Ferguson, Ronald F.
A Diagnostic Analysis of Black-White GPA Disparities
Examine how race, family background, attitudes, and behaviors are related to achievement
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Brookings Papers on Education Policy: 2001
- The purpose of this study is to inform the search for ways to raise achievement and reduce disparities.
- The primary finding is that the Black-White GPA gap in Shaker Heights, OH is more of a skill gap than an effort gap.
- The author makes suggestions for narrowing this gap, which include fostering more supportive peer groups, and implementing more effective and efficient learning techniques and strategies.
- Among both males and females, Black teenagers in Shaker Heights complete less homework than Whites, participate less in class discussion and are more inclined than white students to act tough and get into fights. Blacks students also enroll in honors and AP courses at a much lower rate than Whites and it is well known in Shaker Heights that peers accuse Blacks who enroll in such courses of acting White.
- Findings suggest that the reason Blacks complete less homework than Whites may be that they have fewer skills and get less help at home, not that they care less or exert less effort.
- The average Black student in Shaker Heights is less well prepared than the average White student to do well in honors and AP courses.
- The study finds no clear evidence that Black students in Shaker Heights are any more opposed to achievement, any less satisfied with school or any less interested in their studies than their White counterparts that have similar family backgrounds.
- Skills and learning techniques, not oppositional culture, should be the focus of efforts to close the achievement gap.
Academic Achievement, Achievement Gap, Family, Peer Effects, SES, Stereotype, Tracking
Case Studies, Survey
Method of Analysis:
Unit of Analysis:
- The data are from a survey, Cornell Assessment of Secondary School Student Culture, administered to 1,699 7-12 grade students in Shaker Heights, OH in 1999. Only data from Black and White students are analyzed. Variables describe the family and the child.
- IV: The explanatory variables are race, gender, parental education, number of parents in household, and number of siblings.
- DV: The focal measure of achievement in this study is the student is GPA from the most recently completed semester. Also included are variables that measure students' social perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.