Dr. Michael Lovaglia
Participation year
Project title

  The Difference at the Top: Examining the Achievement Gap Between White and Minority Students


Existing research on the achievement gap between Whites and minorities has suggested that the underachievement of minority students can be partially attributed to the psychologically threatening stereotype threat which is the fear of confirming or being evaluated by negative stereotypes (Steele, 1995). The related theory of differential expected consequences (Lovaglia, 2004) proposes that minority students also anticipate a variety of negative consequences to ensue for academic performance that is lower or higher than expected. Both have been empirically proven as threats that undermine academic performance of stigmatized minorities especially for highly motivated and academically competent minority students. In this present study, the General Social Survey (GSS) was used in order to relate race and variables associated with socioeconomic status to scores on a vocabulary test. The Student Attitudes Questionnaire (SAQ) was then administered to graduate and undergraduate students from six universities, with scales for Motivation for Success, Positive Expectations of Achievement, and Negative Expectations of Achievement. The results indicated that minority students are the most concerned about performing above or below expectations and expect a variety of undesirable consequences to result. This has further implications for examining teaching methods and techniques that may be detrimental to minority student performance.

Pomona College