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The Ecology of College Readiness: ASHE Higher Education Report Volume 38, Number 5

The Ecology of College Readiness: ASHE Higher Education Report Volume 38, Number 5

Karen D. Arnold, Elissa C. Lu, Kelli J. Armstrong

ISBN: 978-1-118-59543-5 December 2012 Jossey-Bass 160 Pages




Despite extensive research, policies, and practical efforts to improve college readiness in the United States, a large proportion of low-income students remain unprepared to enter and succeed in higher education.

This issue draws on the human ecology theory of Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917–2005) to offer a fresh perspective that accounts for the complexity of the interacting personal, organizational, and societal factors in play. Ecological principles shift the focus to individual differences in the ways that students engage environments and to the connections across students’ immediate settings and relationships.

Viewing college readiness within an ecological system also reveals how the settings where development occurs are in turn shaped by more distant environments. The aspirations and behaviors that affect students’ college preparation originate in opportunities, resources, and hazards beyond their immediate environments. The ecological lens illuminates the need for coordinated, comprehensive efforts that affect students across the various levels of their environment and provides a framework for advancing college readiness research, policy, and educational practice.

This is the 5th issue of the 38th volume of the Jossey-Bass series ASHE Higher Education Report. Each monograph is the definitive analysis of a tough higher education issue, based on thorough research of pertinent literature and institutional experiences. Topics are identified by a national survey. Noted practitioners and scholars are then commissioned to write the reports, with experts providing critical reviews of each manuscript before publication.

Executive Summary vii

Foreword xi

Acknowledgments xiii

The Case for a Comprehensive Model of College Readiness 1

The Complexity of College Readiness 4

Quasi-Ecological Approaches to College Readiness 6

The Next Generation of College Readiness Research 8

Method and Organization 8

The Human Ecology Framework 11

Principles of Development in Ecological Systems 11

Environmental Contexts 14

Environmental Interactions: A Fully Ecological Model 17

Individual: The Attributes of College Readiness 19

Resource Characteristics 21

Force Characteristics 25

Demand Characteristics 27

The Individual in an Ecological Context 29

Microsystem: The Direct Experience of Students 31

Academic Preparation in Schools 32

Out-of-School Microsystems 40

Direct Experience in an Ecological Context 46

Mesosystem: A Network of Overlapping Relationships 47

Cultural Capital and the Mesosystem 47

Social Capital and Mesosystem Connectors 49

College and High School Integration 53

Overlapping Relationships in the Ecological Context 56

Exosystem: The Site of Systemic and Structural Changes 59

Precollege Intervention Programs 62

School Reform 64

Role of States 68

Role of Federal Government 70

Role of Foundations and Nonprofi t Organizations 73

Systems and Structures in Ecological Context 74

Macrosystem: The Arena of Culture and Ideology 77

Foundational Beliefs 77

Language, Subculture, and Theory 79

Culture and Ideology in the Ecological Context 81

Chronosystem: The Role of Time in College Readiness 83

Cohort and Era 83

Sequence and Timing 84

Developmental Change 88

The Role of Time in Ecological Context 89

The Ecological View of College Readiness 91

The Ecology of College Readiness 94

Using an Ecological Approach in Research and Evaluation 98

Implications for Policy 101

Implications for Practice 103

Moving Toward an Ecological Approach to College Readiness 106

References 109

Name Index 125

Subject Index 130

About the Authors 137