Document Details

Document Type:   Dissertation
Title:   Transition from High School to College: The Experience of Girls in Rural West Virginia
Author:   LeAnne Arbor Olson
College:   Graduate School of Education and Professional Development
Degree Program:   Curriculum and Instruction, Ed.D.
Degree:   Doctor of Education
Committee Director:   Linda Spatig
Document Availability:   Document available for World-Wide access.
Date of Defense:   May 2011

A degree in higher education is increasingly important in our competitive economic environment, but a 30% gap exists between high-income and low-income students attending college (Bloom, 2005; Corrigan & Hartle, 2007). Rural and urban schools contend with issues of poverty and educational resources, while suburban schools work with "ample resources and stable populations"(Truscott & Truscott, 2005, p. 245). The purpose of this study was to better understand the enabling and constraining factors of five girls from rural, West Virginia as they transitioned from high school to college. Collaborative enthographic case study allowed the five students to be involved in the research process from the inception of topic through data analysis. Data were collected through educational life histories, observation and participant fieldnotes, interviews, writing prompts, photographs, artwork, as well as from report cards and school-related documents. Single-case analyses were conducted to find enabling and constraining factors for each girl, followed by a cross-case analysis using Giddens'(1984) structuration theory to interpret their experiences, looking at the influences of social systems, family and school, on participants' human agency. Four themes emerged that were enabling or constraining based on participants' experiences: mothers, money, math, and me (role model). Girls identified with their strong mothers in a patriarchal environment, learning that a college education could lead to financial security. In this study, while money was an important issue of college attendance, the upper-middle class student received funding from her parents, and low-income students received grants based on financial need, but the middle-class student struggled more with acquiring money for college. College entrance exams revealed low math scores for participants, demonstrating the importance of high school advising and teacher quality, particularly with out-of-field math teachers. In addition, I took an interest in the girls and provided support and advice during their transitions from high school to college. 

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