An Exploration of the Academic Achievement Gap between African American Students and their Caucasian Counterparts: A Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis Utilizing Pedagogy and Conflict Perspectives

Christine J. Thomas


The academic achievement gap is a term that refers to the observed disparity on a number of educational measures among the performances of groups of students. For numerous decades, studies have shown that students of African descent are not reaching the same academic proficiency as their Caucasian counterparts. This achievement gap has been observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates, and college-enrollment and completion rates. This situation raises the question about the cause behind the disparity of academic achievement that exists between African American and Caucasian students. Some scholars and other experts argue that this gap is a result of cultural and institutional inequalities that erode the educational system. Employing pedagogy and conflict theories, this paper tests the hypothesis that these groups of students are performing at contrasting levels on the academic spectrum because the pedagogy that works for Caucasian students does not work for their African American colleagues; if an appropriate pedagogy is implemented in school systems then it would give African American students the opportunity to be as proficient as Caucasian students. Furthermore, the study seeks to correlate how conflict theory contributes to the pedagogical structures within schools. According to the conflict theorists, the school systems’ inability to develop alternative teaching strategies is due to their attempts to keep the working classes as lower-class members of society. Qualitative and quantitative data were systematically collected from secondary and primary sources and analyzed for this exploration. The data were collected by using the documents analysis and technique and expert interviews. The findings from the data analysis suggest that the hypothesis is tenable in its assertion that education in America pushes a “hidden agenda.”


Academic achievement gap, African American, Caucasian, Pedagogy, Conflict Theory

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