Chapter 1 reviewed the current literature exploring the relationship between at-risk- students and their schools. I argued that there are external forces acting upon schools, as well as internal organizational factors that help to explain how at-risk student status is created and maintained. Many of the observations of researchers were found in the relationships between OSRP students and their schools. For example, students' and parents' complaints relating to a lack of caring within schools are consistent with findings made separately by Cusick ( 1973), Powell et al. ( 1985), and Sizer ( 1984). As well, the racism and racial tensions within schools as reported by Wright ( 1987) and Solomon ( 1989) found themselves well represented in the experiences of OSRP's River City members.
There are two areas in which most OSRP staff, students, and parents differ significantly from the literature on at-risk students: that is, in their naiveté about tracking and social class barriers to upward mobility. Whenever tracking was mentioned (I asked all the students and staff how they felt about tracks and track placements), it was met with innocuous acceptance. None of the research observations reported above concerning the relationship between track placement and life chances were observed by or personally experienced by OSRP members. Tracking seems unproblematic and unimportant; they do not perceive the students' lower track status as a barrier to any future success.
The second barrier to upward mobility is social class. In contrast to the research literature, these young people do not perceive their life chances as being limited by the tenuous economic position of their parents. They are unable to express knowledge of a relationship between social class and life chances, but sense the importance of class around them. For example, the River City students often told me that Highland is the "better" high school. Those in Springfield know that "preps" are snobs who think they are better than others. OSRP students generally experience school as an alien place (except for socializing with their peers). Yet, they have no explanation for these feelings and observations. They have a limited frame in which to fit their rather negative personal experiences. How is it that these young people see certain aspects of their high schools as being clearly deficient, while they are accepting of others as