“If You Don’t Score High Enough, Then That’s Your Fault”: Student Civic Dispositions in the Context of Competitive School Choice Policy

Kate L. Phillippo, Loyola University Chicago
Briellen Griffin, Loyola University Chicago

Author Posting © The Institute for Education Policy Studies, 2016. This article is posted here by permission of the Institute for Education Policy Studies for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Vol. 14, Iss. 2, March 2006, http://www.jceps.com/archives/3066


When school choice policies position young people to compete with one another to access public educational resources, students stand to experience these policies in not only academic, but also civic dimensions. Young people’s very encounters with competitive school choice policy through their day-to-day schooling constitute a civic experience. This article, then, explores how students who encounter competitive school choice policies come to understand themselves and other youth as citizens. We pursue this line of inquiry through a critically-oriented, qualitative case study conducted with a racially, ethnically, linguistically and socioeconomically diverse group of 36 students undergoing Chicago’s competitive high school admissions process. Our findings strongly suggest that competitive school choice policies position youth to see their fellow citizens (and themselves) as individuals with unequal degrees of civic entitlement and capacity, who must earn their rights, and who have limited civic obligations to others. This article concludes with a discussion of implications for school choice policy equity, civic learning, and the role of youth as powerful policy actors.