Achievement of African-American Students in Civilian Public Dissertation

Excerpt from Dissertation :

achievement of African-American students in civilian public schools vs. African-American students in the Depart of Defense (DOD) school system

The methods section of this dissertation provides the rationale for the proposed study based on my hypothesis comparing African-American students in the DOD school system with African-American students in civilian school systems.

It also highlights the key questions that were examined, how the study was conducted and the measuring criteria for analysis. The paper will provide detailed information that should be a sufficient foundation for anyone who wishes to conduct a parallel study.

This portion of the paper will provide an outline of the following:

Purpose - which will define my reason for doing this study

Background Information - will provide information on the level of measurement I have selected, i.e. The SAT scores and information on the Department of Defense (DOD) school system itself

Procedure - outlines the steps that I will employ in completing this study

Sample and Data - which provides information on the populations I will examine and the data I will use for comparative purposes

Comparative Analysis - to review and analyze the data that I was able to collect and compile and determine if it validates the hypothesis of this study


The purpose of this study is to compare the achievement levels of African-Americans students in civilian public schools vs. African-American students in schools sponsored by the Department of Defense (DOD). The measure of achievement will be based on the results of SAT scores.

This will be accomplished by determining the relationship(s) between achievement, the dependent variable, SAT scores and the independent variables including Grade Point Average (GPA), Socioeconomic Status (SES), gender, discipline referrals and attendance.

This study seeks to provide answers to the following research questions and provide definitive information about the relationship between achievement for African- American students in public schools vs. The DOD school system.

I will seek information to answer the following research questions:

Why are African-American students performing better in the DOD school environment?

Are there lessons for the public school system that could be learned from the DOD school system model and experience?

Students as a whole perform better in the DOD school system and in particular, Hispanic and African-American students have demonstrated strong scholastic abilities. This paper will endeavor to examine what criteria may be influential in the DOD school environment that helps students reach their full potential and strive to achieve.

Background Information

In order to understand the measure of achievement used in this study, I have included the following information on the SATs as background information. I have also included information on the DOD school system as reference material for comparison with civilian public school systems.

SAT Scores

The SAT is this nation's oldest, most widely used college entrance exam. The SAT I is composed of two sections, Verbal and Math, each scored on a 200-800 point scale. The 138 questions are nearly exclusively multiple-choice; ten math questions require students to "grid in" the answer. By design, the test is "speeded" which means that many test takers are unable to finish all the questions. The SAT II, formerly "achievement tests," are one hour subject oriented exams, presented in a multiple-choice format (except for the SAT II "writing" test, which includes one 20-minute essay). The Educational Testing Service (ETS), under contract to the College Board, produces and administers all SAT tests.

According to the Educational Testing Service these test scores help predict grades. The degree of correlation between two variables, such as test scores and first-year grades, is measured by a statistic called the correlation coefficient, which ranges in value from -1 to 1. A value of 1 indicates perfect positive correlation, and a value of zero indicates no correlation.

The proportion of variation in one variable that is explained by variation in the other is given by the correlation coefficient squared, called "r-squared." Another interpretation of r-squared is the degree of improvement in prediction over sheer guesswork that we gain by using one variable to predict the other. The SAT has the greatest predictive validity of the tests, with correlation coefficients ranging from.2 to.5 at most.

The SAT I is validated for just one purpose: predicting first-year college grades. It does not do even this very well. Test makers acknowledge that high school grade-point average (GPA) or class rank is the best predictor of first-year grades, despite the huge variation among high schools and courses. SAT I can predict other outcomes, such as graduation rates, even more poorly. As more colleges move away from using the multiple-choice exam until after World War II. The test is designed to be independent of high school curricula (unlike the SAT's main competitor, the ACT). It now consists of analogies, sentence completion, reading comprehension, standard math and quantitative comparison items. SAT I does not include advanced mathematics topics nor does it attempt to assess higher-order thinking or reasoning skills. Though a "Verbal" score is provided, test takers do not write a single word.

Many of the misconceptions regarding the SAT stem from the name of the test. The initials originally stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, but as UC President Richard Atkinson pointed out in his speech at the American Educational Conference. In 1990, the College Board "changed the name of the SAT from 'Scholastic Aptitude Test' to 'Scholastic Achievement Test.' And in 1996 it dropped the name altogether and said that the 'SAT' was the 'SAT' and that the initials no longer stood for anything. Rather than resolving the problem, this rhetorical sleight-of-hand served to underscore the mystery of what the SAT is supposed to measure."

Historically, African-American, Latino, new Asian immigrant and many other minority test-takers score significantly lower than white students. Rigid use of SATs for admissions will produce freshman classes with very few minorities and with no appreciable gain in academic quality. Colleges that have made the SAT I optional report that their applicant pools are more diverse and that there has been no drop off in academic quality.

DOD School System

The Pentagon operates 227 schools that serve 112,000 children of U.S. military personnel living on bases in the U.S. And abroad. Achievement levels among minority students were particularly outstanding. If the DOD schools were combined and considered as one state, they would rank among the top-performing states in reading, writing and science. Hispanic and African-American students in DOD schools were either first or second in 8th grade reading and writing tests (1998).

It appears that planning, accountability and smaller school populations are major contributors to student performance. The DOD school system, which seeks to maximize the learning experience, turned to distance learning techniques in their schools, crossing 13 countries over nine times zones more than a decade ago. Because of the geographic complexity of the DOD school system, sometimes the only way students can get certain courses is through distributed learning.

The DOD school system curriculum often far surpasses the civilian public school curriculum, which is another contributing factor to the success of the DOD system. There is also strong parent involvement and input into the DOD school system, which has a positive impact on the educational offerings.

The DOD is implementing a multi-faceted school-home partnership and school improvement process that will move the organization toward promoting the social, emotional and academic growth of children. In addition to the types of parent-teacher organizations and volunteer opportunities found in civilian schools, the DOD school system supports:

School Improvement Teams

DOD School Advisory Committees

School Home Partnerships

Domestic Dependent Elementary/Secondary School Boards

Parent Surveys


This will be a qualitative study through which I examine a school in the DOD school system with a high percentage of African-American students and a civilian African-American student population across a range of socioeconomic classes. This study will be based on the dependent variable, SAT scores, which will be used as the measure for achievement level.

In addition, I will use random sampling through which I propose to gather the following data, the independent variables for both student populations:






Sat score

Discipline referrals


The study will also include the following data that will be complied and compared for both student populations to characterize the similarities and differences between the two school systems, i.e. public and DOD.

Class size

Teacher experience

Drop our rate

Teacher/student ratio

Percentage of minority teachers

Sample and Data

This study will be conducted using a clearly defined population base on the criteria stated above. Because this is a qualitative study, my work will involve some in-depth interviews with a specifically defined number of the population, using random sampling methodology.

I will interview African-American students in both the civilian public schools and in the DOD school system. The interview process will also involve teachers in both school environments. The number of interviews will be based on the size of the populations available and I will conduct a percentage of interviews base on that total. The length of the interview has not…

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