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The Winner-Take-All High School: Organizational Adaptations to Educational Stratification

Paul Attewell
Sociology of Education
Vol. 74, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 267-295
DOI: 10.2307/2673136
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2673136
Page Count: 29
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The Winner-Take-All High School: Organizational Adaptations to Educational Stratification
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Abstract

Across the United States, families seek schools with reputations for academic excellence for their children, assuming that such schools improve a talented child's prospects for college admission. This article shows that students from "star" public high schools experience a disadvantage in entering elite colleges that stems from the attention played to class rank. In response, some high schools have developed "winner-take-all" characteristics, enhancing the success of their top students at the expense of other students. Students below the top of their class do less well than would be expected in terms of grades and advanced placement courses. They also take fewer advanced math and science subjects, given their high academic skills, compared to equivalent students in less prestigious schools. These patterns are linked to a system of educational stratification that links colleges and high schools through several types of assessment games.

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