DIFFERENTIAL RACIAL/ETHNIC PERFORMANCE FOR STUDENTS IN A SOUTHEASTERN UNITED STATES SCHOOL DISTRICT: FINDING CULTURALLY COMPETENT METHODS TO CLOSE THE ‘ACHIEVEMENT GAP’
The David C. Anchin Center, in the College of Education, University of South Florida has been conducting various research projects examining the racial/ethnic performance of Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White students in a large Southeastern School District in the United States. A Growth Curve Modeling analysis was conducted for Grade 8 student’s 2009-10 mathematics scores on a standardized examination. The sample included 13,813 Grade 8 students across 65 middle schools of which 3,777 students were Hispanic. Holding Socio-Economic Factors and Gender constant, the analysis revealed: Asian students scored 1926; White students 1855; Hispanic students scored 1773; and Black students scored 1740. The Developmental Scale Score ranges from 0 to 3000: A score between1733 - 1850 is a Level 2; a score between1851 – 1997 is a Level 3. To place this in context: level 2 is defined as ‘This student has limited success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standard’; a level 3 performance is defined as ‘This student has partial success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards, but the performance is inconsistent. A student scoring in Level 3 answers many of the test questions correctly, but is generally less successful with questions that are the most challenging.’ In the State a Level 3 and above is considered proficient. Differential racial/ethnic performance, such as seen above, is commonly referred to as the ‘achievement gap’.
This result was further confirmed in a full factorial 5 by 4 Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA). Data for an academically competitive program from the same southeastern school district for 2009-10 was obtained which contained continuous scores for: Grade Point Average (GPA), Norm Referenced Test (NRT), Teacher Recommendations and Writing Sample Scores. GPA is defined as the grade point average from the full 7th grade and the first semester of 8th grade. NRT is defined as the best national percentile on a core battery of standardized tests taken in the 6th or 7th grade. Teacher Recommendations is defined as the average total points across three different teacher recommendations representing the subject areas of mathematics, science and writing. Writing is defined as the score received for written responses the students provides for standard prompts. The sample included: Asian (n=194), Black (n=269), Hispanic (n=240), Multi-Racial (n=106) and White (605). Results indicated that Hispanic students accounted for 28% of the Districts students; that 17% of the students who applied for the competitive program were Hispanic; but of those admitted to the competitive program only 13% were Hispanic. Further, the MANOVA revealed that Multi-Racial and Hispanic Students have the third highest means and are ranked third across GPA, NRT scores, Writing Scores and Teacher Recommendations. In that, Asian students rank first, White students rank second, Hispanic students rank third, and Black students rank fourth.
The ‘achievement gap’ is an unacceptable reality. This paper will examine ‘Culturally Competent’ ways to close the ‘achievement gap’, and offer guidance to families wishing to immigrate to the US to help them avoid having their children fall prey to the ‘achievement gap’.