Examining an Urban District’s College-Going Culture: The Role of Magnet School Designation


Inequitable access to postsecondary education opportunities continues to persist in many highly segregated, under-resourced urban school districts. This study examined the college-going culture of three urban public secondary schools located in one district, with a close examination of the role magnet and nonmagnet school designations had in shaping college-going culture. Guided by the work of Corwin and Tierney (2007), this investigation examined college-going culture, including magnet and nonmagnet disparities, along the following dimensions: (a) academic momentum, (b) understanding of how college plans develop, (c) clear mission statement, and (d) comprehensive college counseling services. This study identified differences in the college-going culture of magnet versus nonmagnet schools—as evidenced by the availability of Advanced Placement courses, the level of expectations established by institutional agents who work in the school, and the presence of wide-ranging college services that are embedded into the fabric of the school. This study links college access disparities to court decisions that may have facilitated social inequalities. Implications for policy, research, and practice in developing stronger college-going cultures in urban school districts are discussed.

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H. Kenny Nienhusser would like to acknowledge the research assistance of Lisa Wisniewski.

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Nienhusser, H.K., Ives, J. Examining an Urban District’s College-Going Culture: The Role of Magnet School Designation. Urban Rev (2020).

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  • Urban
  • High schools
  • College-going culture
  • College access