Factors that Affect Student Achievement
Education is one of the priceless things a person can possess, and it is something that he can be proud of in his life. The importance of education is evident in the way teachers, and parents, of course, encourage us to learn despite many obstacles. For a teacher, providing education to his students is an onus that is not very easy to achieve because of the many factors that he has to consider. There are social, economic and political factors that impact or influence student achievement in school. In order to be successful in his chosen profession, a teacher must consider these factors so that he can maximize the help he can extend to his students.
Student achievement is a very fundamental aspect of education. Teachers would want their students to learn more and achieve more. However, there seems to be barriers in achievement that teachers and educators identify. These barriers are social, economic and political in context. These are barriers that would certainly exist as students come from different backgrounds and are not the same. Teachers and schools must be at the forefront in identifying and addressing these barriers to achievement.
A study by Shannon (2002) on the achievement gap that schools in Washington face showed that there are more than just one factor which perpetuates achievement gap among white students and students of color and between students who come from affluent families and poor families. From this we can see that it pertains to the social factor that white students and those who come from rich families are somehow more privileged and thus score high in tests compared to those who are not white and from poor families. Shannon also identified two broad categories of factors that influence students. One is the factors outside the influence of school, such as social and economic factors, family background and personal qualities. Two is the factors that are within the influence of the school, such as classroom routines, teacher expectations, school organization and size and instructional methods.
Shannon stated that social/economic factors were seen as causes of low achievement among students of color and poverty. Shannon (2002) cited James Coleman’s report which showed that family situations influence student achievement more than did schools. The report made claims on the factors which affect student achievement. First, there were inequalities in the education system and that there were significant differences in the relationship of schools to racial and ethnic groups. Second, the quality of teachers affects student achievement. Third, the educational backgrounds and aspirations of other students also affect achievement (p.15).
Other factors related to family and which affect achievement include the household size, birth weight of the children and the parents’ educational attainment. It is suggested that any environmental differences between black and white families must be abolished to address the achievement gap.
Another study, which was conducted by Lee and Burkam (cited in Shannon, 2002, p.16), showed that family resources also affect student achievement. Those children who come from the lowest socioeconomic groups scored lower in math and reading compared to those who were in the highest groups. Other studies also found out that income of the family affect the student’s achievement at school.
These findings were further reinforced by a study of Hampden-Thompson and Johnston (2006). The income, education and occupation of parents were indicators of socioeconomic status (SES), and they were found to have a significant relationship with their children’s educational outcomes (p.3). SES refers to the family’s overall rank in the social and economic hierarchy (Ozturk, 2001, p.24). Another indicator of SES, which is home resources such as availability of books and computer at home, are also significant.
Poverty is also an economic factor that continues to affect students. Shannon (2002) cited Abbott and Joireman’s study which concluded that “…ethnicity is related to low income, which is in turn related to academic achievement” (p.17).Other studies on the relationship of low income to student achievement have the same result: test scores decline as socioeconomic status declines. Shannon added that as poor families are characterized by low incomes, higher mobility and less educated adults at home, these can hinder any help that can be extended to the students.
Social factors, which also include the abovementioned factors, refer to the social background of students. Many researches found out that racial/ethnicity plays a significant role in student achievement. Ozturk (2001) stated that Black and Hispanic usually occupy the poorest neighborhoods in urban areas. The author added that Asian-Americans were an “anomaly” among racial/ethnic minorities because of their high levels of achievement and representation in math and science (p25). Shannon (2002) supported this finding from her study which showed that Asian students perform better in Math than white students (p.1).
Social factors that affect student achievement also include peer pressure and acting white, or the internalization of inferior status, and the social background of students. Shannon (2002) added that the social factors are evident in the public school system, such as sorting students and preparing them for different courses. Aside from these, racial bias, inequality and discrimination exist in most schools, and these are problems that must be included in the teacher’s efforts to improve the achievement of his students. Shannon (2002) furthered that since most of the public schools in the United States were enlightened with the culture and traditions of white middle-class European heritage, there exists White dominance. Whites experience privilege in a lot of things and this only worsens bias at school.
Political factors, on the other hand, can refer to the educational policies and systems of education in different schools. Noguera (2001) stated that political factors hinder any endeavor in eliminating racial differences in student achievement. Political strategies, however, should address the racial achievement gap in schools. The author cited a study which looked into the achievement gap at Berkeley High School. The study observed the segregated participation of students in clubs and organizations and extracurricular activities, and even the way students are assigned and sorted into courses. These practices produced racial inequality. The study also found out that non-minority affluent parents and community members exert political pressures, leading to the rationalization of the achievement gap. In short, political pressures exerted by parents and the community will somehow affect the opportunities for students.
Teachers must first understand these political factors and the structures of opportunity so that problems related to them will be addressed accordingly. They should also consider the political pressures that parents and the community exert to prevent any disparities in student achievement. Given these various factors which affect student achievement, teachers have a responsibility in making improvements so that learning opportunities are equal for every student regardless of their social, economic or political backgrounds. It is very important for a teacher to understand these factors as these will be his guidelines in providing instruction based on what his students need. These will also assist the teacher in preparing his students for their future or career. As many studies showed that parental involvement is important in student achievement, teachers must encourage the parents, especially in high-minority, high poverty urban schools, to participate in the learning process of the children. Teachers and parents alike must also provide more feedback on the level of performance of the students in each subject.
Moreover, teachers must be aware of how he teaches to make sure that he does not perpetuate the difficulties that are experienced by minority and poor students. Additionally, teachers should not expect their students to fit into the standards of the school. Instead, the school structures should fit into the students. They should also avoid labeling students as culturally deprived and disadvantaged if they do not conform to the standards of the school.
Hampden-Thompson, G. & Johnston, J. (2006). Variation in the relationship between nonschool factors and student achievement on international assessments. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.
Noguera, P.A. (2001). Racial politics and the elusive quest for excellence and equity in education. Education and Urban Society, 34, 18-41.
Ozturk, Mehmet Ali. (2001). Personal and social factors that influence advanced Mathematics course-taking during high school. Dissertation submitted to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia.
Shannon, Sue. (2002). Addressing the achievement gap. Sponsored by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Olympia, WA.