Date of Award

Fall 12-2008

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and Research

Committee Chair

Michael Ward

Committee Member 2

Ursula Whitehead

Committee Member 3

Portia Hull

Committee Member 4

Kyna Shelley


This research study addressed a facet of the academic achievement gap regarding students' beliefs. The specific area that was examined is African American students' self-belief and beliefs about their teachers, while Caucasian students were used as a comparative group. The sample consisted of 34 African American and 65 Caucasian fifth-grade students from a southeastern public school district. The purpose of the study was to explore correlations between beliefs and African American students' academic outcomes. The theoretical foundations regarding beliefs, cultural context, and stereotype threat that were explored in this study addressed the variables located in Chapter III: Methodology. Additionally, these elements were also discussed within the literature review. The researcher specifically designed an instrument to test variables. Correlational analyses were conducted to determine whether African American students' beliefs about their teachers have a relationship with composite report card grades and discipline referrals. Three subscales: students' self-beliefs, students' positive beliefs toward their teachers, and students' negative beliefs toward their teachers were evaluated and yielded an acceptable reliability index with Cronbach's alpha greater than .70 for both pilot and research samples.

The researcher found no statistically significant difference between African American and Caucasian students regarding the academic and discipline gaps due to the low variability between the two groups of students. African American students performed comparably to Caucasian students in the four core subjects without evidence of a significant academic achievement gap. Additionally, there was no evidence to support a discipline gap between African American and Caucasian students. The findings further indicated there were statistically significant correlations between African American students' (1) self-beliefs and discipline referrals, and (2) positive beliefs about their teachers and discipline referrals. Furthermore, there were statistically significant correlations between Caucasian students' (1) negative beliefs toward teachers and composite report card grades, and (2) self-beliefs and discipline referrals.