Posts Tagged ‘Student Achievement’

EDCI 506 Social Class, Race, and School Achievement Week #10

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Social Class, Race, and Student Achievement

Social class can be thought of as a mere ranking system of people based on four variables.  Our textbook states these four social class variables are occupation, education, income, and housing value (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011).  Because of those four variables, people are ranked and ordered into upper class, upper middle class, lower middle class, upper lower class, and lower lower class, which is our societies way of determining a persons worth, in my opinion.  Social class correlates strongly with school success, which is why as a teacher it is important to put aside any preconceived notions about a student’s social class when teaching.  Evidence suggests relationships between social class and academic success in many different areas including mathematics and reading.  Our textbook reads, “nine-year-olds whose parents had at least some college had average scores not far below those for thirteen-year-olds who parents had not completed high school” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011, p. 340).  Because of the strong relationship between social class and academic success, I as a teacher want to strive to only see children and not how much money their parents make.

I think that a huge factor that plays into academic success is teachers perceptions about how well students are going to perform based on many different factors including social class, race, and past performance.  When students turn out to be what is expected of them, that is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy.  As a future teacher, I will try my best to have high expectations for all of my students despite social class, race, gender, or any other personal bias that I may have, in hopes of them all being successful in life.  I personally am from a middle class family where both of my parents did not go to college, and so I have hope for all students that their family’s social class should not define who they turn out to be.

Race is another factor that correlates strongly with academic success and in many cases social class.  For example, “African American students have the lowest SES scores (as reflected by higher percentages in poverty).  They also have the lowest math and reading scores” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011, p.343).  Whereas, whites have the highest SES and the highest reading scores and second highest math scores (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011).  Because race is such a huge factor in school success, I think it is very important to develop a climate of respect in a classroom.  Race ties very closely into cultural beliefs; classrooms need a sense of respect in order to function and maintain a learning environment.  The movie Freedom Writers was about a classroom full of students with many different racial backgrounds; until they respected one another, no substantial learning took place because the focus was on the racial differences (DeVito, Shamberg, & Sher, 2007).  I want to help set up a climate in my classroom like Mrs. Gruwell did; I want my students to not feel judged by me or by others based on their race.  I was all of my students to know that I believe they are worth something, and can succeed in life if they want to.

When reading the chapter, I found it very interesting that in certain cultures it is cool to be unsuccessful in school.  The book states that, “high achievers who work hard are often labeled as ‘brainiacs’ and accused of ‘acting white’” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011, p. 360).  This supports the fact that students are very influenced by their peers, which are usually members of the same race.  Teachers need to find a way to make learning the “cool” thing to do, maybe by creating fun projects that can be applicable to real world settings or getting ideas from students as to what sorts of assignments they would like to complete.  Overall, race is just one factor in a person’s success, and should not define what they can and cannot accomplish in life.  The book says it right, “For educators, the challenge is to improve the performance of all low-status students, from whatever ethnic group” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011, p.348).

When talking about social class, race, and their effects on academic achievement, people tend to have differing viewpoints as to whether outcomes are genetically based or environmentally; personally, I believe in the synthesizer’s or interactionist view.  When examining a person’s intelligence, some people believe that it is all from their genetics, while others believe it is all from their environment and what they are exposed to (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011).  I believe that intelligence is partially based on genetics and partially based on environmental factors.  People can be genetically predisposed to have certain traits, but unless their environment brings out those traits than no one will ever know they had them.  For example, a child who has the genetic ability to hear pitch and intonation extremely well and would be a great musician, never is exposed to musical instruments, and therefore, never turns out to be the famous musician that they could have been.  Granted, that is an example of a hypothetical extreme case, however, it could be true for someone in the world.  Overall, I believe that intelligence and academic performance is related to part genetics and part environmental factors, which is why I think teachers should not judge students based on their race or social class.

In what ways does student culture shape perceptions and behaviors?


Student culture shapes perceptions and behaviors in many ways.  As previously mentioned, students sometimes do not try in school because if they succeed they are ridiculed and told that they are “acting white” (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011).  This is an example of how students culture shapes their perceptions and behaviors; these minority students are perceiving academic success to be a trait associated with the white race, therefore, their behavior is being effected and they are not trying in order to avoid seeming white.  Another example of how student culture shapes perceptions and behaviors is from the teacher’s viewpoint.  If a teacher views a particular ethnicity or culture in a negative light, than students will tend to have negative perceptions of the teacher and their race and act in a way that is expected of them.  Because a student may be from a minority race, the teacher may have negative views about that student, which will in turn affect the student’s perceptions about the teacher (especially if they are white) and will affect their behaviors, making them less motivated to do well in school because their teacher does not believe in them, essentially creating the self-fulfilling prophecy.  This example of a teacher’s perception affecting student perceptions and behaviors was clearly identified in Freedom Writers; some of the students made comments to Mrs. Gruwell like, “we are supposed to respect you because you are white” (DeVito et al., 2007).  The students said that they do not respect teachers because of their race; rather some hate the teacher because of their race.  Eva, one of the main characters, stated that white people are the ones who caused everything bad to happen in her life and that they can do whatever they want like put her father into jail, and that is why she hates all white people (DeVito et al., 2007).  This view of Eva’s shows that her perception of white people is very negative, which is ultimately affecting her behaviors in school, she is not doing her work and is not being respectful to white teachers.

Here is the clip about race in Freedom Writers.  I think that it explains how a students culture can shape their perceptions and behaviors.



DeVito, D., Shamberg, M., & Sher, S. (Producers), & Lagravenese, R. (Director). (2007). Freedom Writers [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.

Ornstein, A.C., Levine, D.U., & Gutek, G.L. (2011). Foundations of education (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

EDCI 506 So You Want to be a Teacher? Week 1

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Teachers Matter

Teachers do in fact matter.  How well teachers know their subject matter, how much time they put into planning their lessons, and how often they seek help when they know they need it matters and makes a difference in student achievement.  It mattered for me in high school when I took Advanced Placement Statistics; I passed the class, but did not fully comprehend or grasp any of the main concepts and that was because my teacher did not know the subject matter.  In college, I took the same course and passed with flying colors, all because of the teacher.  Kati Haycock wrote an article titled Good Teaching Matters: How Well-Qualified Teachers Can Close the Gap, and in that article she mentions how if schools focus more on low standards, low-level curriculum, under-educated teachers, and poor results that schools can close the achievement gap between students from all different backgrounds (Haycock, 1998).  The article goes on to mention that research supports that teachers are the most significant factor in student achievement, and I agree (Haycock, 1998).     

Current evidence supports that some teachers bring about higher student achievement than others; this evidence may anger certain teachers for a couple of different reasons, and understandably so.  Most teachers state that the reason they are teaching is because they want to “help children grow and learn” (Ornstein, Levine, and Gutek, 2011, p. 3). One reason why some teachers might be angered about evidence on differential achievement of teachers is because they may feel as if they are failing at their job, and failing their students because they are not helping them learn to the extent that they should be.  Another reason for anger could be that the teachers are frustrated with their lack of preparedness for teaching to all kinds of students.  According to the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are expected to make sure all students are performing at a satisfactory level, which may be difficult for the teachers and students alike to accomplish because of their cultural and background differences (Ornstein, Levine, and Gutek, 2011).  Certain teachers may have more homogeneous classrooms than others, which may make their job a bit easier and their student achievement higher.  Teachers with more heterogeneous classrooms may have a tougher time with student achievement and may be angered with the evidence that they are not as successful because comparatively, they are in the more challenging situation.  A third reason for anger may be because of merit-pay programs that have been set up by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.  If teachers are being told that they are not performing very well and, therefore, are not going to get a raise like the other high achieving teachers, anger may arise (Ornstein, Levine, and Gutek, 2011).  If I were an underperforming teacher, I know that I would be more sad than anything because I would feel as if I were failing the students.

The reasons previously mentioned might also be why some teacher educators want to find flaws in the evidence that teachers play a huge role in producing student achievement.  Personally, I would predict that the not as successful teachers would be the ones seeking flaws in the evidence because either they do not want to admit their flaws, or because the circumstances have made it difficult for them to produce high achieving students.

In addition to certain teachers wanting to find flaws in the evidence on differential achievement of teachers, so might principals.  Principals may be reluctant to use the data and evidence as a basis for improvement because either they do not want to admit that they hired unsuccessful teachers, or maybe that they do not in fact believe their teachers to be unsuccessful.  Teachers who have all of the proper qualifications and who can demonstrate competency on subject knowledge still may have problems in the classroom. According to Margaret Spellings report of teacher quality, states still do not have qualified teachers in every classroom, and that minimum scores for certification are low (Ornstein, Levine, and Gutek, 2011, p. 23).  Principals may be reluctant to use the data because they do not want their schools’ to have a bad reputation.  Instead, what they should be doing is using the data to help improve their teachers and help provide them with resources to increase their performance.   Principals should review the data and find specific areas where teachers need help and then implement resources to help the teacher become the best that they can be.  Haycock claims, if all students have the same quality teachers the achievement gap would close by about half (Haycock, 1998).

In my future teaching career, I would hope that if I were a teacher with poor student achievement that my school would support me and help me improve my performance as a teacher.  My expectation would be that my administration and colleagues would be there for me to lean on and help guide me in the right direction.  Whether they recommended a training course or were a personal mentor, I would wish that they would be there for support and guidance.

A video posted below shows of team teachers really mentoring one another and providing feedback to help improve their strategies and overall performance in the classroom.

Links:  (The link to the article Good Teaching Matters: How Well-Qualified Teachers Can Close the Gap by Kati Haycock)  (Here is a link to a video titled Team Teaching: How to Improve Each Other’s Game, that discusses team teaching and how it can provide much needed support and feedback from colleagues).


Haycock, K. (Summer 1998). Good teaching matters how well-qualified teachers can close the gap. The Education Trust 3(2). retrieved from


Ornstein, A.C., Levine, D.U., & Gutek, G.L. (2011). Foundations of education (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.