Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Courtenay A. Barrett


Courtenay A. Barrett


Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez


Scott C. Bates


There is a persistent gap between the outcomes of Latino students and those of students from other ethnic groups in American schools. In part, this may be due to schooling practices in the American education system that have traditionally failed to cultivate positive contexts for ethnic diversity. Research studies involving focus groups, one-on-on interviews, and small samples of participants have suggested that sentiments of being unfairly treated by teachers and peers, of being stigmatized as low-achievers, and of cultural “incongruence” in schools are common among Latino students. However, quantitative studies involving large samples and sophisticated statistical techniques have produced few consistent results in this regard. It was hypothesized that this was related to a failure to statistically model multiple (instead of singular) qualities of the school environment involved in shaping the schooling experiences of Latino students.

This research used data collected over time on a nationally representative sample of Latino students from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This study uses data beginning in 1995, when the students were in 6th to 12th grade, and ending in 2001, when all students were expected to have graduated. The analyses explored the roles of school ethnic composition, school affluence (i.e., SES), and the extent of academic tracking in schools as possible environmental variables, as well as several student variables, in predicting feelings of belongingness and the odds of high school completion in this sample of Latino students.

The results indicated that the relationship between school ethnic composition and both outcomes was, to some degree, dependent on the affluence of a school and the extent to which students were “tracked” based on their prior achievement. Specifically, feelings of belongingness and the odds of completing high school among Latino students tend to be higher in schools with greater affluence, low levels of academic tracking, and high ethnic diversity. These findings are consistent with past literature that suggests increased cooperation and reduced inequality among groups are conditions that foster positive inter-group relations, collective confidence, and school-wide effectiveness.

Altogether, this study identified possible conditions where Latino students may be at-risk as well as conditions where success is more likely. Schools are advised to consider these results when structuring the academic environment and in addressing diversity within the student population. Researchers are encouraged to take into account multiple qualities of the school environment when studying its effects upon students.



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