Successful minority students in the context of desegregation and the achievement gap

Fredrick Barrington Harris


May, 2004 was the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka . This case ended school segregation and ruled that separate schools for separate races were not equal. But 50 years later, has true equality among different races in the public school system been achieved? Previous studies suggest that it has not. Many minority students are still achieving far below their White, non-Hispanic classmates, a phenomenon referred to as the achievement gap. There have been many studies that have focused on the causes of the achievement gap. As a result, there is a plethora of information on the subject. The current research, however, was conducted in an effort to study and analyze minority students who, in spite of the documented factors that contribute to the achievement gap, have been successful and have achieved at or above levels of White students. A total of 81 minority students and 31 White students, along with their parents, were surveyed in two separate school districts; District A, being predominately White, and District B, predominately minority. This study was conducted in an effort to determine how minority students viewed their educational experiences and if the parents of minority students in a predominately White school district prepared their children for school any differently than parents in a predominately minority school district. The results of this study revealed: (1) There were no statistically significant differences in the way successful minority students viewed their educational experiences regardless of the racial makeup of their school district, and (2) There was no statistically significant difference, regardless of the racial makeup of the school district, in the way the parents of successful minority students prepared their children. These were overall conclusions. The major findings of this study suggest that successful minority students experienced significant academic success in both District A, the predominately White school district, and in District B, the predominately minority school district. With adequate parental support, the racial makeup of the districts had no bearing on the academic progress of successful minority students in either district respectively. However, though not statistically significant, there were subtle differences between races and within particular races (discussed in Chapter IV) that lead to several questions warranting further consideration for future research. It is hoped that this study, along with previous studies and future research, will lead to decreasing the achievement gap that presently exists among minority students in our public schools.