Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Measuring the Relationship between Attributions for "The Gap" and Educational Policy Attitudes: Introducing the Attributions for Scholastic Outcomes Scale-Black

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Measuring the Relationship between Attributions for "The Gap" and Educational Policy Attitudes: Introducing the Attributions for Scholastic Outcomes Scale-Black

Article excerpt

This study provides empirical support for the Attributions for Scholastic Outcomes Scale-Black (ASO-B) as an instrument for measuring two latent traits that influence causal reasoning about the Black-White achievement gap: culture-blaming and structure-blaming. Within this conceptual framework, culture-blaming refers to the belief that Black parents cultivate an anti-academic mindset in their children and structure-blaming refers to the belief that racially biased opportunity and reward structures within the U.S. schooling system create racial differences in achievement. Results indicate that culture-blaming and structure-blaming are distinct perspectives that are statistically related to attitudes toward parent education, teaching and enforcing "proper" English, standardized testing, and resource redistribution as methods of closing the gap.

A substantial amount of evidence suggests that as a group, Black students achieve at levels below that of White students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). This is especially troublesome given that Americans reportedly care very deeply about majority-minority achievement gaps (Rose & Gallup, 2006). One might assume that more progress would have been made in achieving academic parity if the general public was as worried about the plight of Black students as it claims to be.

A possible explanation for this apparent inconsistency is that people's faulty beliefs about what is causing the gap lead them to support school reform policies that perpetuate, rather than resolve, racial differences in achievement. More specifically, when people believe that Black people are culturally programmed to be apathetic toward, or resistant to education, they are less likely to call for changes in the schooling system that would ensure that all students receive a high quality education. The purpose of this article is to test the basic hypothesis that opposition to egalitarian school reform policies stems from a culture-blaming view of racial differences in achievement.

In order to investigate the relationships between causal reasoning about the achievement gap and policy attitudes, it was first necessary to create a new instrument which is titled the Attributions for Scholastic Outcomes Scale - Black (ASO-B). The ASO-B measures two latent traits that influence thinking about the causes of the gap: culture-blaming and structure-blaming. In developing a measurable culture-blaming construct the authors drew on core social psychological principles, as well as the many descriptions of how culture-blaming manifests in popular dialogue that have been provided by cultural-deficit and racial ideology theorists (e.g., Bonilla-Silva, 2002; Valencia & Black, 2002). A second construct was also defined, and is referred to as structure-blaming, to capture the counter-hegemonic position that problems within the schooling system produce racial differences in achievement After providing initial empirical support for the ASO-B, the authors demonstrated that scores on the culture-blaming and structureblaming subscales are statistically related to attitudes toward parent education, teaching and enforcing "proper" English, standardized testing, and resource redistribution (i.e., increasing funding and resources for predominately Black schools) as strategies for closing the achievement gap. In this way, statistical evidence was provided to support the proposed relationship between blaming Black people for racial differences in achievement and anti-egalitarian policy attitudes.

SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL UNDERPINNINGS OF CAUSAL REASONING

"Blaming the victim" (Ryan, 1971) is a robust psychological tendency that is buttressed by a natural human preference for cognitively simplistic explanations. According to Taylor (1981), people are motivated to expend as few cognitive resources as possible when engaging in the causal reasoning process. In other words, in the absence of a strong motivation to do otherwise, "easy" explanations tend to be preferred over more complicated ones (Fiske & Neuberg, 1990). …

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