The Social Costs of Academic Success across Ethnic Groups
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Against the odds: ethnic minority students are excelling at school — University of Leicester
Section III describes the administrative data analyzed and formulates an estimation strategy that builds on and extends studies of race differences in college attainment by considering whether variation in high school quality moderates the associations. Empirical results are discussed in Section IV and the conclusion considers the implications of our results in light of the school accountability standards imposed by NCLB.
Background There is ample evidence that achievement gaps among racial and ethnic minorities widen over time Schneider, et al. Despite negligible differences in measured cognitive ability between majority and minority toddlers through age two, large gaps in school readiness are already evident by the time children begin school Fryer and Levitt,b ; moreover, the achievement gap expands rapidly in the early grades Fryer and Levitt a. Group differences in scholastic readiness at school entry are associated with a small number of family characteristics, but variation in school quality, another obvious candidate for the widening gap, does not appear to explain differences in early school achievement beyond second grade Fryer and Levitt a.
NAEP assessments based on 4th, 8th and 12th grade performance measures show that gaps widen through elementary, middle and high school Perna and SwailNCES ; Schneider, et al.
Heckman and LaFontaine identify unequal school experiences and incarceration rates as additional factors that maintain racial and ethnic differences in secondary school achievement and completion, but they do not link high school achievement to post-secondary educational outcomes. Prior research has traced race and ethnic differences in college success to family background and early academic achievements, particularly high school grades class rankAP course-completion, and standardized test scores see Rothstein ; Alon and Tienda, ; Bowen and Bok, Critics of affirmative action use race and ethnic gaps in standardized test scores to bolster claims that minority students are less well prepared than whites Thernstrom and Thernstrom, Even though minority students average lower scores on standardized tests, there is ample evidence establishing a positive association between college selectivity and success of minority students Bowen and Bok, ; Kane, ; Rothstein, ; Alon and Tienda, A second explanation for race and ethnic disparities in college performance alleges that the benefits from distinct college environments are not uniform for minority and nonminority students.
Evidence for both claims is mixed, depending on the outcome of interest, the selectivity of institutions in the study, and the timeframe of the study. For example, Vars and Bowen show that white students achieve higher college grades than black students across five SAT strata, even after controlling for high school grades and family socioeconomic background.
Yet, Light and Strayer find that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to graduate college net of ability as measured by AFQT scores.Education - Topic 1: Class differences in achievement (1)
Kane also finds that black students who attend more selective colleges have higher graduation rates compared with blacks that attended less selective colleges. Using a sample of 28 colleges and universities with selective to highly selective admissions, Bowen and Bok also find no evidence for the mismatch hypothesis. Alon and Tienda analyze two national data sets as well as the sample of selective institutions used by Bowen and Bok and they expand their comparisons to include Hispanics and Asians along with blacks and whites.
By implementing a rigorous estimation strategy that jointly modeled enrollment in and graduation from competitive postsecondary institutions, they address criticisms wagered about the Bowen and Bok study on grounds that it was not representative of the full institutional selectivity range and disproportionately represented the most able students who were likely to graduate irrespective of college attended.
Like Bowen and Bokthey refute the mismatch hypothesis and attribute part of the positive association between college selectivity and graduation to the stronger academic supports available at many highly selective institutions. Nevertheless, many analysts agree that within selectivity tiers minority students average lower grades and graduate at lower rates compared with nonminority students Massey, ; Bowen and Bok, ; Alon and Tienda, Yet, Dale and Krueger find that among students of comparable ability, those from low income backgrounds benefit more from attending selective colleges compared with students from high-income families.
These findings, combined with evidence that social acceptance is an essential component of adolescent self-worth Harter,suggest that any breakdown in this relationship could have particularly adverse consequences to development. The extent to which particular ethnic groups experience differential social costs with achievement is therefore an important area of research and theory. Specifically, in their oft-cited paper, Fordham and Ogbu argue that involuntary minority groups, such as African Americans and Native Americans, whose presence in the U.
Several scholars, however, have challenged the conceptual underpinnings of this perspective. Crossfor example, has argued that resistance to education is in no way fundamental to African American culture, and that the roots of achievement problems lie not in the legacy of slavery, but within specific structural inequalities that have and still continue to directly affect minority groups. Furthermore, Spencer and Harpalani argue that Ogbu and colleagues make broad unwarranted assumptions that de-contextualize and over-generalize the experiences of African American youth, while also ignoring the importance of meaning-making processes.
The Social Costs of Academic Success across Ethnic Groups
Important to this perspective are normative developmental processes during adolescence. Specifically, adolescence is an important time for youth to engage in identity exploration in various domains e. As part of this identity formation process, Cross has described that ethnic minorities often go through a stage referred to as immersion-emersion, in which they immerse themselves within their own ethnic culture and have a tendency to reject the perspectives of the dominant group.
From this perspective, it is the current stigmatization of minority groups that drives some adolescents to reject expectations and values of the dominant group, rather than any inherent oppositional orientation towards schooling. Furthermore, contextual factors, such as school characteristics, would also be expected to play an important role. The theory of stereotype threat is also of direct relevance to the proposition that academic achievement may be coming at a greater social cost for particular groups.
Steelehas discussed how the burden of academic stereotypes, and the prolonged exposure to such stereotypes at the group level, may create social costs with achievement for members of stigmatized groups. According to this perspective, when an individual becomes aware of a negative stereotype directed towards their group, they experience anxiety related to the possibility of conforming to the stereotype, which in turn affects their performance.
Other more recent qualitative studies, however, have failed to find that Black adolescents experience any oppositional orientation towards achievement e.
Additionally, the few quantitative studies that have examined the social costs of academic success have thus far failed to establish that achievement leads to greater social costs for particular groups. Talking about minorities inLee Jasper, policy advisor on equalities to the former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, said that the: It seems that this boundless talent and creativity is gradually finding expression in educational improvement among ethnic minority students who are showing their resilience to the barriers they face.
A report published by the Department for Education DfE mentioned some possible sources of this resilience. Top of the class Ethnic minority children face specific challenges, including racial and ethnic marginalisation, huge concentrations of minority ethnic groups in deprived areas, language and cultural barriers, poverty, and a lack of general social capital.
In spite of this, some groups of ethnic minority children appear to be performing much better than white students. Even students eligible for free school meals from Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi backgrounds are performing higher than white students on free school meals, as the graph below shows.
Evidence to MPs and in the London borough of Lambeth has identified white working-class students as the lowest performing in their peer group.