Submitted by Mary Decker
From Chapter 5 – Cognitive Ability: Intelligence, Talent, and Achievement
Achievement can be a difficult concept to define. According to our text, achievement is “a measure of knowledge based on grades or standardized tests” (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). However, clearly differentiating achievement from general intelligence is problematic, given their high degrees of correlation. Achievement tests aim to measure knowledge which an individual has already attained, rather than his/her capacity for learning (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
Patterns of achievement are detectable is some areas. For example, achievement levels tend to be fairly consistent across childhood. In general, girls receive higher grades than boys across grade levels. However, males are usually overrepresented in advanced math and science classes (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
This may be partly due to females’ interest levels and self-perception in these areas. One study states that, “beginning at age 12, girls begin to like math and science less and to like language arts and social studies more than do boys (Kahle & Lakes, 2003; Sadker & Sadker, 1994). They also do not expect to do as well in these subjects and attribute their failures to lack of ability (Eccles, Barber, Jozefowicz, Malenchuk, & Vida, 1999). By high school, girls self-select out of higher-level, ‘academic-track’ math and science courses, such as calculus and chemistry” (Blume and Zember, 2011).
Socioeconomic status creates a much wider discrepancy. According to the American Psychological Association, SES is defined as something that is, “measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation. It is commonly conceptualized as the social standing or class of an individual or group. When viewed through a social class lens, privilege, power, and control are emphasized” (APA, 2009). Those with lower SES are inclined to have lower achievement, as is corroborated by hundreds of studies. This may be so for a variety of reasons, including the quality of parenting and opportunities available to families of higher SES as opposed to lower SES. Children from lower socioeconomic statuses may also have less opportunity to learn (OTL), with less-qualified teachers (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Initial academic skills, which are often learned in the home, are stunted due to persistent stress and lack of literacy. (APA, 2009).
Achievement differences also occur across ethnic groups. Asian children tend towards higher achievement, followed by White students. African-American and Latino students in general achieve at lower levels. One cause of this apparent gap in achievement is the link between ethnicity and SES. Latino and African-American students are generally more likely to have a lower SES. Schools that contain these minority subgroups (ALANA) also tend to have disadvantages, such as overcrowding and a lack of qualified teachers. These groups could also have a lack of cultural capital, or may suffer from cultural mismatch (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
Some experts posit that disengagement from school occurs for minority ethnicities when they become more cognizant of the conditions under which their group entered the country or were historically treated. For example, one cultural framework states, “because African American populations immigrated to the United States under conditions of oppression and opportunity constraint, they developed a collective group identity that rejects institutions that are dominated by the oppressive mainstream culture, including the American educational system. As a consequence, youth’s identification with a Black identity came to entail a rejection of a pro-achievement orientation, including attitudes and behaviors associated with being successful in school” (Chavous, 2011). Teachers must constantly be using best practices to combat these achievement issues that we face.
Bergin, C. C., & Bergin, D. A. (2012). Child and adolescent development in your classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Blume, L.B. and Zembar, M.J. (2011). Gender and academic achievement. Education.com. Retrieved on September 16, 2013 from http://www.education.com/reference/article/gender-academic-achievement/.
Chavous, Tabbye. (2011). Ethnic identity and academic achievement. Education.com. Retrieved on September 16, 2013 from http://www.education.com/reference/article/ethnic-identity-and-academic-achievement/#C.
Education and socioeconomic status. (2009). American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 16, 2013 from http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-education.aspx.
1. How can educators encourage female students to pursue advanced classes in math and science?
2. How do you create an atmosphere of achievement press in your classroom?
3. Have you ever had a student with low achievement because of his/her perceived attitude of unfairness towards his/her particular ethnic group? How did you handle this?
4. In what ways have you promoted improvement in academic achievement for students who come from low SES backgrounds?