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African American Achievement Gap

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Race and Poverty: Factors of the African American Achievement Gap

Abstract The proposed action research study will pinpoint factors that contribute to the African American academic achievement gap. These factors impact not only the lives of families in the African American community but continues a vicious cycle of generations of poverty that hinders our country’s ability to effectively compete economically and also threatens America’s capacity to provide social equality for all. The participants in this study will comprise of parents and students of highly concentrated poverty - low academically performing African American public schools. Thirty two parents and thirty two students from eight low performing-poverty schools in the research study will be interviewed and surveyed online. Collected information and data will be researched employing qualitative and quantitative practices.

Introduction There was a time when children of color were denied the hope and expectation of equal education because of racial isolation and discrimination in America’s education system. Although it’s been well over 50 years since Brown –vs.- The Board of Education which established equal education for all, today we are still faced with large racial disparities in reading and math proficiency between African American children and their thriving white contemporaries. This purpose of this study is to illustrate the connection that occurs between race and poverty with the academic achievement gap of low socioeconomic African American students in our public school system. The qualitative and quantitative research will present vital information showing the common but detrimental factors from the perspective of their parents who are living daily through the trenches of this phenomenon we call the achievement gap. It will answer the question: What are the underlying factors that contribute to the academic achievement gap of African American students in public schools according to students and parents? The NAEP- National Assessment of Educational Progress administers tests in all 50 states in grades four and eight, and its sample sizes are the largest of any national achievement study. Over 160,000 students were assessed, including approximately 25,000 African American and 30,000 Hispanic students. According to U.S. Department of Education - National Center for Education Statistics (2013) Mathematics and Reading report of 4th graders, 82% of black students score below proficient in reading and math as compared to their white peers who score 54% below proficient in reading and 46% below proficient in math. In 8th grade 86% black of students score below proficient in math and 83% score below proficient in reading as compared to their white peers who scored 55% below proficient in math and 54 % below proficiency in reading. This statistical data of the black and white academic gap in reading and math in 4th and 8th grade are strong predictors of future success and failures toward high school graduation, college placement, career opportunities and successful citizens. Our collective destiny as a country is contingent on closing these academic achievement racial gaps. With the projection by National Center for Education Statistics predicting over 50% of students in U.S. public schools enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade will be children of color by 2023, it is undeniable that we must make substantial changes to eradicate the gap or we will lag behind economically as a country. As a ten year teacher and now librarian in a low-income predominately African American elementary school I have witnessed this phenomenon with my own eyes. I work daily to change this statistical information and some days it’s overwhelming due to all the external and internal factors students are faced with before they can learn. But we are obligated to discover strategies to revamp low performing-high poverty schools into equitable high quality schools of excellence for all children regardless of race or socioeconomic status. By having true open dialogue of the comprehensive needs of our low socioeconomic families and working transparently together we can produce new generations of academic proficiency to guarantee America’s future in the competitive high-tech global world.
Review of Literature

Webster defines poverty as a state of being poor. Being poor is a condition where people’s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter are not being met. According to Lee (2002) Poverty is the single best predictor of a child’s failure to achieve in school. Poverty directly affects academic achievement due to the lack of resources students need for success. We all are supposed to have equal chance at American Dream, but many children of poverty aren’t born with an equal chance. Haskins and Sawhill (2009) states “Those who finish high school, work full time, and marry before having children are virtually guaranteed a place in the middle class…and only 2 percent of this group end up in poverty while three fourths – 75 percent of those who do none of these three things are poor in any given year. The gap in achievement is closely related with poverty and several studies have documented the link between poverty and low achievement. The American Association of School Administrators (2008) stated: “The many and varied effects of poverty form the single greatest factor limiting student achievement. The most prevalent and persistent gaps in student achievement are a result of the effects of poverty.”
Race & Poverty in Family Structure According to the U.S. Department of Education (2010) -National Center for Education Statistics data from Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups states the percentages of children who were living in poverty were higher for Blacks at 34 percent as compared to 10 percent for whites. Across all racial/ethnic groups except Blacks, did the majority of children under18 lived with married parents. About only 34 percent of Black children under 18 lived with married parents with 56 percent of Black children living with a female parent with no spouse present. So, African American children are more likely to be reared in single parent female headed low income households and attend high concentrated low income schools that lack resources as compared to higher income areas. The poverty rate for children living with a female parent with no spouse present was higher for Black children at 49 percent than white children at 31 percent. Also a higher percentage of white children (36 percent) had a mother with at least a bachelor’s degree than did Black children (17 percent). Therefore the majority of school age African American children are living in economically as well as intellectually disadvantaged environments.
Race & Poverty in Early Childhood Education The realities of African American children living in poverty impacts their academic achievement from the very beginning with lack of community based resources for poor mothers to access prenatal care. The academic gap among the poor and wealthy begin early on and persists for many more years. Therefore, low income children born in poverty have a higher incidence of health problems that interfere with learning. It is well researched that children from low socioeconomic families begin kindergarten behind their more affluent peers. Duncan and Magnuson (2011) study used data from Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort to compare children in the bottom and top levels of socioeconomic status. Low socioeconomic students scored 1.3 standard deviations lower than high socioeconomic students in their kindergarten entry reading and math skills and two thirds lower standard deviation in attention skills. Duncan and Magnuson (2011) also found that growth in the income based gap in reading and math of low socioeconomic kindergarten students turned into a greater gap in higher grades as likened to their wealthy peers. Jumpstart (2009) published the results of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ national longitudinal analysis of economically disadvantaged children and found that it is estimated that before entering kindergarten cognitive scores of children from low income families are sixty percent lower than those in the highest socioeconomic groups and remain true throughout high school. Isaacs (2012) in a study by Brookings Institution’s Social Genome Project noted that 48 percent of poor children are ready for school at ages 5, compared to 75 percent of children from families with high of moderate income. Therefore, fewer children from low income families are ready for kindergarten.
Race & Poverty in Parental Involvement Poverty also places extreme obstacles to conventional practices of parental involvement that is vital to student academic achievement. High levels of parental involvement has been linked to better student achievement. In the article, The Role of Parents in High-Achieving Schools Serving Low-Income, At-Risk Populations, Ingram (2007) states, “Clearly a link exist between parent involvement in children’s education and the educational outcomes of their children”. For that reason, it is crucial for our families, schools and communities to unify their time and resources for the benefit of the children. Low income parents have demanding work schedules, inadequate transportation, and need for child care hindering them from gathering for school functions, volunteering or visiting their child’s school. Bower (2011) Traditional definitions of parental involvement require investments of time and money from parents, and those who may not be able to provide these resources are deemed uninvolved. Engle (2008) says it best when she states there has been limited attention to the processes whereby poverty impacts children’s development…more attention must be placed on the mechanisms linking poverty to children’s development. Much has been analyzed on direct effects of poverty with low education of parent’s limiting opportunities for children to be stimulated and enriched but Engle (2008) argues more research and attention should be placed on moderated, mediated and transactional effects of poverty. Moderated effects of poverty involves poor families having struggles shielding their children from effects of poverty because they are poorly educated and lack rational decision making skills. Mediated effects of poverty is associated parents who are mentally stressed and overwhelmed with difficulties of poverty are unable to meet the comprehensive needs of their children. Transactional effects of poverty incorporates the relationship impacts of poverty from parent to child as well as from child to parent. Engle shares this indicates that the parent’s behavior is also influenced by their perceptions of child’s skills and behavior. If parents perceives their child is academically performing well they will provide home environment with resources to stimulate the child but if parents’ perception is negative there is no positive stimulation. By studying these three effects, we can acquire more knowledge about the mechanisms connecting poverty to children’s academic and social growth.
Race & Poverty in Schools with High Concentrations of Low Income Students Today an enormous amount of today’s poor Blacks have no choice but to attend low performing high-poverty schools. Intense concentration of poverty is known to have harmful bearing on academic achievement of students. African American children excessively confront this challenge as they are part of community schools with the astronomical degrees of concentrated poverty. The Annie E. Casey Foundation (2010) data reports 40% of America’s children lived in low income families. The same data shows the percentage of 4th graders who scored below proficient and basic levels on NAEP reading test by race/ethnicity, family income and school income. Blacks in low income schools had 90% below proficient and 79% below proficient for moderate to high income. Whites in low income schools had 77 % below proficient and 59% below proficient for moderate to high income. In the article, A Different Kind of Choice –Educational inequality and the continuing significance of racial segregation, Rothstein (2012) suggests that politicians and experts refer to schools as “failing” if they are filled with low-income children who low test scores. With this statement in mind many low performing schools that have a high concentration of low income children that are prevented from experiencing a truly diverse learning environment with a mix of students that include middle and upper socioeconomic children who have diverse experiences. No Child Left Behind was supposed to tighten up these gaps between high and low income families with giving low income blacks the option to transfer to proficient schools outside of their neighborhood but still today children of color are more racially isolated than ever before. The school and the culture within the school has a great influence on the learning behavior of students. As peers, students can ultimately influence one another’s achievement level in a positive or negative manner by immersion of the dominant outlook regarding the worth of academic achievement in class. Burney (2008) in the journal article, The Constraints of Poverty on High Achievement reminds each of us concerning Vygotsky’s theory of learning in social context. According to this view we cannot separate academic performance of a student from the context in which it occurs. Therefore, there is clear link between students’ academic performance and high concentrated poverty schools. Anderson (2010) states current research reassures that integration benefits black students as well as white students as long as instructional pace isn’t slowed down and discipline problems don’t occur using valuable class time. Rothstein (2012) concludes, “Integration is no panacea, but without it other reforms to raise the achievement of disadvantaged children have less promise”.
Data Method This study will explore the factors of race and poverty factors in relationship to the African American academic achievement gap. The research will use a qualitative and quantitative research design using inter-method mixing of voluntary parent online interviews and student online surveys. Johnson and Christensen (2010) defines inter-method mixing as two or more of the methods of data collection used in a research study.

Instruments Thirty-two African American parents at 8 low performing, high poverty concentrated failing Title I schools will be interviewed online. The online interview will consist of seven open-ended questions.
1. In your own words, describe the academic success or failure at your child and your child’s school?
2. Do your help your child with homework daily? Describe your homework experience at home with your child?
3. Did your child attend Prekindergarten and Kindergarten? Describe your child Prekindergarten – 2nd grade experiences.
4. Were your child’s first school years successful or did your child have difficulty early in school? Explain in detail.
5. Are you a single parent or married? How do you think your single parenting or married lifestyle has contributed to success or difficulties in your child’s education?
6. What is your level of education completed? Do you feels you can provide the resources you need to help your child? Do you have plans to continue your education?
7. What in school factors do you feel contribute to academic low performance in your child’s school (ex. Teaching, Administration, Discipline, Attendance, Resources, Lack of supplies and resources etc…) Explain in detail.
The student online questionnaire will consist of seven Likert –format items. The items will asks students to indicate each response from 1 to 4 with 1 happens never, 2 happens seldom and 3 happens often, and 4 happens all the time. The purpose will be to establish rate of evident existences of factors.
1. I am learning what I need to be successful academic student.
2. The teachers help me when I need assistance with my work.
3. My parent(s) expect me to do well in school.
4. My parent(s) help me with homework daily.
5. I have the supplies and materials I need to complete my school work.
6. Students in my school motivate and help each to learn.
7. My teachers and principals have high expectations for our school.
Research Design
The research design will employ qualitative and quantitative research to help discover more about the factors and connection between race and poverty to the academic achievement gap of low socioeconomic African American students. Qualitative parent online interviews of 7 open ended questions and quantitative online student survey-questionnaire asking 7 Likert-format items will be used. According to Johnson and Christensen (2010) researchers use questionnaires to obtain information about thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, perceptions, personality, and behavioral intentions. They also state qualitative interviewing allows a researcher to enter into the inner world of another person and to gain understanding of that person’s perspective (Johnson and Christensen, 2010). Both methods are designed to explore parents’ detailed experiences and students’ opinion on possible factors that contribute to the academic failure and achievement gap such as family structure, early childhood education, parental involvement, and in and out of school factors. Surveys and interviews will be examined for correlations, themes and best practices for supporting students and families to achieve future academic goals.

Participants
The study targets participation of African American third and fourth grade parents and students from 8 highly concentrated low income, majority African American low performing schools that consistently perform letter grade “D” and “F” in Calcasieu Parish School District. Four students and four parents were selected from each school. The sample will include a total of 32 students. 17 students will be female; 15 students will be male. There will be 32 parents in the sample. 22 parents will be single female headed households; 10 parents will be from 2 parent married families. Even though students in this study attend 8 different schools in the district the curriculum in core subjects are the same based on district, state and federal mandates. Limiting the study to 32 families will allow me a more in-depth look of the roles these vital factors play in the African American achievement gap. The sample for this study was selected using a purposive sampling method because lots of research has been conducted on perspective of teachers and administrators but little is noted from the perspective of the students and parents who are in the trenches of this phenomenon.

Procedure
Parents and students involved in online surveys and interviews received written and verbal telephone call explanations of the online interviews and surveys prior to their participation. As the researcher, I personally drafted letters and made telephone calls explaining the purpose and importance of the study. This personal contact verified and established the families’ willingness to engage in the study. In addition, I assured confidentiality and protection of participants’. Student surveys were administered as part of the typical 3rd and 4th grade computer lab enrichment time. Links to the survey was sent to participating students’ school emails and completed during students’ computer lab time. Parents received their parent interview forms via their personal email directly from me and were asked to reply and return to my email. Data retrieved from student questionnaires and parent interviews will be analyzed after all interviews and questionnaires have been transcribed and compared to discover key themes and patterns identified.
Data Analysis Regarding the qualitative data compiled, that will include parent online interviews and student online survey-questionnaires, a constant comparative method will be performed. According to Johnson and Christensen (2010) this method involves constant interplay among the researcher, the data and the developing theory. The method assists the researcher to develop a deeper understanding of the phenomenon and create a set of patterns and themes from information collected. The responses will be coded corresponding with each frequently occurring factor identified by parents. They will be sorted and categorized as they are discovered. Pertaining to the quantitative data obtained by the student online survey of the seven Likert-format items on the questionnaire, the three point ordered responses will indicate the extent of the agreement or disagreement shared be students. The scale will measure their central tendencies using mean – the calculation average of a set of numbers, median – the midpoint in set of values and mode – the significance in a set of values that occur most often. The report will provide data needed to urgently address the real factors identified by African American low income parents and students who attend low performing highly concentrated poverty schools.

References
American Association of School Administrators. (2005). Latest AASA Polling Findings, Unexpected Results. The Leader’s Edge, September 30, 2005. Retrieved from http://www.aasa.org/publications/LeadersEdgeArticle.cfm?ItemNumber=3097.
Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2010). EARLY WARNING! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters. Retrieved from http://www.aecf.org/resources/early- warning-why-reading-by-the-end-of-third-grade-matters-2010pdf.
Bower, H. and Griffin, D. (2011). Can the Epstein Model of Parental Involvement Work in a High Minority, High Poverty Elementary School? A Case Study. Professional School Counseling, 15, 77-87.
Burney, V. and Beilke, J. (2008). The Constraints of Poverty in High Achievement. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?q=The+constraints+ of+poverty+on+high+achievement&id=EJ790173.
Douglas, B.; Lewis, C.; Douglas, A.; Scott, M., & Garrison- Wade, D. (2008). The Impact of White Teachers on the Academic Achievement of Black Students: An Exploratory Qualitative Analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?q=The+Impact+of+White+Teachers&id=EJ839497

Duncan, G., & Magnuson, K. (2011). The Nature and Impact of Early Achievement Skills, Attention Skills, and Behavior Problems. In Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances, ed. Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane, 47-69. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Engle, P., & Black, M. (2008). The Effect of Poverty on Child Development and Educational Outcomes. New York Academy of Sciences Annals, 1136, 243-256.
Ingram, M., Lieberman, J., & Wolfe, R. (2007). The Role of Parents in High-Achieving Schools Serving Low-Income, At-Risk Populations. Education and Urban Society, 39, 479-496.
Isaacs, J.B. (2012). Starting school at a disadvantage: The school readiness of poor children. Washington, DC: The Brooking Institution Press, p.3.
Haskins, R., & Sawhill, I. (2009). Creating an opportunity society. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, p. 9.
Jargowsky, P., & El Komi, M. (2009). Before or after the Bell? School Context and Neighborhood Effects on Student Achievement. Working Paper 28. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED509690.pdf.

Johnson, R.B., & Christensen, L.B. (2010). Educational research: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Jumpstart. (2009). America’s Early Childhood Literacy Gap. Retrieved from http://www.lumeinstitute.org/wp -content/uploads/2011/03/Americas _Early_Childhood_Literacy_Gap.pdf
Simms, K. (2012). Is the Black-White Achievement Gap a Public Sector Effect? An Examination of Student Achievement in the Third Grade. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?q=Is+the+Black-White+Achievement+Gap+a++&id=EJ978517…...

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... Broad Topic Area | A Quantitative study to explore research relevant to Relationships between professional development of teachers, student achievement, principal leadership, and student economic status influence closing the achievement gap in Upper Midwest urban schools. | | Lit Review | Professional Development * Professional development standards established in 2011 to develop new policies and practices (Borko, 2012). * The intensity and duration of the professional development indicates the amount of change in classroom practices (Garet et al., 2007).Teacher Knowledge for Improvement * Professional development improves teacher quality by changing teacher practices (Wenglinski, 2002) * Professional development is most effective when designed using actual school data (Borko, 2008; Ingvarson et.al, 2005). * Implementing professional knowledge, based on how schools succeed and effective teaching, is inevitable (Edmonds, 1979). * Through Professional Development programs, school districts maintain highly qualified employees that have skills to improve student achievement (Evan, 2009).Economic Status and Student Achievement * Student achievement begins before children enter school. A child’s home environment, economic status, emotional and social development, health, and cultural identity are related to achievement (Cunningham, 2012).Educational Leadership * Research by Smith and Andrews (1989) strengthened the importance of the principal’s role in......

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Literature Review - the Achievement Gap

...Running head: LITERATURE REVIEW Literature Review Taletta J Wilson Liberty University Abstract The following traditional literature review examines the disproportionate number of young African-American males who have been placed in special education. The articles highlight factors such as cultural misunderstandings and teachers’ perceptions and attitudes towards African- American men. This literature review not only observes the misunderstandings, but it also looks at strategies and techniques that can be used to lessen the gap. Keywords: African American boys, African American males, special education, overrepresentation, disproportionate, educationally disadvantaged, cultural Literature Review Introduction: According to a recent study conducted by the Council of the Great City Schools, Black and Hispanic males constitute almost 80 percent of youth in special education programs. In addition, Black males make up 20 percent of all students in the United States classified as mentally retarded, although they are only nine percent of the student population (Barbarin 2011). Over the years, overrepresentation of African American males placed in special education programs continues to be a growing problem and it has not gone unnoticed that some of these identified minorities have been misplaced and inaccurately diagnosed. This paper reviews peer reviewed journal articles on this phenomenon. The authors attempt to explain, through qualitative and quantitative......

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Closing the Gap in Health Disparities of African Americans

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Achievement Gap

...One of the major issues I have observed is the “achievement gap”. Most educators define the achievement gap as the difference in performance between low-income and minority students compared to that of their peers. Traditionally African-American students lag behind their white peers. In “The Black-White Achievement Gap, why closing it is the greatest civil rights”, former Education Secretary Rod Paige and his sister, Elaine Witty argue that education is the new civil rights. Instead of fighting for issues traditionally associated with civil rights, African American leaders should advocate for the children. Leaders can bring forth change by building public awareness and using their powers to bring necessary change. Rod Paige believes we can narrow the gap by a concerted effort of committed leadership and community involvement. Like leadership, environment also plays a significant role in narrowing the achievement gap. From 2001 – 2007 the Century Foundation tracked two sets of low-income students in Montgomery County Maryland: one group was assigned to higher-income schools and the other was not. Although the lower income students received more funding, the students assigned to the higher-income students were able to cut the achievement gap by almost a third in reading and half in math. The researcher of the study, Heather Schwartz, cited environmental reasons such as a stable set of teachers, less disruptions in the classroom, and more engaged students as reasons for......

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