Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

A Study of Ogbu and Simons' Thesis regarding Black Children's Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Status and School Achievement

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

A Study of Ogbu and Simons' Thesis regarding Black Children's Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Status and School Achievement

Article excerpt


Ogbu and Simons' thesis, based on the Cultural-Ecological Theory of School Performance that Black immigrant students academically outperform their non-immigrant counterparts and that achievement differences are attributed to stronger educational commitment in Black immigrant families, was examined. Two hypotheses, based on data from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study of 2006 (N=782), are that Black immigrant students differ from non-immigrants in school performance and that the effect of immigrant status as predictors persists, after including selected behavioral and cultural factors. Using analysis of variance, correlation, and multiple-regression techniques, the findings refute the Ogbu-Simons thesis in that immigrant and non-immigrant students did not differ in school achievement and that other predictors may be more important.


The Cultural-Ecological Theory of School Performance, initially introduced by Ogbu (1990; 1991), was developed to address the broad societal and school factors, as well as dynamics within minority communities , in terms of their impact on academic performance among minority students. The theory argues that while discrimination and structural barriers in schools are important determinants of low school achievement among minorities, they are not the sole cause of low performance because not all minority students perform poorly in schools. Rather, Ogbu and Simons (1994, 1998) suggest that differences in minority student performance can be attributed to differences in community forces that are determined by differences in incorporation into society, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Ogbu (1991) and Ogbu and Simons (1998) suggested that differences in minority students' school performance be examined through the use of cultural models, because it was "necessary to incorporate the perceptions and understanding that minorities have of their social realities and of their schooling" (pp. 6-7). The type of cultural model adopted by a minority group depends on whether they were initially incorporated into their host society voluntarily or involuntarily (Ogbu, 1990, 1991; Ogbu & Simons, 1994, 1998).

Immigrant minorities, who Ogbu (1991) and Ogbu and Simons (1994, 1998) referred to as voluntary minorities, are those groups who moved into their present societies in search of economic and political freedom and better opportunities overall. Immigrants are characterized by primary cultural differences that exist within the group before they arrive in their adopted land and become minorities. From this perspective, Ogbu (1991 , 2003) and Ogbu and Simons (1994, 1998) argue that successful minority groups possess a different understanding of the workings of the larger society and their place in that working order compared to the views of less successful minorities. For example, Ogbu (2003) explains that immigrants do not interpret their presence in the United States as having been forced on them by White Americans. Ogbu further asserts that voluntary minorities develop "pragmatic trust in societal institutions, such as the schools, for instrumental reasons" (p. 50). Further, Ogbu (2003) argues that descendants of voluntary minorities, regardless of generation, continue to be voluntary minorities, and thus, retain their notions, attitudes and behaviors regarding education of their forebears.

In contrast, Ogbu and Simons (1994, 1998) define non-immigrant minorities as involuntary. Involuntary minorities, such as non-immigrant Blacks, have been forced into their present societies through slavery, conquest, or colonization (Ogbu, 1990; Ogbu & Simons, 1994, 1998). Accordingly, involuntary minorities are characterized by secondary cultural differences that develop after they become minorities. Furthermore, Ogbu contends that involuntary minorities resemble individuals existing in a caste-like system where status and group membership are determined at birth (Ogbu, 1978). …

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