Individual Adjustments for Many and Structural Change for Some: Teacher and Staff Perceptions of and Adjustments for High School Students’ Classed Responsibilities Outside of School

WCER Working Paper No. 2021-3

Annaliese Grant, Eric Grodsky, Maria Velazquez, Rosie Miesner, and Lyn Macgregor

May 2021, 25 pp.

ABSTRACT: Past research demonstrates the degree to which extracurricular activities, paid work, and major family responsibilities impinge on student academic trajectories. Largely absent from this body of work is consideration of the ways in which schools and teachers mitigate the adverse consequences of out-of-school obligations and choices on academic outcomes. In this paper, we seek to understand when, and for whom, teachers and administrators exercise their power to accommodate students’ out-of-school time commitments. Analyzing 61 interviews with teachers and staff at five high schools that serve predominantly low-income students and survey responses from teachers across the state (N=601), we assess how teachers describe student responsibilities and accommodate student responsibilities outside of school. We identify the ways teachers portray the classed nature of different student responsibilities and the kinds of solutions they provide to help resolve the tensions between student responsibilities and academic life. We find that school staff describe a range of student responsibilities and identify these responsibilities as connected to students’ social-class status. Teacher responses to student responsibilities are largely individual and ad hoc. When administrators report addressing the impacts of student responsibilities through structural change, this change often specifically centers students’ paid work (usually intensive paid work that contributes to family finances) while neglecting other types of responsibilities (such as caregiving).

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keywords: high school, teachers, adolescent responsibilities, inequality, social class