Black - White Scholastic Gap In Affluent Subburb

A Nigerian-born black anthropology professor from UC-Berkeley, John Ogbu, produced a famous 1996 study, transformed into a 2003 book) of black and white students at a high school in Cleveland's Shaker Heights subburb. He found that when matching for all salient socio-economic factors (two-parent households, income, home ownership, parental schooling, types of profession), black and white kids make different academic choices, and that these choices resulted in a marked difference in GPAs and test scores.

The title of his book tells it all: "Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement." According to his research:
- Black and white students who make the same choices obtain about the same GPAs and SAT scores.
- Whites report reading more books
- Whites more often enroll in AP courses, and their cumulative curricula contains a higher fraction of AP courses.
- Whites more often identify themselves as responsible for their education, whereas the black kids more often identify their teachers as responsible for their educations. Parents report similar attitudes, and Ogbu describes the black parent attitude of the teacher-student relationship as that of a "beer mug: teachers pour in information."
- Black students often report that they feel they will not get graded or otherwise treated fairly, whereas white students expect to be graded and treated fairly.

His 1998 academic study, "Voluntary and Involuntary Minorities: A Cultural-Ecological Theory of School Performance with Some Implications for Education," classifies black African immigrants along with Asians as "voluntary" immigrants, and native black Americans as "involuntary". He shows that voluntary immigrants out-perform involuntary immigrants and native non-minorities in various academic measures ON AVERAGE, and have different attitudes and make different choices.

Reading these studies years ago helped develop the conclusions that I now have on these matters. I obtained and read the book soon after its publication. These studies provided a great influence in my work developing curricula and strategies for the Ben Carson Scholars program in Detroit, where we proved first-hand that black students who work hard and study quality academic material in a very traditional manner will obtain excellent results.


Paul Hue said...


Black student at Shaker Heights HS: "If you go into a classroom, you're going to see most of the black kids playing around, chilling. Look at the white kids. They're at attention, they're taking notes. It pains me, actually -- like all the obstacles we've overcome just to have opportunities to go to school, and people just waste it."

Paul Hue said...

"The numbers were impossible to ignore, when in 1997 the student newspaper wrote about a school sponsored study. Eighty-two percent of the students who failed proficiency tests were black. Eighty-four percent of the students getting Ds and Fs on their report cards were black. And the average SAT score for black students was 305 points lower than for white students."

Paul Hue said...

"The black parents asked the school to consult with John Ogbu, a Nigerian-born social scientist from the University of California. Ogbu died in 2003, but not before publishing a controversial study of Shaker Heights. He came down hard on the black community, describing what he called a low-effort syndrome. "Black students in Shaker Heights do not work hard or to their full capacity," Ogbu wrote. As for black parents, "involvement with their children's education was dismal."

Paul Hue said...

Of black parents, Obu says: They have a kind of what you call, "beer mug" model, why and how children learn. Here is the child. Here is the teacher. Here is a mug. Pour in knowledge into the child. I don't think that they (the parents) see themselves as teachers, and that's one of the problems.

Paul Hue said...

"But by 1990, something changed to widen the gap. The rate of African American students cutting class went up. Their leisure reading went down."

Paul Hue said...

"Eight percent of white eighth graders watch six hours or more each day. For blacks? That number is 30 percent, nearly four times higher. And these are kids whose parents graduated from college."

Paul Hue said...

"The national average SAT score for black students is more than 200 points below the average for white students. And even when the parents make $100,000 and finish graduate school, the gap is still 141 points... Many experts say closing the gap means counteracting a barrage of negative forces, including a tendency for black students to sabotage themselves."

Paul Hue said...

More from the CNN transcript about Shaker Heights high school. Steve, pay particular attention to the discussion about course selection "LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY" and the respective choices of the black and white students:

Many are heading off to some of the most selective and competitive colleges in the country. How they get there is no secret. Actually, it's an open book.

TERRY POLLACK, SHAKER HEIGHTS TEACHER: College admissions counselors first look at the level of difficulty regarding a high school program.

LOTHIAN: Such as honors classes and Advanced Placement, or AP -- demanding college-level courses with a big payoff.

POLLACK: A C in an AP or an Honors course is worth more than an A or a B in a lower level class. LOTHIAN: Who takes the upper level classes? It's as clear as black and white. White students almost exclusively fill the AP and Honors classes, while black students are the overwhelming majority in the standard track, College Prep, or CP classes.

FREEMAN: It's a different course of study. It's a high school course. The other one's a college course.

LOTHIAN: Sounds perfectly fine. Except that for the kids, CP has taken on a whole new meaning.

WILLIAMS: You know, CP, you know what I'm saying, we call that "Colored People," you know what I'm saying, because you go...

LOTHIAN (ON CAMERA): You call it what?

WILLIAMS: "Colored People." Because...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colored people's classes.

Paul Hue said...

"The small number of minorities in AP and Honors classes is not unique to this school. It's part of a national pattern. But in Shaker Heights, where the average black student often outscores the average Ohio student, black or white, the disparity is especially glaring."

Paul Hue said...


NPR audio on Shaker Heights situation.

Paul Hue said...


Cleveland's Sun News article on this topic.

uptownseteve said...

Paul, I lived in Shaker Heights while I was a Coast Guardsmen stationed in Cleveland, OH from 1984-1987.

3312 S. Moreland Ave. Apt 305

It is NOT an affluent suburb but a lower middle class, predominately black area of Cuyahoga County OH.

uptownseteve said...

As usual, the only people who give any credence to Ogbu's "study" are racist rightwingers who look for any corroboration of the racial heirarchiy theories.

Paul Hue said...

Well, there you have it, Steve! No need for you to read the studies, or what the black parents and students have to say in the articles! You already know it all! And what is it that you know? That blacks, Asians, and whites of the same economic situation behave identically, and although whites per capita consume more drugs than the other groups and practice widespread racism, the other groups have no collective behavior problems, except that Asians are political push-overs.

Well, seems that black folks have no problems. As you have pointed out, most blacks are doing well, and blacks today are doing drastically better than ever before.

So what are we arguing about, again? I keep forgetting.

uptownseteve said...

I do know this Paul.

I have two high achieving sons, one who has just graduated from Howard University and is interning with a K St brokerage firm.

The 10 year old boy has been in the TAG (talented and gifted) program at his school the last 3 years.

Over the last 7 years I've lived here in Longleaf, I've watched several of the children go to prestigious institutions like the Naval Academy, GWU, Univ of Penn and Georgetown/

Like me and my wife, most of my neighbors had parents who were uneducated Southern immigrants.

We have gone on to become college educated professionals livingin 500,000 homes, driving luxury cars with stocks savings and annual vacations.

So Paul, take your Ogbu accounts and your 1995 studies and stick them up your putrid racist ass.

Paul Hue said...

Presumably your sons lack your poor reasoning skills and misunderstanding of simple statistical concepts. Thus they will surely produce better responses to intellectual discourse than "stick it up your ass."

Your sons will surely understand that neither the data cited by me nor compiled by Ogbu contradicts the millions of super-successful black folks; nor does the super success of millions of blacks negate these data. In fact, these data include the many successful blacks, as your sons will surely understand. Many blacks do well. Those are the blacks who pick tough classes and study hard. Many asian kids do poorly; those are the asians who pick "easy" classes and watch TV or goof off instead of studying.

Meanwhile, people like me and Nadir invest countless hours working with black high school students, leading them to the sorts of success that your sons have achieved. About 90% of the kids that we attract to our program have very poor academic skills, as documented in the battery of basic math and verbal skills tests that we administer them, our one-on-one assessments of their transcripts, and mandatory one-on-one interviews with parent-students. You show me a kid with low GPA and low SAT scores, and I will show you a kid that if you ask his parent, does he read a lot and study a lot, you will get this answer: NO. Show me a kid with high GPA and high SAT scores, I will get a different answer: YES.

[Due to your poor reasoning skills and lack of understanding of basic statistical concepts, Steve, I will point out what your sons would understand for themselves: this does not indicate that 90% of blacks fit this scenario, only 90% of those who come to our program.]

Aside from the rare student who has a learning disability, we can trace all academic deficiencies in these low-score students to a single source: failure to study, read, and take proper courses. Every student that we have ever had who studies hard, reads regularly, and takes academic classes has high GPAs and either already scores well on the SAT, or has drastic improvement once they work with us. All of the students who work hard in our classes improve their test scores and GPAs; none of the students who goof around or stare blankly improve.

We have worked with well over a thousand students over a period of about 8 years, and about that many parents. Not studying, not engaging in class activities, not reading, not caring, not attempting the challenging classes, these are the factors that account for low test scores and low grades. All students that we see who make these choices have poor grades and test scores; all students who change these choices have their scores and grades improve.

I can stick up my ass all the data and studies you like, and all of the thousands of tests that I have graded, administered, or otherwise analyzed, plus all of the hand-written end-of-semester assessments of our performance from students and parents, and it will not change these conclusions: black students, white students, and asian students are all the same. Those who work hardest get the highest grades and scores; those who have low scores and grades are not working hard enough or taking the proper classes. But they differ in this way: different averages of them are making different choices.

We founded our program based on the following observation: even the worst-performing schools often have excellent athletic and band programs. That is why we formally call our teachers "coaches", and run our classes the way that coaches run practice sessions. We use these conclusions to run a program that succeeds for students from schools that fail (fail academically, I should say; their bands and basketball teams are all good).

We use these conclusions, Steve, in real life, with real students and real parents. We use them to create an academic program that differs drastically from how their school classrooms operate, but very similarly to how their sports and band practices operate. And we obtain outstanding results, which speak for themselves.

So you continue as you like with your ideas. Go start yourself a program based on them and put them to the test. That is what I have done with my life, Steve. If you think I reached my conclusions prior to hundreds of hours of research and even more hours of practice, and then go cherry pick studies in order to support what I have already decided, you are incorrect. Your views are the same views I had before I researched anything, and before I started having a hundred parents entrust their black high school kids to me with the promise that if the kids did what I said that their grades and scores would improve.

Nadir will testify that when he and his wife joined our program, we did things very differently than today. The program was new, and we had 150 students, with about that many parents. The scores did not improve very much in the early days for most students, and I was the "face of the program", which means the person that had to face the parents, and whom the parents came looking for. We changed our procedures many times before we pounded out a process that produced consistent results. This often involved employing an idea of mine only to see the data disprove it; or even employing an idea that I insisted would never work, only to see the data confirm it.

So this is whom you are speaking to, Steve. I have to go take these sorts of ideas that we discuss here, and I have to go face a bunch of black parents who I have claimed that if they follow our method -- based on these conclusions -- they get results (unlike at their schools).

I bet in an argument most school teachers will agree with you. But when it comes to boosting academic performance, our program -- using my beliefs -- beats those schools. That's why parents come to our program from those schools.

When we get a kid with low grades, I assume: not studying hard enough. I don't assume "racism". Fixing the kid's behavior gets the grades to boost. I don't even know what to do if "racism" is the problem. I suppose join one of those massive rallies at UM-Ann Arbor demanding affirmative action.

Paul Hue said...

"As usual, the only people who give any credence to Ogbu's "study" are racist rightwingers who look for any corroboration of the racial heirarchiy theories."

I suppose all those black parents and students in the CNN article who agree are racist right-wingers.

Paul Hue said...

I will provide some more personal data:

I taught organic chemistry and various engineering classes at FAMU and at Florida State, and an engineering class at Georgia Tech. I noticed no difference between the students, except that at Georgia Tech many more white and Asian students chose engineering than black students. At FAMU/FSU, which shared an engineering program, the classes were about half black, half white. The grades and student conduct was about equal. In organic chemistry everything was about the same; same conduct = same results.

Paul Hue said...

Steve, if you don't think that at US engineering schools many have majority Asian students, then go conduct some we searches on your own. Or, without doing so, just disbelieve me. Go through life believing that UC-Berkeley's engineering college is white-majority. I am not going to track-down every single article that I have ever read over the years to prove to you that I'm not "making up" the data that has led me to the conclusions that I now hold. I am very comfortable that I can walk around claiming that many US engineering schools are Asian-majority and that nobody will be able to disprove me, and that the only objections I will receive are from people like you, who have never investigated the matter.

uptownseteve said...

You don't have to track "every single article".

Just ONE will do.

While you're at it, let's see the one where African immigrants do better than American blacks.

I'll wait patiently.

uptownseteve said...

I'm absolutely certain that if a study were done of the study habits and academic achievements of the black children in my suburban neighborhood, the results would be quite different from Ogbu's study of Shaker Heights.

In fact, my wife who is an Education Phd and an attorney is considering commissioning a study after I've related to her my discourses with you.

Come to think of it Paul, Capt. Bruce Grooms, the Superintendent of Cadets at the Naval Academy, who holds a BS degree in Aeropace Engineering and a Harvard MBA, is a native of Shaker Heights, OH.

Did I mention that he was an African-American?

Paul Hue said...

I don't understand what you are talking about. The Shaker Heights HS had a discrepancy between black and white AVERAGE achievement and conduct (however, Ogbu noted that the average Shaker Heights black student had better SAT and GPA scores than the average Ohio white student). If at your local school the black kids have high AVERAGE achievement, then Ogbu's study would predict that those black kids would exibit AVERAGE conduct associated with high academic achievement: high propensity for enrolling in AP classes, and reporting high numbers of study hours and books read. Ogbu's study does not suggest that all groups of black kids in the US exibit a general "disengagement" from scholarly activities. Instead, it predicts that where any group of black kids (or any other types of kids) produce poor academic achievement on AVERAGE, they would also exhibit AVERAGE conduct associated with poor academic conduct (choosing few AP classes, reading few books, studying few hours).

I would be very eager to work with your wife on her study, and to encorporate the students in my and Nadir's program. Perhaps the administrators at some of the schools that we work with will permit us to include their students as well. I think it is very important for students, parents, and teachers to know the factors that translate into academic success.

You seem to think that I would be shocked to learn that the US Navy Academy Superintendant with various impressive academic achievements is black; I am not. You are the one who claims that the US is overrun by massive racism, whereas I propose that the US today presents a society in which blacks who work hard and make smart choices will achieve just as have Grooms, your wife, your sons, and countless hundreds of thousands of blacks. Ogbu's studies document what groups of such people (of any "race") TEND TO have in common: selection of tough classes, lots of reading, and lots of studying. His studies also document what groups of low-achieving people TEND TO have in common: the opposite.

His studies, and similar ones, led to the founding principles of my and Nadir's program, and have enabled us to construct processes that predictably and reliably translate into astounding academic achievement, in market contrast to the results of our local government schools.

Paul Hue said...

(above I meant "marked contrast."