Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Ethnicity and School Achievement

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Ethnicity and School Achievement

Article excerpt

The April 1994 Research column reported large differences among ethnic groups in National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics scores and in mathematics scores on the Second International Assessment of Educational Progress, with Asians in the U.S. scoring above all nations, even Taiwan and Korea, and blacks scoring below all nations, even Jordan. Similar differences have been documented before, and some research has dwelt on what might cause the differences.

In the July/August issue of the Journal of Educational Research, Samuel Ping and DeeAnn Wright of the U.S. Department of Education report additional information bearing on the relative achievement of ethnic groups. Peng and Wright dig into the National Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS 88) and ask first what variables are related to achievement. They organize their variables into five categories: family demographics, discipline and effort, parental assistance, parental pressure, and outside lessons and activities.

Among the demographic variables, not surprisingly, family education and income level were substantially related to achievement -- as they always are. Family composition was more modestly correlated with achievement, with those who were living with both parents scoring higher than those who were not. Correlations ranged from a high of .18 for Asian students to a low of .04 for Hispanic students.

Amount of time doing homework was modestly correlated with achievement, with a high of .22 for Asian students and a low of .11 for black students. Perhaps these modest correlations derive from the fact that most students aren't doing much homework anyway: the averages ranged from a low of 4.75 hours a week for Hispanics to a high of 6.81 hours a week for Asians. For all ethnic groups, however, moving just one standard deviation to the negative side of the mean brings the figure to zero hours per week. If the hours of homework were distributed normally, it would take three standard deviations to get to zero. But in reality most students are bunched up near the low end of the homework distribution.

Parental assistance with homework made only small differences in achievement, and those differences were in the wrong direction: more assistance meant lower achievement for all ethnic groups. …

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