Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


This qualitative study is designed to apply educational anthropologist John Ogbu’s cultural-­‐ ecological theory of minority school performance to school choice by examining choice differences between two racially similar but ethnically different minority groups in the Hartford region. Parents in Harford, Connecticut, have several different public school choice options available to them, including intra-­‐district choice, regional magnet schools, and a suburban district transfer program known as Open Choice. For all of these options, school choice is designed to improve opportunities for Hartford students. Drawing on data from five interviews with West Indian immigrant parents and three interviews with native-­‐born African American parents, this study suggests that while Ogbu’s theory might sufficiently be able to explain differences regarding parental orientation to school choice and proximity, it indicates that the theory does not effectively explain ethnic differences in parental orientation to education in general or orientation to the local urban school system for African American and West Indian parents in Hartford. Additionally, given the exponential expansion of school choice policies within the last decade it is becoming increasingly important to question both the role of ethnicity in school choice and, more broadly, the effectiveness of school choice policies in low-­‐income minority communities nationally.


Submitted as part of the Cities, Suburbs and Schools project for the On The Line web-book by Jack Dougherty and colleagues.



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