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Running Head: ASCRIBED CHARACTERISTICS AND ACHIEVEMENT

Ascribed Characteristics and Achievement


Dr. George Ansalone
Jessica Johnson
20 November 2014
Florida Gulf Coast University

ASCRIBED CHARACTERISTICS AND ACHIEVEMENT

One may think that there are not many patterns in achievement among students based on
the innocent thought that every individual is different and has complete control over their own
success, but many research studies have shown that certain patterns do generally exist that unite
certain students based on things that are basically beyond their control. These studies have
supported that there is a notable relationship between ascribed characteristics, or those
characteristics that one is born with, and achievement. According to Ansalone (2010), three
ascribed characteristics that have an effect on students academic achievement are race, religion,
and gender. This paper will serve to provide proof that these three different ascribed
characteristics each have a relationship with academic achievement, doing so by presenting
multiple studies that have been conducted to test these relationships.
To begin, gender is an ideal example of an ascribed characteristic that has been shown to
have the aptitude to make an impact on a students academic achievement. Some studies of
achievement based on gender have not only shown differences in how well males do generally in
comparison to females, but what it is that one excels in more than the other. For example,
according to Stumpf (1995), for the majority of high-school students, boys are better than girls in
mathematics and science and girls are better than boys in the subjects of reading and writing.
Although interesting, these differences are not nearly as concerning as the differences in
treatment that each gender receives, putting females, in some aspects, at an unavoidable
disadvantage. Some studies reveal that women receive unequal treatment in classrooms, and that
because of this, their self-esteem and confidence are at a great risk for being severely damaged
(Sadker and Sadker, 1994) Females are also at risk for being made to feel inferior because of
their gender. This is because males frequently outweigh females in positions of power in schools;

ASCRIBED CHARACTERISTICS AND ACHIEVEMENT

they manage female teachers, govern multiple policy decisions and dominate the operation of the
school boards themselves (deMarris, 1991).
The ascribed characteristic of race may be the most observed of all in its correlation with
academic achievement, as Ansalone (2010) claims, Literally thousands of studies have
attempted to explain the differential success between Black and White students [...].This wealth
of research has unswervingly shown that White and Asian students score higher than their Black,
Latino, and Native American peers (Ansalone, 2010) One study done that demonstrates why race
may have such an impact on achievement attributed this difference in test scores between Black
and White students to black students inadequate access to resources; these researchers found that
Black students often do not receive the educational benefits that having books , magazines, and
computers in the home can provide (Ainsworth-Darnell and Downey, 1998). In another study,
Coleman (1966) found that many Black students showed less confidence in their abilities than
white students by more often agreeing with the statement, People like me dont have a chance to
be successful. This research found that these same black students had lower scores on
achievement tests than students who felt a higher sense of control in their own success (Coleman,
1966).
Lastly, religion is also an ascribed characteristic that has been shown to have an effect on
achievement because of the positive effects that church-going may have, such as increased
motivation levels and higher expectations. A study done by Bankston and Zhou (1996) showed
regular church attendance to be the second strongest influence on students decision to attend
after-school study groups. Another positive correlation between achievement and religion was
found by Muller and Ellison. When they viewed data from the National Longitudinal Study,
these researchers found that being involved with a religion was a huge factor in achievement,

ASCRIBED CHARACTERISTICS AND ACHIEVEMENT

finding that religious students had higher expectations for themselves in their school work than
students who did not attend church (Muller and Ellison, 2001).
In summation, a relationship does indeed exist between ascribed characteristics and
achievement. This can be seen through many studies performed to show how and why
relationships exist between academic achievement and gender, race, and religion. After all of the
research I have done on this topic, there is no doubt in my mind that because of certain ascribed
characteristics, some students may be at an uncontrollable disadvantage compared to their peers,
while others may actually benefit from their own ascribed characteristics.

ASCRIBED CHARACTERISTICS AND ACHIEVEMENT


References
Ainsworth-Darnell, J. & Downey, D. (1998). Accessing the Oppositional Culture Explanation for
Racial/Ethnic Differences in School Performance. American Sociological Review 63:536-553.
Ansalone, G. (2010). Exploring unequal achievement in the schools: The social construction of failure.
Lexington Books.
Coleman, J. (1966). Equality of Educational Opportunity. U.S. Government Printing Office.
DeMarrais, K( 1991). The Way Schools Work. Longmans.
Sadker, M. & Sadker, D. (1994). Failing at Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls. Charles Scribner
and Sons.
Stumpf, H. (1995). Gender Differences in Tests of Cognitive Ability. Learning and Individual
Differences. 275-288.