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Angela Valenzuela developed the concept of subtractive schooling in order to bring into focus several small-scale studies showing the importance of generational status and its influential role among Mexican and Central American students. Of particular interest was an emergent pattern of first-and often second-generation students academically outperforming their third- and later-generation counterparts. Valenzuela sought to account for the significant sense of alienation and disempowerment found in these studies among frequently underachieving, regular-track, U.S.-born Mexican American youth, and she aimed to examine how policies, school climate, and teacher–student as well as peer dynamics were implicated in these outcomes.

The study was based on a virtually all-Latino, crowded, comprehensive, inner-city high school named Seguín (pseudonym) that Valenzuela observed over a 3-year period from 1993 to 1996 in ...

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