Photo: Higher self-esteem improves academics
Researchers and psychologists Geoffrey L. Cohen and Gregory M. Walton found that while black and Latino 17-year-olds have the average reading level of 13-year-old whites, the key to improvement and success isn’t necessarily the drilling of information.
They suggest that “noncognitive” factors, such as the students’ sense that they fit in and are capable of doing and finishing their work, greatly affect what they learn. Meaning, if they believe they can, they are more likely to do well, or at least better.
The study shows that minority students are especially prone to the fear of failing. It revealed that almost 25 percent of male African-American kindergarteners are already convinced they lack the ability the to succeed in school. Psychologists have labeled that fearfulness “stereotype vulnerability,” and say it undermines the students’ performance. So if/when they do poorly, those fears are confirmed, and thus begins the cycle.
The researchers suggest that education policymakers, giving little weight to improving self-confidence and a sense of belonging, are failing a number of minority students who need to be encouraged, and helped to realize that success is possible.