Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

Action Research September Reading



Delvin Dinkins, Ed. D., Principal,
Tredyffrin/Easttown School District,
Wayne, PA
Goals of this presentation

 To review literature and a conceptual
  framework for the achievement gap
 To share a study that examined educators'
  beliefs about underachieving students
 To explore ideas that may diminish effects of
  the achievement gap
 Achievement gaps more transparent due to NCLB, causing
    critical challenges
   Achievement gap and black underachievement are complex
    challenges in whiter suburban school districts
   Should schools address the gap, shoulder blame, or "level the
    playing field”
   Needed: inquiry into how a group of teachers make sense of the
    achievement gap in a highly regarded school
   Beliefs profoundly shape how people define, frame, and
    approach problems and interventions
       Research Goals
 Invite voices that are often unheard, unfamiliar, or both
 Learn how a group of educators talked about issues and
  problems related to low achievement
 Learn how educators mapped, named, and framed
  problem(s), choices and solutions
 Generate local knowledge in order to respond to
         Conceptual Framework
 Present study was informed by three areas:
      Achievement gaps
      Adult learning
      Language and Belief systems
 Research Questions
      How do teachers talk about race, class, culture, and achievement?
      What beliefs, attitudes, and practices shape their conversation?
      How effective can a discussion group be in addressing such issues?
     Achievement Gap

 Broad consensus about the factors that influence
    racism and classism

    lowered expectations

    large class sizes

    ineffective instruction

    out-of-school factors such as health care, poverty,
     and parent education level
       Explaining the Achievement Gap:
       Out of School Factors
 Historical Explanations
    Long-held beliefs about black racial inferiority
     (e.g., Jensen,1969)
    “Separate but equal”--1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson

    Deficit models
         Explaining the Achievement Gap:
         Out of School Factors
 Conventional Explanations
      1966 Coleman Report*: family background
      Capital: a useful concept for exploring resource
       discrepancies among groups
         Cultural capital

         Social capital

*Equality of educational opportunity, report of the office of education to congress and the
       Explaining the Achievement Gap:
       Out of School Factors
 Conventional Explanations
    Parental involvement

    Savvy, high SES parents

    Minority parents and parents of lower SES disadvantaged

    Community disenfranchisement
         Explaining the Achievement Gap:
         In-School Factors
 School/Organizational Factors
     Education/schools reproduce and sustain current structures
     Forces within schools tend to establish differential
      conditions and outcomes
     Schools expect, and rely on, cultural capital
     greater cultural capital  better prepared for academic
      demands, receive favoritism by teachers, and reap the
      benefits of encouragement and support in the schooling
      process (Lareau, 2003; Kalmijn & Kraaykamp, 1996)
      Explaining the Achievement Gap:
      In-School Factors
 School/Organizational Factors
   Schools tend to overestimate the resources of
    parents and homes
   Racial and ethnic segregation
       Explaining the Achievement Gap:
       In-School Factors
 School/Organizational Factors
    Tracking: principal means of academic and societal
    Effects of placement: instructional, social, and
     institutional (opportunity structure)
        Explaining the Achievement Gap:
        In-School Factors
 School/Organizational Factors
      Students' individual resources also directly affect
       their effort and opportunities to learn
         Opportunities to learn may be compromised by
          selection of courses, minority status, etc.
      Adult Learning in Schools

 Designed to effect change in performance; to assist
  teachers with becoming more connected to their
  practice; and to support them in generating knowledge
  about their work with students
     Belief Systems

 Words reflect an opinion and a worldview (Bakhtin,
 Beliefs are commonsense understandings and
  explanations by which people make sense of their
  surroundings (Gathright, 2002)
         Research Site: Clearfield High
 1,850 students: 87% white, 8% Asian American, 3% Black, 1%
    Latino, and 1% Pacific Islander and American Indian
   140 teachers: 129 white, 5 black, 4 Asian and 2 Hispanic
   Record of academic excellence: 1180 SAT (100% participation),
    30 AP courses, 180 AP Scholars, 60 National Merit students,
    94% enrollment in college, 1150 AP tests (93% score of 3>)
   Four course levels with varied weighting (quality points)
   Philosophy of access, options, and choice
   More than 100 student-initiated and student-run clubs
       Research Site: Clearfield High
 Disproportionate number of black students struggle
  academically, enroll less challenging courses, do not
  participate in extra-curricular activities
 Black students are part of small working class
       Academic Achievement Group
 Consisted of a variety high school educators
 Formed after several parent and educator meetings
  regarding student underachievement
 Emerged from encouragement and positive interest in
  talking with others
      Academic Achievement Group
 Meetings
   Forum where educators could share observations,
    explore research, discuss frustrations, and raise
   Context in which knowledge could be shared,
    constructed, and challenged
        Overview of Themes
 Nurturing and Resisting Black “Culture”
 Black Isolation and Teacher Relationships
 Whiteness and the Construction of Achievement
 Permanence of Achievement
 Interrupting and Maintaining Black Course-Taking Patterns
 Justifying the Status Quo
 Deficits, Defiance and Other Blames
 Racial and Economic Disparities
 Community Distrust
 Social Justice and Colorblindness: Struggles to Make Race Salient
         Overview of Findings
 Educators’ conversations reflected that notion that achievement
    connected to race and class
   Educators primarily attributed low achievement to students and their
   Educators’ conversations shifted between a black deficit perspective
    and a social justice perspective
   Educators struggled to maintain a social justice stance because of
    demands within the school
   Educators resorted to traditional assumptions about race, class and
   Belief systems and language can function as barriers to change
    (Kumashiro, 2003)
        Educator assumptions about race,
             class and achievement
 Assumption 1:
   Students are not created equal
 Assumption 2:
   Students do not enter school with the same social
    and cultural resources
 Assumption 3:
   Educators believed that they did not actively
    contribute to black underachievement
        Educator assumptions about race,
             class and achievement
 Assumption 4:
     Students have the same opportunities. The
      opportunity structure within the school is fair and

 Assumption 5:
     The academic picture at Clearfield, no matter how
      racially segregated, is natural and inevitable.
         Educator assumptions about race,
              class and achievement
 Assumption 6:
     Blacks and low-income students have a culture of
      underachievement that explains their failure.

 Assumption 7:
     Educators felt that holding higher expectations of all
      students compromised their integrity and set
      students up for failure and disappointment
             Summary and Conclusions

 The educator group as a form of inquiry ultimately did
  not create necessary conditions for change
 While educators participated in conversation about
  problems, they were unable to look deeply or
 Most educators in the group did not have an experience
  in which their beliefs and personal histories increasingly
  became subjects of inquiry
              Summary and Conclusions

 Despite the potential for a social justice orientation to
  the inquiry into achievement and ultimately black
  student failure, inquiry did not automatically serve as a
  lever for initiating reform
 The solutions did not reestablish the school as a
  radically different place for helping, teaching and
  learning, nor did they include improvement in
  educator-related work
         Ideas to Explore: Learn
 Student Attitudes and Behaviors
      High performing black students experience pressure when
       they fear failure in light of negative racial stereotypes.
      When blacks perceive inconsistencies in the opportunity
       structure, they are likely to underachieve (Mickelson, 1990).
      Impact of peer group on adolescent behavior
      Black males experience substantial alienation from the
       educational process; racial identity plays a greater role in
       furthering academic achievement for black females than for
       black males (Cockley, 2001; Dawson-Threat, 1997)
        Ideas to Explore: Learn

 Student Connectivity to School
    Examine the ways in which black students experience the
     social environment of schools and classrooms (Northwest
     Regional Educational Laboratory, 2002)
    Extracurricular participation in high school is a way for
     students to extend learning as well as connect to others and
     the school environment outside the regular school day
        Ideas to Explore: Learn

 Student Connectivity to School
    Quality of students' relationship with influential adults is an
     important predictor of school success
    Educators can be role models and effective sources of
     support for some students
    Positive social relationships could create powerful
     incentives for students
     What can we do?

 Examine patterns of student engagement
 Look at course-taking behavior
 Be watchful of inviting and uninviting teachers
 Be an advocate
 Place students in higher level courses and offer support
 Be aware of how students experience school and classroom
 Ensure students are not over-identified for special education
 Extend the benefit of the doubt to students
 Challenge practices of lowered expectations and gate-keeping
 Start your own honest conversations and be a critical friend

To top