The main purpose of schools is to improve the academic performance of all students and more recently with special regard to those that have historically struggled to meet state achievement goals. In an effort to attain these goals, educators have utilized many approaches including enhancing student self-esteem as a precursor to improving the academic performance of students. Recent research on this topic has showed that there is little, if no, conclusive evidence that the way to raise student achievement is to increase a student's level of self-esteem. This study shows that when compared to similar achieving students, elementary students who experience academic success (Vitale and Kaniuka, 2009) possess more positive attitudes toward reading and higher levels of reading related self-esteem. Two groups of students were asked to complete a reading attitude inventory (Vitale, 1975) and the results were analyzed using 2 x 2 factorial design ANOVA. It was found that students receiving the researched based remedial reading program had significantly higher levels of reading self-esteem and had enhanced attitudes toward reading as compared to similar students who did not participate in the program.
Studying self-esteem and student achievement has been a preoccupation with educators for several decades (Auer, 1992; Baumeister, 1996; Benham, 1993; Joseph, 1992; Klein & Keller, 1990; Lane, J., Lane, A. & Kyprianou, A., 2004; Rennie, 1991; Solley & Stagner, 1956; Wang, & Stiles, 1976). Even with this focus, the relationship between self-esteem and its importance for school success and academic achievement remains indefinable.
One perspective on the relationship between self-esteem and achievement has offered that self-esteem influences achievement (see Alpay, 2002), however this causal relationship has not been consistently substantiated and the association appears at best relational. For example, Rubin, Dorle and Sandidge (2006), found that there was a mild correlation between self-esteem and achievement and when other variables are considered, ability and background were more apt to explain differences in achievement than self-esteem. Consistent with the above, El-Anzi (2005) found that there was a significant positive relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement. El-Anzi's study continues to find the causality between self-esteem and achievement to be elusive. However, in contrast to the aforementioned, Fairclough (2005) offers a view that casts serious doubt on the existence of relationship as she found that when examining the relationship between self-esteem and achievement that the relationship was non-existent. This is consistent with Midgett, Ryan, Adams and Corville-Smith (2002) when they found that once family factors are considered the relationship between self-esteem and achievement disappears. Available research has not replicated nor consistently refuted the existence of a causal relationship.
A reciprocal causal relationship would exist if academic success influenced self-esteem. Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, and Vohs (2003) offer an interesting perspective on self-esteem, suggesting that self-esteem be considered a positive outcome of performing well or behaving in a manner that is ethical and socially acceptable. Implying that if academic achievement is seen as "performing well" or in a manner that is "socially acceptable" by adults in general and educators specifically, at least in the school environment there could be improvement in self-esteem as a result of academic performance and recognition of said performance. In a related study, Lane, Lane and Kyprianou (2004) showed that there is a relationship between self-esteem, self-efficacy and academic achievement, and performance. Self-esteem and self-efficacy were found to be positively related, however, they only found that self-esteem is loosely related to achievement as only self-efficacy and academic performance were significantly related; such that efficacy can predict performance. …