi-ethnic urban sample. This unique sample allowed the researchers to test ethnic context effects in a dynamic manner. Does it make a difference if the numerical representation of an adolescent’s ethnic group changes from middle to high school? They found that a decreasing numerical representation of one’s own group across transition settings was related to lowered feelings of belonging in high school, a finding that was strongest for African American students and that continued through the end of 10th grade. Such findings raise issues about the critical mass of same-race/ethnicity peers who need to be present to ease transition experiences and facilitate staying in school.