Why Do the Achievement Gaps Exist?
How is racial stratification related to poor academic achievement in black students? A scholar identifies three links.
This reports some of the ideas and findings from the following source:
Ogbu, J. U. (1994). Racial stratification and education in the United States: Why inequality persists.Teachers College Record,96, 264-298. Retrieved August 2, 2002, from www.tcrecord.org.
To see other reports that originated from this same citation, go to the bibliography.
Why do black students perform worse in school than white students?
Scholar John Ogbu says that the most common explanation for this trend focuses on class or economic factors. However, he says, this kind of explanation does not work. The fact of the matter is that blacks of every social class perform worse than whites in the same class.
The real explanation for low black academic performance, thinks Ogbu, is racial stratification and inequality in the U.S.
But, how does racial stratification lead to lower black student test scores? Ogbu identifies three ways he believes that racial stratification can lead to lower academic achievement:
Ogbu says that the first way that racial stratification can lead to lower test scores is through racial inequality in access to resources. He says:
"If the U.S. society or one of her local communities provides blacks with less and inferior education, then blacks cannot perform as well or go as far as whites in school." (How Racial Stratification Enters into Black Education section, ¶ 2)
Ogbu says that this obvious kind of racial discrimination was the target of the school desegregation movement and compensatory education (that is, spending more money on poorer schools). He says that the practices of overtly limiting black students from adequate educational resources has largely been reversed.
Ogbu says that teachers and administrators perceive black students differently than white students. This would lead them to treat black students differently. Some examples of differing treatment of blacks versus whites include:
He says that because black students may be perceived as inferior, they are not given access to advanced curriculum and are tracked into slower classes.
In contrast to the first two ways racial stratification affects black academic achievement, Ogbu identifies a series of responses of the black community to white treatment that may undermine black school achievement.
From Ogbu's perspective, it is racial stratification, not class stratification, that lies behind poor black performance. This results not only from the ways that whites treat blacks, but from the ways that blacks have responded to that treatment.
Why does racial inequality persist in the U.S.
Ogbu draws on a wide range of research on race and education to make the argument that racial inequality is a result of racial stratification rather than class stratification in the U.S.
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