No "White" Child Left Behind: The Academic Achievement Gap between Black and White Students

Article excerpt

Racial inequality in education is a serious problem in the United States. The latest government attempt to address this problem was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). This study used the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS: 2002) to examine the relationship between race and composite reading and math scores among Black and White students. A total of 8,315 10th grade students were included in this analysis. The results showed a difference in test scores between Black and White students with Whites scoring higher than Blacks. The findings from this study suggest that discrimination based on race as well as family factors outside the school setting contribute to this difference in test scores between Black and White students.

Keywords: education, test scores, gap, Blacks, Whites, NCLB, academic achievement

Over a half century ago, the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education ofTopeka (1954) paved the way for the desegregation of public schools. Three years later, the National Guard forced Little Rock, Arkansas to admit Blacks in public school and eight years after Little Rock, the United States passed the CzVi/ Rights Act of 1964, which included a ban against discrimination in education based on race. The issue of racial inequality in education has consistently been addressed through government policy in an attempt to solve the problem of discrimination in the American school system. The latest government attempt was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002).

Accountability is the focus of the current NCLB policy, which addresses the academic achievement of America's youth and especially the difference in test scores that exists between low-income and minority students and their White, middle-class counterparts. The NCLB requires all schools to provide a quality education regardless of the child's demographics or ability level and, if these schools fail to achieve adequate yearly progress, parents are allowed to remove their children from that school and place them in a "better" school (U. S. Department of Education, 2001). Also, while NCLB gives parents more choices regarding the school their child attends (U. S. Department of Education, 2001), other related issues that schools have no control over, such as living conditions and parental willingness to be involved in their child's education, are not accounted for in the Act. Since past experiences and cultural differences can influence potential academic achievement, a child's racial minority status and identity may be directly related to his or her academic potential (Taubman, 1989). This study uses a theoretical framework to analyze the relationship between many factors associated with academic achievement. With composite test scores as the dependent variable in the model, student role performance, school environment factors, role of teachers, family socialization, and peer influences are used to evaluate the affects each has on test scores.

STUDENT ROLE PERFORMANCE

Student role performance includes the behaviors centered on how students perform in their positions as students and how well students meet the expectations and obligations based on their ascribed and achieved roles (Wright, 2006). Students perform many roles in their positions including race, sex, disabilities, homework completion, and extracurricular activities. The role of race can be detrimental to the academic achievement of minorities (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986). Students who spend more time on homework and attend school regularly perform better academically (Da vis & Jordan, 1994). However, Black students believe they have a cultural responsibility to uphold, which influences their ability to achieve academically because academic achievement may be viewed as a "White" goal; therefore, Black students may behave in a way so as not to be labeled as "acting White" (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986). Black males, specifically, either have an inability or lack of motivation for performing their roles as students within traditionally "White" school settings (Davis & Jordan, 1994). …