Previous research in middle-class districts has focused on within-school segregation but not between-school segregation. In this study, I unveil hidden institutional mechanisms of between-school segregation and inequality in an affluent, suburban school district. Drawing on over two years of ethnographic observations and 122 in-depth interviews with students, teachers, administrators, and parents at two dissimilar high schools, I identify distinct policies and practices of segregation that disproportionately place Black, Latinx, and lower-income students at risk. I also examine how institutional definitions of success and failure affect school policies and practices in ways that contribute to segregation and inequality, and how institutional actors leverage these definitions to legitimize and justify segregation in the district. This research is part of my forthcoming book Academic Apartheid: Race, School Culture, and the Symbolic Criminalization of Failure (University of California Press, expected Spring 2022), which sits at the sociological intersection of education, race and ethnicity, class, and immigration scholarship.
Sean Drake is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology and Education at NYU Steinhardt. Dr. Drake’s research interests include race and ethnicity, neighborhood and school segregation, poverty and homelessness, and ethnographic methods. His work has been published in Urban Education, the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, as well as in several edited volumes. Professor Drake’s first book, Academic Apartheid: Race, School Culture, and the Symbolic Criminalization of Failure, is under contract with University of California Press and will be released next spring. Next fall Dr. Drake will join the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University as Assistant Professor of Sociology and Senior Research Associate at the Maxwell Center for Policy Studies. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine.