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Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Antonia Darder

Second Advisor

Rebecca Herr Stephenson

Third Advisor

Fr. Stephen Hess


Reforms early in the 21st century purported to close the achievement gap between White students and students of color, to provide accountability and transparency to taxpayers, to implement meaningful consequences for low-performing schools, and to create the workforce for the century. In this study, I investigated the effects of school reform on the lived experiences of students who graduated from high school in 2014 by inquiring into six young people’s perceptions of their schooling. I sought to better understand whether participants were aware of the existence and intent of school reforms, and how or whether their aspirations for their futures had evolved over the course of their formal schooling in concert with the expressed goals of those reforms. The data set consisted of narratives from six recent low-income male and female high school graduates of color. Analysis revealed striking similarities between their experiences despite the variety in outcomes. The narratives indicated that school reforms have had little impact on students’ lives other than to graft the go-to-college imperative, onto the young people’s inherent aspirations. Young people remained alienated from their education, and outcomes continued to adhere to racist, classist, and gendered expectations.