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A comparative study of underachieving and high achieving African heritage high school students

Ericka Jean Fisher, University of Massachusetts Amherst


It was the purpose of this study to explore and compare the differences in self concept, academic behavior, and self-reported personal experiences, between a group of high achieving African heritage students and underachieving African heritage students. This study was designed in order to better understand the factors that contribute to the success or underachievement of African heritage students who are judged by their teachers to be academically capable of success. This is a comparative study, using a blend of qualitative and quantitative methodologies involving a sample of fourteen African heritage male and female high school students from one central Massachusetts high school. Data was drawn from focus groups, demographic profiles, and a self-concept assessment. This study was an exploratory study designed to identify factors related to black student academic achievement. The significant findings include differences in ethnic and linguistic background, participation in extracurricular activities, parental attitudes toward school, student attitudes toward school, and differences in the formation of goals. Based on this data one can conclude that the high achievers of African descent in this study are motivated and invested in their education as a result of various factors including family influences, self determination, and participation in organized extracurricular activities. One can also conclude that the underachievers in this study have been unable to achieve their full potential as a result of various factors that include family influences, peer influences, previous academic experiences, and lack of self motivation. This research can be beneficial to educators and researchers as they continue to unravel the complexities of academic achievement between and among students of color.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Fisher, Ericka Jean, "A comparative study of underachieving and high achieving African heritage high school students" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3078680.