By Leticia Oseguera. Students from low-income backgrounds are less likely than their peers to enroll in and complete college, thus limiting their employment prospects in a job market that demands increasingly higher skill levels. Often, reform efforts designed to address this problem focus on individual factors such as academic performance or parental education level. But an over-emphasis on student characteristics at the expense of attention to school culture and climate undermines a more complete understanding of student achievement. By exploring high school institutional factors—including academic curriculum, teacher qualifications, and school commitment to college access—we can explain the variation in the postsecondary pathways of students from low-income backgrounds more fully than if we focus only on family or “cultural” factors.2 If we overlook what is going on within schools, we may limit the potential impact of current policy initiatives on the academic success of low-income students. A focus on strengthening schools is a more proactive approach to ensuring student success. Earlier findings on the four-year trajectories of a national cohort of tenth graders illustrate profound differences in the pathways of students from low- and higher-income families and the central role of their high school experiences in preparing them for a range of postsecondary options.bIn previous analyses, only 14% of students raised in poverty completed a college preparatory curriculum when they were in high school, while close to a third (32%) of students whose families were not in poverty did so. A majority (57%) of lower-income students who finished high school without completing this type of curriculum pursued postsecondary education at the two-year level; just 34% enrolled in four-year institutions. In contrast, lower-income students who had completed an academic concentrator curriculum were more likely to enroll in four-year schools (75%) than in two-year colleges (23%). Higherincome students, on the other hand, largely entered four-year colleges and universities, whether they had (84%) or had not (49%) completed an academic concentrator curriculum. This previously published research is a stark reminder of the importance of school conditions in determining the obstacles that students face as they prepare for post-high school education and a range of career options.