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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary 2 Education and the Changing Nation The urgency of the issues discussed during the conference is underscored by the profound demographic, social, and economic changes that took place during the last half of the 20th century, and that will continue well into the 21st. Demographic and education data presented in the figures and tables in this and other chapters of the conference summary are derived from Census Bureau and Department of Education sources, as indicated. Demographic and educational trend data were presented at the millennium conference by Marta Tienda, in collaboration with Kim Lloyd and Anna Zajacova. In addition, Edmund Gordon, Gary Orfield, Ronald Ferguson, Patricia Gándara, Samuel Stringfield, Scott Miller, Samuel Lucas, and Antoine Garibaldi presented or referred to Census Bureau and Department of Education data. DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE Racial and ethnic minority groups that, for the most part, have not been well served by the nation’s schools are rapidly growing as a percentage of the population (Figure 2-1). In 1980, the first year that census data differentiating Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites became available, 24 percent of children under 18 were members of a racial or ethnic minority group (i.e., other than non-Hispanic whites). By 2000, minorities had increased to 35 percent of the population under 18 and by 2020, 45 percent of this population will be minorities. Nearly 9 out of every 10 minority
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary FIGURE 2-1 Percentage of U.S. children under age 18 by race and Hispanic origin, 1980-2000 and projected 2001-2020. SOURCE: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (2001:4). students in 2000 were from groups that had significantly lower than average levels of degree attainment and of academic achievement. As discussed below, Asians/Pacific Islanders are the only racial/ethnic minority group whose academic attainment and achievement are not substantially below national averages (Lloyd et al., in this volume: Figure 13). Minority students in six states, including California and Texas, two of the nation’s most populous states, already make up half or more of all students in public schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2000b:60). The most dramatic growth is taking place in the Hispanic population, which in 1980 constituted only 9 percent of the school-age population 18 and under. By 2000, Hispanics had increased to 16 percent, and by 2020 they are expected to reach 23 percent of the population 18 and under. The Asian population is also growing at a rapid rate, although from a much smaller base than Hispanics. In 1980, Asians constituted only 2 percent of the population 18 and under. By 2000, their percentage had grown to 4
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary percent, and by 2020 it is expected to reach 6 percent. Blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives are both relatively constant as a percentage of the population. Between 1980 and 2020, blacks are expected to decrease from 15 to 14 percent of the school-age population, while American Indians/Alaska Natives are expected to remain at approximately 1 percent. Immigration has contributed greatly to demographic growth among Hispanics and Asians (Lloyd et al., in this volume:Figure 2). In 2000, 28 percent of the Hispanic and 38 percent of the Asian school-age population were first-generation immigrants. An additional 44 percent of Hispanics and 43 percent of Asians were second-generation immigrants. The strong flow of immigrants from Latin America and Asia has greatly increased the linguistic and cultural diversity of American schools. In 1999, 23 percent of Hispanic school-age children and 12 percent of Asian children were reported to have difficulty speaking English. In addition, 71 percent of Hispanic and 51 percent of Asian children come from homes in which a language other than English is spoken (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2001:70; also see Lloyd et al., in this volume: Figure 11). Neither Hispanic nor Asian immigrants should be considered a monolithic group in terms of culture, occupational profile, or educational status. However, Asian immigrants who listed an occupation when admitted to the United States are far more likely to have held professional or managerial positions in their country of origin than were Hispanic immigrants. Of Asian immigrants who listed an occupation when legally admitted to the United States in 1998, 62 percent said that they held professional or managerial positions in their country of origin, compared with only 12 percent of immigrants from Latin America (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1998). The educational attainment of adult immigrants from Latin America and Asia at the time of entry is not known. Census information on the educational attainment of foreign-born adults reflects schooling that may have occurred in the country from which they emigrated or in the United States. However, consistent with the occupational differences mentioned above, the Census Bureau’s 1998 Current Population Survey found that 83 percent of foreign-born Asian adults age 25 and over had at least a high school diploma, and 44 percent had a bachelor’s degree. This compares with only 47 percent of adult immigrants from Latin America with a high school diploma and 11 percent with a bachelor’s degree (Ethnic and Hispanic Statistics Branch, Population Division, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, March, 1998 Internet release 9/12/2000). These disparities between foreign-born Hispanic and Asian adults are reflected in the average academic outcomes of Hispanic and Asian American students, as described below.
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary EDUCATION AND THE CHANGING NATION Further magnifying the educational challenges posed by demographic changes is the rapidly growing importance of education to individuals’ financial security (Figure 2-2). In 1979, a male college graduate earned only 29 percent more than a male high school graduate and 57 percent more than a male worker who did not complete high school. By 1999, the earnings advantage of male college graduates relative to male high school completers and noncompleters increased to 68 percent and 147 percent, respectively (Council of Economic Advisers, 2000:135-136). High-wage manufacturing jobs and other types of well-paying employment that had been available to workers with little education in previous decades are becoming increasingly scarce. As a result, a high-quality education has become nearly indispensable for entry into careers that afford a reasonable likelihood of economic security. The educational system, then, is playing an increasingly prominent role as both gatekeeper FIGURE 2-2 Weekly earnings of men who work full-time by educational attainment, 1979 and 1999. SOURCE: Council of Economic Advisers (2000:135).
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary and gateway to careers that offer a reasonable opportunity for economic security. In light of this, the persistent racial/ethnic and economic disparities in achievement pose a serious threat to the American ideal of equal opportunity for all. As put by Marta Tienda during the conference, “the ultimate injustice in a meritocratic society is foreclosing educational opportunities.” America’s schools still are far from reaching the goal of enabling all students to achieve to high academic standards. In 1998, 15 percent of all 20- and 21-year-olds had not completed high school or received a general educational development (GED) high school equivalency credential (U.S. Department of Education, 2000b:128). As illustrated in Figure 2-3, 43 percent of high school seniors scored below “basic” on the 1996 science test of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), 23 percent scored below basic on the 1998 reading test, and 31 percent were below basic on the 1996 NAEP mathematics test (see also Lloyd et al., in this volume: Figure 13). FIGURE 2-3 High school seniors with scores below basic on the NAEP science, mathematics, and reading exams. Note: “Basic” is defined as “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” SOURCES: National Center for Education Statistics: 1998 NAEP Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States; NAEP 1996 Mathematics Report Card for the Nation and the States. National Assessment Governing Board, 1996 Science Performance Standards: Achievement Results for the Nation and the States.
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary International Comparisons Data from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999b) indicate that U.S. students’ achievement lags considerably behind these lofty aspirations. They also demonstrate that the nation still is nowhere near to being “first in the world in mathematics and science achievement”—a goal articulated in the America 2000 campaign of the first Bush administration and reiterated in the Clinton administration’s Goals 2000 (U.S. Department of Education, 1991, 1998). At least this was the case in 1995, according to TIMMS. Although the study found that the average mathematics and science skills of 4th graders in the United States were more advanced than those of 4th graders from most of the 48 countries that participated, by 8th grade the science skills of U.S. students were only a little above the international average and the mathematics scores were just average. Even more troubling, U.S. 12th graders ranked at or near the bottom in both science and mathematics when compared with other students completing secondary school in the 47 countries that participated in TIMSS. Also, the scores of the top 10-20 percent of U.S. high school students were among the lowest of the 16 countries that participated in a portion of TIMSS that tested knowledge of advanced mathematics and physics of the highest-achieving students from each of the participating 47 countries. In 1999, the first follow-up or repeat study was conducted. The TIMSS-R was the first international study specifically designed to longitudinally track changes in achievement (U.S. Department of Education, 2000c). Similar to the original findings in 1995, TIMSS-R found that U.S. 8th graders continue to perform only at the international average in science and just below the international average in mathematics. Commenting on the findings from TIMSS-R, Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation stated, “This confirms the disappointing showing of our eighth graders in international comparisons, and demonstrates that the decline in relative performance during the middle school years is a continuing and serious problem” (U.S. Department of Education, 2000c:vii). Collectively, these data strongly support the proposition that all students in American schools are not achieving to high educational standards—the thematic focus of the conference. In fact, at least in the sciences and mathematics, TIMSS data indicate that not even the country’s top performers are achieving to high educational standards, let alone those segments of the population that historically have been poorly served by the nation’s schools.
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary NAEP Data Substantial gains in educational attainment have been made in the last half-century, as reflected in the dramatic increase in the percentage of the young adult population that has completed high school and college. The percentage of both blacks and whites completing high school has risen dramatically since 1940, and the gap between blacks and whites has narrowed (Figure 2-4). (Data for Hispanics are available only since 1980. Achievement trends for Hispanics are complicated by heavy immigration, but the trend is less positive than for blacks and whites.) The percentages of blacks, whites, and Hispanics who have earned bachelor’s degrees also have increased markedly. However, in sharp contrast to the data on high school completion, the gap in college enrollment (Lloyd et al., in this volume:Figure 17) and in bachelor’s degree completion between whites on one hand and blacks and Hispanics on the other has deepened (Figure 2-5). Reliable data on academic achievement trends have been available for a much shorter period of time than have data on degree attainment. The long-term trend assessments of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provide a good indicator of academic achievement patterns in various subjects for different segments of the population. The same assessments have been administered periodically to nationally representative samples of students since 1969 (U.S. Department of Educa- FIGURE 2-4 Persons 25-29 years old who completed high school as a percentage of all 25-29- year-olds, by race/ethnicity. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education (2001).
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary FIGURE 2-5 Persons 25-29 years old who completed 4 or more years of college as a percentage of all 25-29-year-olds, by race/ethnicity. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education (2001). tion, 2000a:ix). As noted by Samuel Stringfield at the conference, the average scores for U.S. students in various subjects at ages 9, 13, and 17 have shown remarkably little change throughout the 30-year history of NAEP. As a whole, NAEP long-term trend assessments support neither the claim that the quality of American schools has slipped nor the view that remarkable gains have been achieved. However, the constancy of scores for all NAEP examinees masks notable improvements that occurred in the scores of black and Hispanic students from the 1970s through the late 1980s (see Lloyd et al., in this volume:Figure 14). The fact that there has been little change in national NAEP scores despite the rising scores of blacks, Hispanics, and, to a lesser extent, whites, is explained by the demographic decline of traditionally higher-scoring white examinees and the growing percentage of minorities in the nationally representative NAEP samples. For reasons that are not entirely understood, the gains that were being made by black and Hispanic students in the 1970s and 1980s stalled or were partially reversed in the 1990s. Ronald Ferguson (this volume) speculates that the gains that occurred can be attributed to efforts to improve students’ basic skills. Ferguson also offers some intriguing hypotheses for the lack of progress in closing racial/ethnic achievement gaps during the 1990s (see Chapter 4 and the paper by Ferguson in this volume; Cook, 1998; Ferguson, 2000, 2001; Grissmer, 1998; Phillips, 2000). However, the lack of definitive explanations for racial/ethnic trends in NAEP scores
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary and trends in degree attainment points to the complexity of the forces that influence educational outcomes. Determining with any certainty the various factors that influence trends in academic achievement is indeed a formidable task. Identifying the causes of racial/ethnic achievement gaps is no less daunting. Poverty, Income, and Education Outcomes The juxtaposition of trends in degree attainment (Figures 2-4 and 2-5) with the dramatic reduction in poverty that occurred prior to the mid-1970s (Figure 2-6) shows that the profound economic and social changes of the mid-20th century correlate with increased degree attainment for all segments of the population. Census data show that more than 90 percent of black Americans and two-thirds of white Americans had incomes below the federal poverty level in 1940. Economic growth associated with FIGURE 2-6 Poverty rates by race/ethnicity, 1940-1998. SOURCES: National Research Council (1989:278), and U.S. Department of Education (2000b:28).
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary World War II and the postwar economic boom caused earnings to rise and the poverty rate to plummet. By 1974, 30 percent of blacks were living in poverty, as were 9 percent of whites (National Research Council, 1989:277-279). Similarly, the percentage of black children living in poverty dropped dramatically, from 66 percent in 1960 to a still very high 42 percent in 1970. It remained approximately at that level until it resumed falling in the 1990s, reaching 31 percent in 2000 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001:25). The percentage of white children living in poverty fell from 20 percent in 1960 to 11 percent in 1970 and still was about 9 percent in 2000 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001:24). The percentage of Hispanic children in poverty fluctuated between 33 and 43 percent from 1975 until the late 1990s and fell to 27 percent in 2000 (U.S. Department of Education, 2000b:28; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001:26; see also Lloyd et al., in this volume:Figure 6). The percentage of Asian children in poverty fell from 23 percent in 1987 to 14 percent in 2000 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001:26). It is clear that, despite improvements over time, black and Hispanic students still are far more likely than whites and Asians to come from low-income families. In 1999, the median family income of blacks and Hispanics was only $31,778 and $31,663, respectively, compared with $54,121 for non-Hispanic whites and $56,316 for Asian/Pacific Islander families (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000:B-10). Since 1992, the median black family income has increased from 72 percent of that of white families—approximately where it had been for the previous 20 years—to 84 percent in 1999. In contrast, the median income of Hispanic families has fallen from approximately 70 percent of that of white families in the mid-1970s to 62 percent in 1999. As has been discussed, indicators of socioeconomic status such as family income and parental education are correlated with a variety of educational outcomes, irrespective of race/ethnicity. That is, students whose parents are more educated and have higher incomes tend to have better educational outcomes (Coleman et al., 1966; Miller, 1995:84-142; U.S. Department of Education, 2000b). Does, then, the covariance of these indicators of socioeconomic status with race/ethnicity completely account for the long-standing racial/ethnic disparities in educational attainment? Despite the covariance of socioeconomic status with race/ethnicity (Figure 2-7), the achievement gap is not accounted for in its entirety by racial/ethnic differences in socioeconomic status—at least as it typically is measured (Figure 2-8). In 1994, the average score of white students whose parents did not complete high school on the NAEP reading exam was 274, while the average score of black students whose parents were college educated was 272. The poor academic achievement levels of black and Hispanic students who are not economically disadvantaged was dis-
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary FIGURE 2-7 NAEP reading scale scores of 17-year-olds by parental education, 1994. SOURCE: National Task Force on Minority High Achievement (1999:9). FIGURE 2-8 NAEP reading scale scores of 17-year-olds by race/ethnicity and parental education, 1994. SOURCE: National Task Force on Minority High Achievement (1999:9).
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary cussed by Scott Miller at the conference, as was the scarcity of black and Hispanic students with high-level academic performance. This was a major focus of a recent report of the College Board Task Force on Minority High Achievement (The College Board, 1999; Miller, 1995). Citing the work of sociologists Pierre Bourdieu, James Coleman, and Theodore W. Schultz (Bourdieu, 1990; Swartz, 1997; Coleman, 1987; Schultz, 1960), conference speakers Edmund Gordon and Scott Miller (Miller, 1995:142-200) have both argued that racial/ethnic differences in academic achievement may be better understood in relation to the availability of education-related resources than in terms of simplistic measures of socioeconomic status. Education-related resources are not necessarily material or economic in nature, although they may be. They also include academically relevant learning opportunities in the context of family and community, as well as instruction that draws on students’ past personal experiences or, as Luis Moll puts it, taps their funds of knowledge (Moll et al., 1993). As Gordon argued at the conference, “There is absolutely no reason why…color should predict academic achievement or social class should predict academic achievement. Yet we accept these social divisions almost as given.” In saying this, Gordon was not denying the fact that race and class have long been correlated with measures of academic achievement; rather, he was saying that people should not accept the inevitability that they must continue to be in the future. Do race and class tend to be related to the availability of education-related resources? Do race and class somehow determine or influence what and how much students learn in the classroom? If so, how? The relationship of race and class—two macroscopic social categories—to the process of learning both inside schools and in the community is a theme repeatedly addressed by conference participants, one to which this volume frequently returns. CHALLENGES THAT REMAIN In the nearly half-century since Brown v. Board of Education, minorities have made substantial progress both in terms of degree attainment and academic achievement, as measured in the National Assessment of Education Progress. The data also make it clear, however, that substantial challenges remain before the ideal of achieving high educational standards for all is a reality. Degree Completion Increasing percentages of black, Hispanic and white young adults are completing high school (including both high school graduates and indi-
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary viduals who earn a general educational development [GED] certificate) and earning bachelor’s degrees (Figures 2-4 and 2-5). The black-white gap in high school completion has closed dramatically, although the same cannot be said for the Hispanic-white gap. More troubling, the gap between whites and both blacks and Hispanics in bachelor’s degree completion has been steadily widening (Figure 2-5). By 1998, the percentage of whites ages 25 to 29 who had completed a bachelor’s degree was twice that of blacks of the same age, and three times that of Hispanics. Trends in bachelor’s degree completion among adults ages 25-34 present an even more disturbing picture. While the percentage of white young adults earning bachelor’s degrees shows substantial growth over the years, there has been little increase in the percentages of blacks and Hispanics since the mid-1970s. Indeed, the racial/ethnic gap in college completion for high school graduates has widened dramatically since 1990 (Lloyd et al., in this volume:Figure 20). Growth has been especially slow for black men (U.S. Department of Education, 2001; Ready and Nickens, 1991) These large and expanding racial/ethnic disparities in college completion rates are particularly troubling, given the growing importance of advanced education for Americans’ economic security. Whether these disparities are attributable to differences in the quality of precollege academic preparation, racial/ethnic differences in income affecting the ability to pay for college, cultural differences, or some combination of the above, is not completely understood. This question is explored further in Chapter 4. Academic Achievement The racial/ethnic differences in degree attainment discussed above are mirrored in a variety of measures of academic achievement (The College Board, 1999; Miller, 1995; Jencks and Phillips, 1998), including the National Assessment of Education Progress. To better understand the challenges that lie ahead, it is helpful to examine the most recent data on racial/ethnic differences in: average scores in grades 4, 8, and 12, the percentage of examinees scoring below “basic” in grade 12, and the percentage of 12th grade examinees demonstrating advanced skills. The fact that the average scores of black 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading exam are lower than
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary the average scores of white 13-year-olds illustrates the magnitude of the achievement gap (Figure 2-9). Scott Miller has described these and similar disparities on the SAT, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), and the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) of 1988 (Miller, 1995:45-83). Similar patterns exist in other subject areas. Racial/ethnic disparities already are large by age 9. The fact that this achievement gap manifests itself at an early age suggests that efforts to close the gap should begin very early, if such efforts are to be proactive rather than compensatory in nature. NAEP results also are reported in terms of the following achievement levels—advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic (National Center for Education Statistics, 1997, 1999a; National Assessment Governing Board, 1997). Major differences by race/ethnicity exist in the percentage of students scoring below basic and scoring at the proficient level or above FIGURE 2-9 NAEP reading scale scores, by race/ethnicity, 1999. SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, NAEP 1999 Long-Term Trend Assessment.
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary (Lloyd et al., in this volume:Figure 13). The specific academic skills indicative of each of these achievement levels are set by the Nation Assessment Governing Board and are described in the above mentioned NAEP publications. Although the process by which the achievement standards are set has been debated (National Research Council, 1998d), examining the racial/ethnic distribution of examinees scoring below basic and at least at the proficient level is nonetheless instructive. These data suggest that U.S. students of all backgrounds still are far from achieving at a level consistent with the ideal of high educational standards for all. Yet black and Hispanic students still are far more likely than whites to score at or below basic in reading and in other subject areas and far less likely to demonstrate proficient or advanced skill levels. Coming to grips with these findings requires that the following question be addressed: Will efforts to improve the quality of education for all students, even if successful, address the underrepresentation of minorities among high achievers, or the overrepresention of minorities among the lowest-achieving students? From Building Basic Skills to Nurturing the Talented Tenth In his keynote conference presentation, Edmund Gordon referred at some length to the late W.E. B. DuBois, whom he described as his close friend and mentor. DuBois is well known for his advocacy of efforts to develop advanced intellectual skills in what he called “the talented tenth” of students. DuBois considered such efforts essential to the development of a leadership vanguard for the black community (DuBois, 1997). Gordon noted, however, that shortly before DuBois left the United States to live in Ghana in 1958, he had come to believe that the advanced intellectual skills that he had thought were important only to the education of the talented tenth would become necessary for all students by the end of the 20th century. Gordon sees the contemporary focus on closing the gaps and achieving high educational standards for all to be the current formulation of the view earlier adopted by DuBois. In Gordon’s words, “that the highest development of the human intellect was not something that could be effectively limited to a talented few, but somehow had to be universalized.” Gordon stated that this requires the development in all people of: critical literacy—not just the ability to decode, but also the ability to rapidly find meaning from printed material; critical numeracy—not simply the ability to count or to manipulate numbers, but also to understand numeric relationships; and mastery of knowledge and knowledge domains.
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary Not only must students be able to gain mastery over “chunks of knowledge,” but they must also develop tacit understandings of the relationship among these chunks of knowledge and among domains of knowledge. Commenting on the relevance of this for participation in the modern economy, especially in rapidly growing fields such as the computer sciences, Gordon cited The Sciences of the Artificial (Simon, 1996). According to Herbert Simon, educators need to develop ways to more widely disseminate among students the capacity for analysis, for creating things that never existed before—to translate ideas, dreams, into something material, to bring order to chaos in the service of problem solving. “I like to think of these processes as sense making,” Gordon said. Gordon challenged the audience to consider whether factors internal to schools, such as the quality of curriculum and instruction, or factors external to the educational system, especially those related to the roles of race and class in America, were more responsible for causing the educational disparities that exist. Partially answering his own question, Gordon suggested that understanding school-based learning in the context of wider social influences is a more realistic approach to answering this question than to dichotomize determinants of learning as either internal or external to the school. The likelihood that they will develop a deep understanding of school-based lessons largely depends on the degree to which they perceive academic lessons as relevant or meaningful in the broader context of their lives (Swartz, 1997). A complex array of social structural and economic factors affect students’ perceptions of their opportunities to use school-based learning to advance their economic and social well-being (Ogbu, 1978; Bourdieu, 1990). Also, the quality of curriculum and access to skilled instruction certainly affect the likelihood that they will develop a deep understanding of academic lessons, thereby gaining confidence that they can use school-based knowledge to advance their interests and well-being. The principles of learning discussed in Chapter 3 provide insight into this complex process.
Representative terms from entire chapter: