Summary of the Article
The theme of the achievement gap between African American students and their European American counterparts is widely discussed in the current literature. Recent research by Wang et al. (2020) aimed at contributing to the current body of knowledge on the topic. The purpose of the study was to determine if schools’ racial composition had a significant impact on the achievement of students in elementary, middle, and high schools. In order to achieve the primary objective, the researchers utilized a large sample of students from several school counties in North Carolina and conducted a longitudinal study using secondary data and quantitative data analysis.
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The sample included 3,182 students of varying cultural and ethnic backgrounds from 19 high schools, 30 middle schools, and 85 elementary schools (Wang et al., 2020). The participants were students of 3-10 grades who started third grade in the 1998-1999 academic year and finished the twelfth grade in the 2007-2008 academic year (Wang et al., 2020). The researchers utilized the data of End-of-Grade scores in reading and mathematics. The research design was longitudinal, as the researchers compared achievements of different types of students every year of their study. The researchers did not acquire any primary data from the participants. Instead, they utilized officially recorded data by the schools. After the data was acquired, the researchers assigned students to eight types depending on the racial composition of their schools and conducted several ANOVA tests to understand how the school composition affected the achievements of students in reading and math.
The results of the study revealed that children from racially diverse schools had better performance in reading and math regardless of their racial background and grade level (Wang et al., 2020). Additionally, the results revealed that African Americans had lower performance in both subjects in comparison with Caucasian students (Wang et al., 2020). However, the growth rate in math was significantly higher in African American students in comparison with Caucasian students, while the growth rate in reading was lower (Wang et al., 2020). The results acquired from the ANOVA analysis were confirmed with hierarchical linear model analysis.
The research utilizes adequate methods to answer the research question and controls for the majority of possible biases to achieve highly reliable results. However, there are several flaws in the article that can be improved to acquire a full understanding of the problem. The first issue is that the literature review is relatively scarce and does not identify a gap in knowledge. All the articles included in the literature review are older than 7 years, which implies that the knowledge may be outdated. Additionally, the literature review made in unclear which gap in knowledge the authors were trying to address by conducting the research. Thus, even though the literature review is well-structured and written in a comprehendible language, it is of questionable quality.
Second, even though the research was published recently, the student that were analyzed finished high school in 2008. The research fails to provide a rationale for choosing such a sample. Thus, the results of the conducted research may be outdated, as many initiatives were implemented to close the achievement gap between African American and European American students. Considering the facts that the authors utilized outdated articles for literature review and an outdated sample for conducting the original research, it appears that the researchers conducted the study a long time ago but failed to publish it in time.
Third, the study utilizes secondary data, which may be both advantageous and disadvantageous for the study. On the one hand, utilization of secondary data is associated with decreased financial burden and improved quality of the data, as it is usually collected by high-level professionals (Check & Schutt, 2012). On the other hand, the researchers have little control over the data collection process, operationalization of the variables, and the timeframe (Check & Schutt, 2012). It may be possible that the researchers decided to conduct the analysis of an outdated sample simple because the longitudinal data was available.
Finally, the discussion section is rather short, leaving many untouched subjects. For instance, researchers fail to include opportunities for future research and threats to validity. The findings are not analyzed against the findings of previous research, which makes it unclear if the findings accord or contradict the current body of knowledge. Additionally, the implications of findings are also scarcely discussed, leaving uncertainty about the importance of the study. While it is mentioned that policymakers should consider creating a diverse school environment to improve academic achievement, there are no specific recommendations about how to achieve it. This may be due to the fact that the research is not based upon a solid theoretical framework.
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Even though the research has some weaknesses, there are significant strengths that compliment them. First, the researchers utilize appropriate methods to answer the research questions (Check & Schutt, 2012). Second, the researchers utilized top-quality data that was gathered by the school system, which limits the possibility of biases in data collection methods. Third, the sample size is large, which adds to the generalizability of the results. Finally, the results of the ANOVA analysis were cross-checked with the results of the hierarchical linear model analysis, which contributes to the reliability of findings. In general, the research is a reliable quantitative study that emphasizes the achievement gap in students of different races and promotes racial diversity in schools to improve academic achievement.
Check, J., & Schutt, R. (2012) Research methods in education. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Wang, C., Fan, X., & Pugalee, D. (2020). Impacts of school racial composition on the mathematics and reading achievement gap in post unitary Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Education and Urban Society, 52(7), 1112-1132. Web.