Academic Achievement among Caribbean Immigrant Adolescents: The Impact of Generational Status on Academic Self-Concept

By Mitchell, Natasha | Professional School Counseling, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Academic Achievement among Caribbean Immigrant Adolescents: The Impact of Generational Status on Academic Self-Concept


Mitchell, Natasha, Professional School Counseling


Caribbean American immigrant students, who represent one of the largest subgroups in the Black population in the United States, exhibit low achievement scores and high dropout rates, which are both correlated with lifelong negative employment and psychosocial outcomes. To understand how immigrant status may impact academic achievement in this population, this study had 200 Caribbean immigrant adolescents complete the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale and a demographic questionnaire. The results of an analysis of variance revealed a significant main effect of generational status for academic self-concept, but post hoc analysis revealed no significant differences among the mean academic self-concept scores for first-, second-, and third-generation Caribbean adolescents. Implications for school counselors desiring to facilitate positive academic outcomes for Caribbean American adolescents are considered.

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Academic achievement in adolescent populations is extremely important given the correlation between school achievement and positive outcomes over the life span (Marsh, 1990; Santrock, 2002). The achievement gap among student subpopulations (Dworkin & Dworkin, 1999) and the resulting high dropout rates among minority groups have been well documented in the literature (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2002a). Between 1992 and 2002, the average math and reading proficiency scores for White students remained higher than those for Black students in the 12th grade (NCES, 2002b). Results of the 2003 Trial Urban District Assessment indicated that in 9 of the 10 urban school districts assessed (Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, District of Columbia, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Diego), the percentages of eight-grade students found to possess below basic math skills ranged from 46% to 71%, which is a significantly greater percentage than the national average of 33% of eighth-grade students with below basic math skills (NCES, 2003).

The gap in test scores is not the only area for concern; dropout figures among Black students are equally troubling. In 2000, the high school dropout percentages for Whites and Blacks were 6.9% and 13.1%, respectively (NCES, 2002a). Examination of the statistics for Caribbean students, who are a significant immigrant group found within the Black population in the United States, reveal similar dropout rates. In New York City, the area with the largest numbers of Caribbean immigrants, the Board of Education determined that the high school dropout rate for Caribbean students was 23.53% among males and 19.66% among females (Udeogalanya, 1995). High school dropouts, in comparison to high school graduates, are more than twice as likely to be unemployed or underemployed (Dworkin & Dworkin).

Several authors have attributed the high dropout rate among Caribbean immigrant students to the negative experiences they have within U.S. schools (Elliston, 1985; Gopaul-McNicol, 1993; Irish & Clay, 1995; Nieto, 2000). Among Caribbean American students, the environmental issues associated with achievement difficulties are closely related to those of African American students in general. Caribbean students, like African American students, are typically attending segregated, urban schools with limited resources, characterized by violence problems and teacher as well as school counselor apathy (Brown, 1995; Elliston; Kozol, 1991; Waters, 1999). These factors contribute to reducing Caribbean immigrant students' academic performance and persistence, which is of vital concern given the importance of educational achievement in promoting economic and social well-being over the life span (Santrock, 2002). Minorities and immigrants disproportionately experience economic and occupational problems that are partially rooted in achievement difficulties.

ACADEMIC SELF-CONCEPT

Academic achievement has been strongly linked to academic self-concept (Hattie, 1992; House, 2000; Marsh, 1990; Marsh & Shavelson, 1985), defined as the individual's self-perception of his or her academic ability (internal reference), as well as the individual's assessment of how others in the school setting perceive his or her academic behavior (external reference) (Koller, Daniels, & Baumert, 2000; Strein, 1993). …

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