This ethnographic case study problematizes the current high stakes accountability efforts that have led many school leaders to inadvertently maintain a school environment in which deficit perspectives and low academic expectations in the classroom persist. Drawing from an urban sanctuary school framework, this study works to center the voices of low-income students of color from an urban high school in California, who have historically faced school alienation and academic challenges, to describe their notions of academic expectations held by their teachers. The centrality of student voices and ethnographic descriptions of the school illuminate a moral dialogue that can assist school leaders in challenging ineffective school structures. These efforts must place deficit thinking and low classroom expectations into question as our nation's biggest obstacles toward schoolwide excellence.
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