04 SES 13 B, Student Achievement
Sociologists have paid considerable attention to the underachievement of ethnic minorities in education. In the US, a large number of studies have focused on the so-called, ‘Black and White Achievement Gap’. A key explanatory mechanism for the perceived achievement gap is the ‘attitude-achievement paradox among Black adolescents’[1, 2]. While Black adolescents score on average lower than White adolescents on standardized tests, they still hold very positive attitudes towards education. Mickelson studied the underlying processes of this paradox, showing that students have two sets of attitudes towards schooling, namely abstract and concrete attitudes. Abstract attitudes are the ideas about schooling that can be found in the dominant ideology of Western societies; ‘schooling as a vehicle for success and upward mobility’ . Concrete attitudes refer to the reality of a person and originate from the returns on education people expect to get on the labor market; the opportunities and the wages . For an ‘average’ White adolescent, there is a convergence between his concrete and abstract attitudes, because schooling is a vehicle for success in his professional life. An ‘average’ Black adolescent has positive attitudes towards schooling on an abstract level, but due to the unequal access to good jobs and good wages, his concrete attitudes are not in line with the abstract ones [1, 3]. The existence of a double set of attitudes is the key to resolve the attitude-achievement paradox according to Mickelson . While abstract attitudes are not linked with achievement, concrete attitudes are.
In spite of research showing that many ethnic minority students, outside the US, underperform compared to their majority peers while having positive attitudes , the theory behind the attitude-achievement paradox has been developed and tested mainly in a US context. Furthermore, Downey and colleagues [5, 6] re-tested the theory of Mickelson and did not find evidence in the national data (NELS) they used. This finding casts doubt on the findings of Mickelson, however, Downey and colleagues test the attitude-achievement paradox by a selection of items available in secondary data, not with the measurement tools developed by Mickelson.
Hence, this study builds on this line of research by testing the role of abstract and concrete attitudes on achievement in a different context than the US, but with the same tools to measure abstract and concrete attitudes as used by Mickelson. In Flanders, Turkish and Moroccan minority students underachieve compared to their native peers . Although qualitative research finds evidence for the existence of a double set of attitudes for parents of Moroccan origin in Flanders , this has never been tested on a more representative population of adolescents and controlled for possible intervening variables, so it is important to test this using quantitative data. The goal of this study is first to examine: 1) if students have a double set of abstract and concrete attitudes and 2) which role do abstract and concrete attitudes play in the underachievement of Turkish and Moroccan minority students in Flanders?
1. Mickelson, R.A., The attitude-achievement paradox among Black-adolescents. Sociology of Education, 1990. 63(1): p. 44-61. 2. Mickelson, R.A., The Structure of Opportunity and Adolescents' Academic Achievement Attitudes and Behaviors, in Minority Status, Oppositional culture & Schooling, J.U. Ogbu, Editor 2008, Routledge: New York. p. 348. 3. Ogbu, J.U., Minority Status, Oppositional Culture, & Schooling2008, NY: Routledge. 4. Stevens, P. and G. Dworkin, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Race and Ethnic Inequalities in Education. 2013, Palgrave, forthcoming: London. 5. Downey, D.B., Black/white differences in school performance: The oppositional culture explanation, in Annual Review of Sociology2008. p. 107-126. 6. Downey, D.B., J.W. Ainsworth, and Z.C. Qlan, Rethinking the Attitude-Achievement Paradox Among Blacks. Sociology of Education, 2009. 82(1): p. 1-19. 7. Duquet, N., et al., Wit krijt schrijft beter: schoolloopbanen van allochtone jongeren in beeld2006: Garant. 8. Hermans, P., Applying Ogbu's theory of minority academic achievement to the situation of Moroccans in the Low Countries. Intercultural Education, 2004. 15(4): p. 431-439.
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