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begin the research process for your argumentative research essay and evaluate the source material you plan to use as support for your argument to ensure you’re using reliable research. As a gateway assignment toward writing your essay, you will write a brief paper using the CRAAP method for evaluating sources.

C- Currency.  When was the source published? Does it contain sufficiently up-to-date information for your topic?

R- Relevance.  Is the source relevant to your topic? How does the source inform/support your argument.

A- Authority.  Who is the author, publisher, organization, or sponsor of the source? Is the author/provider of the source sufficiently qualified to write on the topic?

A- Accuracy. Is the information in the source accurate? Does the author support their claim with evidence?

P-  Purpose. What is the source’s purpose? To educate? To persuade? Analysis Components

To complete the CRAAP paper, choose one (1) of your sources for the argumentative research essay; note, for the purposes of this assignment, the source you choose must be scholarly (from an academic journal or book). Write a CRAAP evaluation

Historically, education has been a battleground for racial
and ethnic minorities fighting to gain access to valued
resources and credentials. The struggle for equal access to
quality schooling has been painstakingly slow and the
resistance to integration extreme. Nonetheless, people
look to schools to promote equality in society at large.
Despite the common perception of schools as the ‘‘great
equalizer,’’ education researchers continually find most
racial and ethnic students still lag behind their White
peers in terms of achievement, graduation rates, and
college completion. The U.S. public educational system
remains one of the most unequal of the industrialized
nations. This entry provides a summary of research on
U.S. racial differences in education, the long-term implications of these differences, and the theories that attempt
to explain inequality in public schools, along with an
overview of the main cause of these differences, and then
concluding with two contemporary discussions within
the study of racial inequality in education. As the U.S.
population becomes increasingly diverse, understanding
racial and ethnic variation in educational attainment and
achievement is imperative.
Since the late 1970s, gaps in educational achievement
have narrowed and educational aspirations are consistently high across all racial and ethnic groups. Yet, significant differences in high school and college attainment
remain. On average, Asians and Whites have the highest
probability of graduation at each level of education,
followed by Blacks, Native Americans, and Hispanics/
Latinos; but all racial and ethnic groups have increased
their average rates of educational attainment over time.
Researchers caution, however, that much variation within
ethnic groups exists. For example, among Asian Americans, Chinese, Japanese, and Asian Indians have significantly higher graduation rates than Vietnamese, Laotians,
and Hmong. Additionally, one’s generation affects high
school graduation rates. For Latinos, high school completion rates increase with each generation, but for Asian
and White ethnic groups they increase only from the
immigrant to the second generation (i.e., the children
of immigrants) (Kao & Thompson, 2003). Although
educational attainment differences across racial and ethnic groups are narrowing for high school completion,
figures from the early 21st century show that inequalities
still persist and are increasing at the postsecondary level.
According to the 2000 U.S. census, approximately 44%
of Asians and Pacific Islanders, 28% of Whites, 17% of
Blacks, and 11% of Hispanics/Latinos above 25 years of
age had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Research also finds that Blacks, Latinos, and Native
Americans are more likely than Whites or Asians to drop
out of high school, and that students who attend schools
with high Black or Latino populations experience higher
dropout. There are significant differences, however,
across and between ethnic groups. For example, Rumberger (1995) found that socioeconomic status (SES),
defined as the measure of an individual’s or family’s
relative economic and social ranking, predicts dropout
rates for Latinos and Whites, but not for African
COPYRIGHT 2009 Macmillan Reference USA, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning WCN 02-200-210
Racial Inequality in Education
Americans. Low grades, behavioral issues, and changing
schools increase dropout rates for Blacks and Whites, but
not for Latinos. Absenteeism predicts dropout rates for
all racial and ethnic groups. Furthermore, immigrants—
especially recent immigrants—are more likely to drop
out than native-born students (White & Kaufman,
1997). White and Kaufman (1997) find that once factors
such as generation, language, and social capital are controlled, ethnicity effects have only a minor impact on
dropping out for Latinos. They also advise that substantial ethnic differences in school performance and expectations lead to variations in dropout rates across ethnic
groups. But social capital, the ability of adult family
members to invest attention, support, values, and advice
in children, can be an important factor in reducing the
odds of dropping out.
Standardized test scores of African Americans continue to lag behind Whites in math and reading, but this
gap is narrowing. According to data from the National
Assessment of Educational Progress, the Black–White
reading gap for 17-year-olds shrank by 50%, and the
math gap by nearly 30%, between 1971 and 1996
(Jencks & Phillips, 1998). Parental SES accounted for
much but not all of the Black–White test gap (Kao,
Tienda, & Schneider, 1996). Similarly, the White–Latino
performance gap has narrowed over time. Asians, however, perform above or comparable to that of Whites,
particularly on mathematics assessments. Ethnic and
racial patterns in grades mirror that of test scores and
are heavily influenced by parental SES. Using data on
eighth graders from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, Kao et al. (1996) found that Asians
had the highest grade point average (3.24), followed by
Whites (2.96), Hispanics/Latinos (2.74), and African
Americans (2.73).
In many schools, students are sorted by tracks or
ability groups. In general, when ability and other background characteristics are controlled, most research on
the determinants of ability group assignment provides
little evidence of a direct effect of race on initial placement or subsequent reassignment. Research has shown,
however, that low-income and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately placed in low-ability groups
in elementary school and in vocational tracks in middle
and high school. Additionally, Hallinan (1994) found
that Black students are more likely to drop to a lower
track than White students and are less likely to be reassigned to higher ability groups.
In many ways, the racial and ethnic inequality in American education parallels inequality in the country’s occu-
pational hierarchy. High school diplomas and bachelor’s
degrees are important credentials that influence potential
labor market outcomes, and research shows persuasively
that occupational disadvantages experienced by racial
minorities often result from unequal access to educational resources and differential educational attainment.
Beyond individual social mobility, the United States
looks to education to fulfill multiple societal goals: to
transmit knowledge and literacy, socialize values and
attitudes, monitor children’s behavior, and prepare students for higher educational or occupational opportunities. While inequality in educational opportunity has
implications for individual employment opportunities
and economic well-being over the life course, these differences are also relevant for current social debates on
employment, welfare reform, poverty, homelessness,
and crime.
Given historical and contemporary patterns of racial
and ethnic educational inequality, researchers and policymakers have voiced concerns over the equality of access
to educational resources. Additionally, the civil rights and
women’s movements of the 1960s influenced much of
the sociological research concerning equality of educational outcomes. Moreover, many researchers find that
educational institutions themselves play a key role in the
reproduction of racial inequality. These orientations
toward research are reflected in the theoretical traditions
of sociology.
The Black–White achievement gap has received significant empirical and theoretical attention, and sociologists
approach the subject from very different theoretical
frameworks. The major theoretical developments in sociology of education reflect the larger discipline’s traditions
ranging from Marxist to Weberian. Most contemporary
research on race and ethnic racial inequality in education
falls into three categories. The first has a functional or
economic foundation, arguing that the education system
is neutral and that the lower academic performances of
racial and ethnic minorities can be attributed to lower
levels of human capital or credentials. The second theoretical framework, rooted in conflict perspectives, argues
that larger structural factors such as economic or political
conditions affect various ethnic groups’ achievement.
Finally, the third tradition has a cultural origin and
suggests certain groups adhere to beliefs and practices
that encourage academic achievement more than others.
The functionalist tradition emphasizes that members
of a society share core beliefs and values, and that education is one of many institutions necessary to create an
efficient society. Functionalists incorporate an economic
COPYRIGHT 2009 Macmillan Reference USA, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning WCN 02-200-210
Racial Inequality in Education
model that describes education as a mechanism for individual mobility. The primary function of schooling is to
teach and strengthen the skills and knowledge required to
increase one’s human capital and future economic capital. Under this model, racial disparities in educational
attainment and achievement are a function of family
backgrounds with varying levels of human capital. Factors such as language proficiency and ability are commonly used to explain the negative educational outcomes
of racial minorities and immigrants. Thus, the low performance of some minority students is attributable to the
disadvantaged position of their parents. While human
capital measures do account for some of the inequality
in achievement between White and racial/ethnic minority groups, the empirical evidence suggests there could be
larger structural factors at work.
In contrast, conflict theories of education critique
functional models by conceptualizing schools themselves
as a hindrance to social mobility and as producers of
inequality. Explanations under the broad umbrella of the
conflict perspective examine structural and institutionallevel factors that affect educational attainment and reproduce society’s system of inequality. Conflict theories
suggest that elite and nonelite individuals are often in
conflict over the resources and curricula that should be
made available to students. Social reproduction theories
introduce the notion of power when understanding how
education reinforces the social structure. Contemporary
Marxists represent one school of thought within the social
reproduction camp. Schools are seen as locales that reinforce the class structure through differential socialization
patterns. Educational institutions are developed to serve
the interest of the capitalist elite, with mass education used
to socialize and control working-class children. Similarly,
status conflict theorists examine individual outcomes
within the framework of macro-level factors, suggesting
that competition between groups over resources influences the educational outcomes of group members. In sum,
under the conflict tradition, elites maintain their status by
limiting the access of racial and ethnic minorities to
valued educational resources.
Tracing its theoretical lineage to Max Weber’s work
on religious ethnic groups, cultural explanations suggest
that different racial, ethnic, or immigrant groups, with
varying cultural value systems, promote or discourage
academic and economic success. Fordham and Ogbu
(1986), for example, argued that the oppositional attitudes (or attitudes that consciously reject mainstream
pro-education beliefs) many African-American students
express toward school account for their low achievement.
The majority of contemporary explanations about ethnic
group differences in educational attainment and achievement fall somewhere in between cultural and conflict
Figure 1. High school and college graduates by race and
Hispanic origin, 2000. Percent of the population aged 25 and
A great deal of educational research focuses on the inequality of educational outcomes. But what are the main causes
of these differences? Common thought suggests that the
quality of school makes a significant difference in the
academic achievement of students. At the extremes, where
the average annual per-pupil expenditure can range from
$20,000 at an elite independent private school to $3,000 in
an inner city public school, the differences between school
experiences is fairly obvious. Jonathan Kozol has termed
these kinds of comparisons ‘‘savage inequalities.’’ Beyond
the extremes, however, researchers have attempted to discern the more nuanced inequalities between schools. Since
the publication of the Coleman Report in 1966, which
showed small improvements in academic performance for
minorities in integrated schools, racial contextual effects
have received ample attention in the discipline. Studies
indicate that, when school is in session, Black and White
children in segregated schools learn more than students in
integrated schools.
Previous research shows that reading performance is
more sensitive to class and ethnic differences in the
features of language. Beginning readers draw heavily on
their knowledge of spoken language. When spoken language skills do not match the language used in the classroom, learning to read is more difficult. A possible
explanation for the relatively slow progress that students
in integrated schools made in reading comprehension in
COPYRIGHT 2009 Macmillan Reference USA, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning WCN 02-200-210
Racial Inequality in Education
Despite major historical gains in academic achievement,
racial and ethnic minorities still face blatant and subtle
forms of discrimination in education. In the early 21st
century, research in the area of social psychology examined
how fear of confirming a stereotype affected the outcomes
of non-White students. Stereotype threat occurs when
individuals perceive others as having low judgments of or
expectations about the abilities of members of their own
race/ethnic group, regardless of whether they themselves
agree with or reject these ideas. Ample evidence indicates
that such stereotype threat has a negative impact on the
performance of African Americans on standardized tests
(Blascovich, Spencer, Quinn, & Steele, 2001). A similar
pattern occurs with women’s scores on math and science
exams (Ben-Zeev, Fein, & Inzlicht, 2005). These
stereotype threat effects occur when knowledge about
widely held stereotypes result in individuals having
anxiety, self-consciousness, and trouble paying attention
while test taking.
In experimental settings, social psychologists find
students do less well on a task if given the impression that
a bad performance would confirm a negative stereotype
about their gender, race, ethnic group, or social class
(Spencer & Castano, 2007; Steele, 1997). Researchers are
less sure, however, about the impact of stereotype threat in
everyday settings. Minorities experience prejudice
throughout the life course, but researchers warn about the
long-term impact of these negative stereotypes, contending
that the additional anxiety of stereotype threat remains a
psychological challenge for stigmatized groups and may
undermine the identity itself (Steele, 1997).
winter is that students who come from segregated neighborhoods speak different dialects than their teachers. In
summer, Black students who attended integrated schools
gained considerably more than their peers who attended
segregated schools. The seasonal patterning of reading
and math test scores also emphasize that home disadvantages are compensated for in winter because when school
is in session children, regardless of race or SES, perform
at almost the same level (Downey, von Hippel, & Broh,
2004). Taken together, these between-school effects illuminate interesting patterns and puzzles for future research. It
is important to stress, however, that these between-school
effects are much smaller than the effects of home background or within-school differences.
ined how complex but subtle processes in the classroom
encourage Black girls, more than other students, to fill
distinctive roles such as helper, enforcer, and go-between.
For example, the ‘‘helper role’’ promotes stereotypical Black female tasks that stress service and nurturance.
These positions foster the growth of social skills, but they
also limit the academic abilities of Black girls. Skills
developed within these roles reflect the occupational roles
in which Black women are overrepresented.
Even more controversial than the topic of teacher quality is the literature on the processes and structure of tracking.
Curriculum tracking has a substantial and significant influence on students’ future educational and occupational outcomes. Tracks, broadly defined, are the divisions that
separate students for all academic subjects according to
ability for particular subject areas. The vast majority of
schools group and/or track students in some manner. In
the United States, children in high-ability groups learn more
than those in low-ability groups (Oakes, 1985). But students
are often sorted by perceived performance tied to race and
class stereotypes, not by actual ability. Most research finds
that ability grouping (as practiced in the United States) is
A large literature is devoted to examining the impact
of teacher quality on student outcomes. But empirical
research has repeatedly found limited to no effect of
teacher quality on such outcomes. Fuller (1986) found
that teacher training, experience, and salary made little
difference in student achievement. But more minor differences reveal how teacher behavior could still affect
educational trajectories for students. Grant (1994) exam-
Ben-Zeev, T., Fein, S., & Inzlicht, M. (2005). Arousal and
stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,
41, 174–181.
Blascovich, J., Spencer, S. J., Quinn, D., & Steele, C. M.
(2001). African Americans and high blood pressure: The
role of stereotype threat. Psychological Science, 12, 225–
Spencer, B., & Castano, E. (2007). Social class is dead. Long
live social class! Stereotype threat among low
socioeconomic status individuals. Social Justice Research,
20, 418–432.
Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes
shape intellectual identity and performance. American
Psychologist, 52, 613–629.
COPYRIGHT 2009 Macmillan Reference USA, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning WCN 02-200-210
Racial Inequality in Education
neither productive nor does it reduce inequality. Research
has also found that controlling for ability, minority students
and those from low-income families are more likely to be
assigned to a low-track class in high school than their high
SES or White peers (Hallinan, 1994; Oakes, 1985).
Olsen’s research (1997) indicates that tracking does
benefit certain students. She found that college-bound track
placement, although difficult to gain entrance to, did erase
much of the racial disparities in academic achievement for
Mexican and immigrant students. Thus, research has repeatedly shown that track allocation plays a key role in the
educational process, especially for racial minorities. In all,
school resource differences, particularly curriculum tracking,
are unequally distributed by class, race, and gender; and these
differences help explain educational achievement disparities.
Differences in home background, or what students
bring with them into the classroom, have a powerful influence on students’ academic achievement and life opportunities. Students vary on a wide array of home background
measures, but socioeconomic status has consistently been
the most powerful home background measure in predicting
educational achievement: The higher the social class is at
home, the higher the achievement level of the student.
Grades, curriculum placement, college ambitions, dropout
rates, and achievement levels are all related to parental SES.
In the United States, race and class are strongly linked.
Thus, the effects of race on educational attainment tend to
operate indirectly. Most studies find that race per se does
not have a direct effect, but race does influence resources,
test scores, and track placement, which in turn affect attainment (Alexander & Cook, 1982).
Research also examines the role of ethnic support.
Sociologists have examined the educational and occupational prosperity of Asian and Jewish immigrants, arguing
that their educational and occupational successes are attributed to their skill sets and background rather than any
cultural tendency. Literature on immigrants emerging in
the 1990s, however, reveals how academic achievement can
be fostered beyond the nuclear family and into the larger
ethnic social context of the community. Zhou and Bankston (1998) found that ethnic ‘‘culture’’ does matter, but as
a proxy for social capital for Vietnamese whose ties to the
ethnic community and the expectations and social control
that go along with membership in the greater Vietnamese
community promote educational achievement, despite an
economic and socially marginal environment.
Finally, sociologists caution that schools are organizations that do not operate in isolation. Researchers recognize
that although local neighborhood settings for schools are
often the location where students live, institutional aspects
of organizational environments also shape schools. For
example, Arum (2000) suggests that within the U.S. federal
system, the state level (as opposed to the local level) has
become increasingly important because institutional variations in laws, regulations, and court opinions are often
structured at the larger level.
Trends in resegregation, battles over school funding, and
access to higher education continue to be powerful influences on racial and ethnic inequality in U.S. education.
But national debates often shape the local ramifications
of educational policy. Two areas that have particular
relevance to racial inequality in education are implications of schooling alternatives and immigrant educational
Local and state education policy reflects a growing
concern for educational choice, voiced in policies that
followed enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of
2001. Under this controversial school-reform act, districts
must publicly identify those schools that are evaluated as
needing improvement. Voucher and charter programs and
homeschooling options have become increasingly popular
with specific relevance to racial and ethnic minorities.
Historically, public school children have been assigned to
the nearest and most available school. Most states have
passed or are preparing to pass legislation that increases
parental school choice. Proponents argue that voucher
programs encourage more choice among schools and subject districts to market forces leading to higher student
achievement and equalizing educational opportunity, particularly for minorities and the poor, who can now opt out
of their present failing school. Most states also allow organizations or people to form their own school, known as a
charter school. Taken together, these trends have the potential to offer contemporary routes for White, wealthy, and
elite flight. Critics warn that poor minority students who
cannot make the commute to alternative locations seldom
use vouchers or alternative schooling options. Additionally,
vouchers and charter programs divert tax dollars to support
high-status schools and continue to promote a two-class
education system (Berliner & Biddle, 1995).
The growth in the immigrant population across the
United States has prompted significant cultural, linguistic, and ethnic demographic changes. Apart from political
issues surrounding growing diversity, there is increased
concern over how schools should address the language
obstacles immigrant children face in public schools. As
of 2006, one in ten students in the United States was
considered an English language learner or limited English
proficient (LEP). Furthermore, the language minority
population is increasing at a much faster rate than their
native-born peers. LEP students continue to lag behind
their classmates when it comes to academic achievement,
COPYRIGHT 2009 Macmillan Reference USA, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning WCN 02-200-210
Religion and Spirituality, Childhood and Adolescence
high school graduation, and degree attainment. While
educational and linguistic communities defend the effectiveness of bilingual education and English as a second
language (ESL) programs, opposition to language assistance has less to do with pedagogical interests than with
social and ethnic concerns. Scholars, politicians, and educators remain divided about how to best address language
proficiency for LEP students.
Overall, most social scientists find that racial and
ethnic gaps in educational attainment have narrowed since
the late 1970s across all levels of education, but there is
less of a consensus on what factors account for the continued racial differences in educational achievement. Furthermore, much research on minority and immigrant
students still considers them as liabilities to overcome
and until very recently, racial comparisons have masked
the cultural heterogeneity among panethnic groups.
Given the increasing importance of global networking,
future educators, policy makers, and those concerned with
inequality should consider how the growing diversity of
the United States can be an educational contribution.
Jencks, C., & Phillips, M. (Eds.). (1998). The Black–White test
score gap. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Kao, G., & Thompson, J. S. (2003). Racial and ethnic
stratification in educational achievement and attainment.
Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 417–442.
Kao, G., Tienda, M., & Schneider, B. (1996). Racial and ethnic
variation in academic performance. Research in Sociology of
Education and Socialization, 11, 263–297.
Oakes, J. (1985). Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality.
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Olsen, L. (1997). Made in America: Immigrant students in our
public schools. New York: New Press.
Rumberger, R. W. (1995). Dropping out of middle school: A
multilevel analysis of students and schools. American
Educational Research Journal, 32, 583–625.
Stewart, D. W. (1993). Immigration and education: The crisis and
the opportunities. New York: Lexington Books.
White, M. J., & Kaufman, G. (1997). Language usage, social
capital, and school completion among immigrants and nativeborn ethnic groups. Social Science Quarterly, 78, 385–398.
Zhou, M., & Bankston, C. L., III. (1998). Growing up American:
How Vietnamese children adapt to life in the United States. New
York: Russell Sage Foundation.
SE E A LS O Volume 1: Academic Achievement; College
Enrollment; Cultural Capital; Human Capital;
Immigration, Childhood and Adolescence; Oppositional
Culture; Policy, Education; School Culture; School
Readiness; School Tracking; Segregation, School; Social
Capital; Socialization, Race; Socioeconomic Inequality
in Education.
Alexander K. L., & Cook, M. A. (1982). Curricula and
coursework: A surprise ending to a familiar story. American
Sociological Review, 47, 626–640.
Arum, R. (2000). Schools and communities: Ecological and
institutional dimensions. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 395–418.
Berliner, D. C., & Biddle, B. J. (1995). The manufactured crisis:
Myths, fraud, and the attack on America’s public schools.
Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Downey, D. B., von Hippel, P. T., & Broh, B. A. (2004). Are
schools the great equalizer? Cognitive inequality during the
summer months and the school year. American Sociological
Review, 69, 613–635.
Entwisle, D. R., & Alexander, K. L. (1994). Winter setback: The
racial composition of schools and learning to read. American
Sociological Review, 59, 446–460.
Fordham, S., & Ogbu, J. U. (1986). Black students’ school
success: Coping with the burden of ‘‘acting White.’’ The
Urban Review, 18, 176–206.
Fuller, B. (1986). Is primary school quality eroding in the Third
World? Comparative Education Review, 30, 491–507.
Grant, L. (1994). Helpers, enforcers, and go-betweens: Black
females in elementary school classrooms. In M. Baca Zinn &
B. T. Dill (Eds.), Women of color in U.S. society (pp. 43–64).
Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Hallinan, M. T. (1994). Tracking: From theory to practice.
Sociology of Education, 67, 79–84.
Beth Tarasawa
Parents, religious communities, and political figures have
an intense interest in the transmission of religious knowledge and spiritual practices to children. Thus, they
devote extensive resources to this cultural activity, from
religious instruction to community festivals to youthtargeted media. In addition, virtually every religious and
spiritual tradition has important rituals that signal key
transitions in the life course. Some occur within days of
birth, such as baptism and circumcision; others in middle
childhood, such as catechism and confirmation classes;
and still others in adolescence, such as bar and bat
mitzvahs, Quinceañera, Amish rumspringa, and Native
American vision quests. These rituals require extensive
preparation by the youth and his or her family, require
the youth to gain a basic understanding of the core tenets
and practices of the religious tradition, and culminate in
a celebration that frequently includes extended kin, congregations, and entire communities.
Despite the attention that diverse cultures pay to religious transmission, only recently have scholars returned to
the study of religion and spirituality among children and
adolescents. Researchers have documented the religious
COPYRIGHT 2009 Macmillan Reference USA, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning WCN 02-200-210

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