Academic journal article High School Journal

College Counseling in Charter High Schools: Examining the Opportunities and Challenges

Academic journal article High School Journal

College Counseling in Charter High Schools: Examining the Opportunities and Challenges

Article excerpt

Through analyses of counselor interview data, the authors highlight the challenges to and opportunities of college counseling in a recently-chartered college preparatory high school. The findings suggest that the charter school framework provides counselors with innovative organizational structures to foster college counseling and student social supports, but the organizational challenges of sustaining a new school distracts counselors from reflecting on and implementing a comprehensive college counseling model.


"I would definitely say [two counselors] encouraged me to go to college because each and every day they would tell me, 'Oh, you're so great, and you can do anything you want to do.' I always wanted to go to college, but I never felt like I was good enough. So for them to encourage me everyday ... definitely encouraged me to go."

"The person who mainly helped me was my counselor ... He really had an idea of what was good for me, and he gave me the different choices. And he said, 'I think these are schools that would be good for you, but you pick. Like, here, research them and find out which one is best for you.'"

Review of the Literature

Thirty-two percent of African American students and 20 percent of Latino students attend college compared to 41 percent of White students; this college attendance gap has persisted over time (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001, 2005). Transitioning to college is challenging for students of color, particularly first generation college-bound students, who often rely heavily on the resources at their high schools for college planning guidance (Ceja, 2000; Freeman, 1997; Gonzalez, Stone & Jovel, 2003; Noeth & Wimberly, 2002; O'Connor, 2000). Many students of color tend to rely on schools because they disproportionately live in communities with friends and family members who have had limited opportunities to transition to college (Choy, Horn, Nunez & Chen, 2000; Gonzalez, et al., 2003; Levine & Nidiffer, 1996; Noeth & Wimberly, 2002; O'Connor, 2000; Sander, 2006; Stanton-Salazar, 1997; Stanton-Salazar & Dornbusch, 1995; Wimberly & Noeth, 2004). The challenge is that their local schools may not be fully equipped, due to their resources or mission, to fill that void for students and their families (Martinez & Klopott, 2005).

Charter schools are beginning to fill this void for communities of color (Boo, 2004; Robinson-English, 2006). Charter school networks, such as the Achievement First College Preparatory Charter School Network and the national network of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter schools, have implemented college preparatory school missions and instituted social supports that serve as school-based social capital for students' college planning activities (see Achievement First, n.d., Kipp, n.d.). Like other charter schools, college preparatory charter schools are increasing in number due to the lack of opportunities and resources found in regular public schools, and the dearth of college planning guidance particularly exists among those regular public schools disproportionately serving students of color (Achievement First, n.d.; Anyon, 1989; Boo, 2004; Cabrera & La Nasa, 2000; Kipp, n.d.; Kozol, 1991; Manno, Finn, Bierlein & Vanourek, 1998; McDonough, 1997; Noeth & Wimberly, 2002; Oakes, 1985; Stanton-Salazar, 1997; Stanton-Salazar & Dornbusch, 1995; Yun & Moreno, 2006). Of particular concern is the lack of college counseling for students of color, especially since effective college counseling provides students with school-based social capital by establishing college expectations and sharing specific information on finding and selecting colleges. The limited access to and quality of college counseling is associated with schools' organizational weaknesses such as large counselor caseloads and restricted counselor time toward college advising (Ceja, 2000; Corwin, Venegas, Oliverez & Colyar, 2004; McDonough, n. …

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