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Abstract

Family, school, and community contexts each link to secondary school enrollment, yet these factors have been comparatively examined only in limited ways. A holistic examination of contextual factors will be particularly important for engineering where college enrollment patterns vary by demographics. To begin explaining patterns of engineering college-going at different high schools across the Commonwealth of Virginia, we answered the following research questions: Within a single school system and from a socializer’s perspective, what outcome expectations and environmental factors influence students’ engineering-related postsecondary educational plans? How are these factors the same and different between high schools within a school district? Using a single-case-study approach and in-depth interviews with socializers (teachers, administrators, and counselors), we examined similarities and differences in outcome expectations and environmental factors at three high schools within a single school district. By integrating the results regarding outcome expectations and environmental factors, three important findings emerged: (1) relationships between outcome expectations and environmental factors vary across schools within the same system, (2) proximity to a postsecondary institution is not just about physical distance, and (3) messaging regarding career pathways matters. Each of these has practical implications but can also set the foundation for future research.

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