Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Influence of Educational and Political Resources on Minority Students' Success

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Influence of Educational and Political Resources on Minority Students' Success

Article excerpt

Using Black and Hispanic students' pass rates on the Texas public school exit-level assessment as a proxy for academic achievement, this study identifies educational and political resources that influence student success. It employs the political resources model, which assumes that the level of political resources available to a community influences the development of strategies and tactics to achieve community goals. While political and school district resources were found to contribute to both groups' pass rates, political resources were more influential for Black students. For both groups, the higher the percentage of (a) minority teachers in a school district and (b) minorities with at least a high school degree in district communities, the greater the likelihood of minority student success.

INTRODUCTION

The importance of education to racial and ethnic minorities cannot be exaggerated. Conversely, the impact of educational discrimination experienced by these groups cannot be understated. As Meier and Stewart (1991) observe, "Of all the forums for discrimination, discrimination in education is the most invidious" (p. 2). The link between education and income has long been established, as has the link between education and upward mobility (e.g., Cohen & Tyree, 1986; Duncan, 1984). Consequently, considerable attention has been paid to the impacts of educational policy on minority students, particularly African American and Hispanic students. Research on more specific areas of educational policy and their effects on the achievement of minority students has proliferated over the past three decades. Coleman et al.'s (1966) seminal study a generation ago set the early tone. More recently, Meier, Stewart, and England (1989) and Meier and Stewart (1991) assessed equity concerns in the field of education policy with respect to African Americans and Hispanics, respectively.

Several scholars have examined the relationship between educational policy and minority student achievement in various contexts. Twenty years ago, Bidwell and Kasarda (1975) suggested that an appropriate unit of study for such research is the school district, and that organizational structures, largely ignored by Coleman and his associates, could have a significant influence on student achievement. Bidwell and Kasarda also suggested that the greater variation between school districts compared with that between individual schools makes the former unit of analysis a richer source of study. Years later, in an article focusing primarily on methodological techniques and that applied Bidwell and Kasarda's model to individual schools, Namboodiri, Corwin, and Dorsten (1993) found that organizational properties influence average test scores. Smith and Meier (1994) used states as their units of analysis and reported that although the nature of the school bureaucracy has little if any impact on student performance, teacher influence has a significant impact on students' standardized test scores. This latter finding was supported by Namboodiri et al. (1993) and Payne (1994). In their analyses of student test scores in Oklahoma schools, Ellinger, Wright, and Hirlinger (1995) found that test scores tend to be higher when school funding is higher, even when race and family socioeconomic status are held constant.

The present article identifies and examines the political and educational resources that influence African American and Hispanic (primarily Mexican American) student pass rates on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). The TAAS is, in the jargon of the education establishment, an "exit-level assessment instrument" that all students in Texas public schools must successfully negotiate at different grade levels and prior to graduating. From the time of its initial administration in the 1990-91 school year, TAAS scores have been the standard outsiders have used to measure Texas school districts' success or failure. Consequently, the TAAS has become a matter of political as well as educational debate. …

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