Plethora of factors
There are a plethora of factors that affect students who plan to pursue post secondary education. General factors such as education expectation, value of education, motivation, aspiration as well as planning are impacted by the socioeconomic factors of class and race. Most of these studies compare African American students with White students. In essence the question remains; are African American high school students adequately prepared for college?
Dr. John Ogbu developed the cultural-ecological study of minority student performance. The theory states that there are two sets of factors influencing minority school performance. The first is how society at large and the school treat minorities (the system). Second, is how minority groups respond to those treatments and to schooling (community forces). The theory further posits that differences in school performance between immigrant and nonimmigrant minorities are partly due to differences in their community forces. (Ogbu, 1999, p. 156)
Ogbu holds steadfast to the belief that African American Culture and academic success are not compatible. According to Ogbu, “Black youth who choose this strategy seek to disassociate themselves from their black peers, from black cultural identity. They appear to prefer white norms and values, clearly in conflict with those of blacks. They reason that in order to succeed they must repudiate their black peers, black identity, and black cultural frames of reference. Such minority are often academically successful. The price paid is peer criticism and isolation.” (1990c, pp. 162-163)
On the contrary several studies show that Blacks hold factors such as, time spent studying, parental value, school attendance, and affiliation with academic organizations the highest among any ethnic groups. Therefore, this is contradictory to Ogbu's theory, which advocates that cultural identity is the cause of both underachievement and the pursuance of college among African American students.
Researchers have noted several factors related to successful academic achievement. For example, Bempechat (1998) identified student motivation, parents' role, and the quality of instruction and textbooks as influences on student achievement. However, she stressed that future research should also focus on “…individual beliefs and attitudes about learning” (Bempechat, 1998, p. 119).
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (1998) cites parents' educational attainment, number of family members, and unique efforts tailored to improving minority education as predictors of student achievement. Elliott (1997) related that “individual and family background characteristics explain most of the variation in student achievement” (p. 3). Others noted additional factors that were related to achievement. Ford (1993) found that parents' attitudes and beliefs toward schooling were associated with the students' attitudes and beliefs. These attitudes and beliefs were referred to as achievement orientation.
Aspiration is essential to educational achievement. The comparison of Blacks and Whites as far as aspiration proves there this is little difference on a national level; however, there are greater differences among regions. Attitudes of both students and parents, as well and their relationship to achievement, have been the subject of various studies. Mickelson (1990) examined the issue of Blacks having “…consistently positive attitudes toward education, coupled with frequently poor academic achievement” (p. 44). As mentioned by Mickelson (1990), Coleman et al. (1966), Patchen (1982), and Mickelson (1984) also noted the paradox of Blacks' high regard for education except their overall performance was at lower levels, not reflective of their high regards. Mickelson (1990) used questionnaire data from a non-random sample of almost 1,200 seniors who were taking social studies classes in eight Los Angeles area public high schools. She analyzed these data to determine if the attitude/achievement paradox” could be explained by measured differences between abstract and concrete attitudes scores and their contributions to achievement measured by grade point average. Abstract attitudes were “…based on cultural values that express the ideal connection between education and opportunity” (Mickelson, 1990, p. 48). Concrete attitudes, however, were based on “…different material realities that people experience with respect to the actual returns on education within the opportunity structure” (Mickelson, 1990, p. 48). She concluded that the difference between abstract and concrete attitude scores was statistically much wider for Black students than for White students.
Also, she found that abstract attitudes had no effect on grades whereas concrete attitudes had a statistically positive effect. Mickelson (1990) noted that the achievement of Black students was based on their concrete attitude. A study of gender and aspirations was done by Hanson (1994) using the 1986 High School and Beyond (HSB) data. She studied a sample of students that demonstrated early indications for attending college. Findings showed that young women were more likely than young men to aspire to go to college but did not expect a college degree, and that Whites were less likely to desire college than non-Whites.
In a study of 30 African American youth, Hubbard (1999) found that although students showed similar educational aspirations, gender revealed some differences in outlook on education. She indicated that the girls aspired to go to college for the academic credentials that would enhance career prospects. On the other hand, the boys wanted to go to college for the opportunity to play sports as a way of becoming a professional athlete.
Race has been the subject of a number of studies on aspiration. Hauser and Anderson (1991), for example, used the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey data to study trends of post high school plans and aspirations of Black and White twelfth-graders between 1976 and 1986. For 4-year college aspirations, Hauser and Anderson (1991) found that Blacks and Whites had similar upward trends. Solorzano (1992) looked at Black and White eighth-grade students using the NELS: 88 data. He used the question, “As things stand now, how far in school do you think you will get?" to study aspirations. Before controlling for socioeconomic status (SES), 82% of Black females and 83.5% of White females desired to attend college along with 80.2% of Black males and 78.6% of White males. Although distinctions were relatively minor, the percentage of females aspiring to college was greater than the percentage of males regardless of race. After controlling for socioeconomic status, Solorzano (1992) found that the lowest socioeconomic status quartile showed only a minor decrease of percentage points in the percentage of Black students aspiring for college (70.9% of Black males and 73% of Black females).
In contrast, there is a major decrease of percentage points in the percentage of White students aspiring for college (48.9% of White females and 58.9% of White males). Solorzano (1992) notes four patterns from the data and analysis. First, as students' SES increases, so does their aspiration. Second, when SES is controlled, Black male and female students' aspirations only fails to exceed Whites in the highest SES quartile. Third, excluding high-SES Blacks, females have higher aspirations than males. Fourth, Solorzano (1992) indicated that all who aspired did not attain a college education.
Countless studies have been conducted and attempts made to establish what factors keep African American high school students from continuing their education in comparison to white high school students. There appears to be an almost equal level of aspiration and value placed upon education on a national level, but some regional differences prove that there are gaps in response. So the question remains; if the values of education, motivation, and time spent studying are the same, and the two groups are afforded the same opportunities to continue education, then why is success rates among African American students lower than those of white students? Are African American high school students adequately prepared for college? What are other contributing factors that halt successful transition into and completion of college?