The relationship between academic optimism and academic achievement in middle schools in Mississippi

LaQuanta Murray Nelson


As we constantly seek to increase educational attainment and increase student achievement in the United States, it is critical that we not only look at the effect of research based instructional practices or socioeconomic status on academic achievement, but also at any other factors that may potentially have a positive impact. The current state of education in Mississippi is still behind that of its counterparts, which suggests that providing schools with extra funds and an aligned curriculum alone will not raise student achievement. According to Beard, Hoy, and Hoy (2009) academic optimism is a factor that influences academic achievement, even after socioeconomic status has been controlled. Academic Optimism is the collection of collective efficacy, academic emphasis, and faculty trust in parents and students (Hoy, Tarter, & Woolfolk-Hoy, 2006). The purpose of this study was to examine correlations between administrator's and teacher's Academic Optimism and academic achievement. This study also examined the difference in administrator's and teacher's congruence of academic optimism. A total of four, centrally located Mississippi school districts participated in this Study. All schools were Title 1 eligible, which means they had a high percentage of students living close to the poverty line. Participants, which included teachers and administrators, completed the School Academic Optimism Survey. The survey consisted of 30 statements as well as demographic data. The results from the survey were analyzed to give descriptive statistics, correlations, and differences between groups. Student achievement data was obtained from the Mississippi Department of Education Accountability Reporting System. Findings from this research showed that there was a significant positive relationship between teacher's academic optimism and student's academic achievement. There was not a significant relationship between administrator's academic optimism and academic achievement. The study found that there was a significant difference in the academic optimism of teachers at the elementary level versus teachers at the middle school level, with elementary school teachers having a higher mean. The study also found that administrators had higher levels of academic optimism than teachers. The findings from this study add to current literature on academic optimism and underscore the need for further research within the new construct.