AbstractIn the last several years, there has been considerable discussion about the importance of using "non-traditional" assessments in identifying talented minority students. However, there are minority students who perform well on "traditional" assessments and it is important to describe and understand these students. In 1992, Ken, Colangelo, Maxey, and Christensen reported on a preliminary study describing minority students who had attained a composite of 95th percentile on the American College Testing (ACT) exam. The ACT was considered a "traditional" measure of academic achievement. The study reported in this presentation is a follow-up on a sample of the students included in the Kerr, et al., study. The purpose of the follow-up study was to learn more about these students and go beyond the limited information that was available for the Kerr, et al., study. The follow-up study asked the minority students to respond to a number of items regarding their attitude about themselves, achievement, and the achievement of other minority and majority students.
In the study of gifted and talented students, there have been innumerable references to the underrepresentation of minorities scoring at the highest percentiles on standardized tests and in gifted programs where the selection relies primarily on standardized test scores. There has been such a strong outcry questioning the fairness of standardized tests (i.e., "traditional" measures of identification) that virtually all discussion on the identification of talented minorities acknowledges the importance of "non-traditional" assessment or assessments. Non-traditional assessments are deemed more appropriate and/or less biased of certain backgrounds.
In the recent national report, National excellence: A case for developing America's talent (Ross, 1993), there is recognition that certain standardized tests lead to disparities in identification:
The Ross report states that one of the important standards in putting into practice a new definition of gifted is that it, "Is free of bias--provides students of all backgrounds with equal access to appropriate opportunities" (p. 26).
We are very much in support of the thinking among educators in the last several years and the Ross report that assessment and identification procedures be analyzed and modified so that they do identify a variety of talent areas, as well as perform with minimal bias towards background and experiences. However, in the emphasis on "non-traditional" assessments and the search for non-academic talents, especially with concern to minority students in the last several years, we have quite ignored the fact that there are minority students who obtain high scores on the "traditional" academic assessments (i.e, standardized tests). These high scoring minority students are being "overlooked" in the discussions on talented minority students probably because their numbers are seen as too few to matter or they are considered not "representative" of their cultural groups. We think it is important to not overlook this group because they can inform educators and researchers about a fuller range of talented minorities.
A Preliminary Study on Talented Minority StudentsAmerican College Testing (ACT) is a nationally recognized college entrance examination that is viewed as a "traditional" measure of academic achievement. In addition to the achievement tests, the ACT includes a Student Profile Section (SPS) which yields background information concerning students' academic plans.
In a preliminary, descriptive study, we analyzed the data from the student Profile Section of the ACT for all minority students who had a composite score 95th percentile (composite score) in 1988 (Kerr, Colangelo, Maxey, & Christensen, 1992). The 95th percentile on composite was consistent with cutoff scores for gifted programs (Kerr & Colangelo, 1988).
Analysis of the demographic data from the Kerr et al. (1992) study indicated that Asian-Americans were overrepresented among high scorers with nearly 14% attaining a composite score at the 95th percentile and other ethnic groups were underrepresented including African-Americans (.80/o of 95th percentile scorers); Native Americans (.3%) Mexican-Americans (.7%) and Hispanics (.7%). We noted that the underrepresented groups tended to be those who suffered the highest poverty rates and who attended the most poorly funded schools. Poorly funded schools do not provide quality academic preparation and such preparation has been directly linked to performance on the ACT (Chambers, 1988; Noble & McNabb, 1989). Even with the disproportionate percentage of Asian-American high scorers in the 1988 population, the number of minority academically talented students remains quite small, with only 443 African-Americans, 162 Native Americans, 413 Mexican-Americans, and 2159 Asian-Americans, compared to 50,314 Caucasians at the 95th percentile (Kerr, et al., 1992). Among all groups, males outnumbered females; only among African-Americans did the number of high-scoring women approach that of high-scoring men (Kerr, et al., 1992).
From the analysis of the Student Profile Section (SPS) of the ACT, we found that the academic plans of high scoring minority students did not differ greatly form those of the majority; they preferred business, engineering, pre-med, and pre-law over other majors, and had little interest in humanities, education, or community service occupations. High scoring minority students generally were interested in honors courses, independent study courses, and assistance with study skills. The overall profile of the academically talented minority student that emerged was of a student who was deeply concerned about obtaining a rich educational experience while enhancing every possibility of success through practical choices.
The Need for a Follow-Up StudyThe Kerr, et al, 1992 study and the growing literature on minority talented students prompted other questions which seemed appropriate to ask of the 1988 ACT group. First, Ogbu (1987) and Harris and Ford (1991) have proposed that African-American young people experience a conflict between maintaining ethnic identity and striving for academic honors. Similarly, the literature on gifted Native-Americans (Tonemah, 1991) and Mexican-American gifted (Duran & Weffer, 1992) suggests that the achievement ethos of the majority population is in conflict with the strong valuing of cooperativeness by Native-Americans and the strong valuing of family unity by Mexican-Americans. Therefore, questions probing the attitudes toward achievement and accomplishment of minority talented students seemed appropriate.
Secondly, it may be that academically talented minority students differ from one another and from majority students in the ways they account for their academic success. For example, literature on Asian-American students suggests a strong emphasis on crediting the family, whereas Caucasian students may credit themselves as individuals (Sue & Okazaki, 1990). Therefore, questions concerning how these students perceive their success seemed in order.
Thirdly, in an effort to further understand the developing identity of these students, we asked two types of comparison questions. One question focused on their perceptions concerning minority students who were not academically talented. The other question focused on their perceptions regarding majority students who were academically talented.
Finally, it is interesting simply to ask what happens to these students after high school. Where are they attending college? What are their majors? What are their current plans? Therefore, a follow-up study was planned three years after the administration of the ACT to the 1988 cohort of students. The purpose of the follow-up study was to answer these questions and to learn more about the minority students who excelled on the ACT.
MethodParticipantsThe participants in this study were drawn from a group of 5,021 minority students who scored at or above the 95th percentile on the comprehensive score for the ACT Assessment in the spring of 1988. (This is the population in the Kerr, et al., 1992, study). Students were considered minority students if they listed themselves as African-American (Black), Native American (includes Alaskan Natives), Mexican-American (Chicano), or Asian-American (includes, Pacific Islanders) on the Student Profile Section of the ACT Assessment. One thousand students were randomly selected from this group for follow-up, using a stratified random sample so that each minority group was represented.
InstrumentA follow-up questionnaire was devised by Kerr and Colangelo which was both quantitative and qualitative in nature. The first section of the questionnaire focused on demographics and update information, such as current address; post-secondary education arid training; work status; marital and family status; college, major, and grade point average. The second section of the questionnaire focused on attitudes toward achievement. These questions were as follows: "What is your greatest accomplishment?"; "To what do you attribute your success?"; "What makes you different from minorities who did not score at the 95th percentile on the ACT?"; and "What makes you different from non-minorities who scored at the 95th percentile on the ACT?"
ProcedureOne thousand questionnaires were mailed by ACT to the stratified random sample of students. ACT kept the names and identifying data of the participants confidential. The addresses used were the addresses listed on their ACT Assessment form in 1988. Because this follow-up was mailed in September of 1991, many of the addresses were no longer current. However, 290 students did return their forms, for a return rate of 29 percent. Because of the widely varying percentages of minority students by ethnic groups, different methods were used to determine which groups would be analyzed. The entire group of respondents of African-American students (27 males, 37 females); the entire group of Native-American students (10 males, 10 females); and the entire group of Mexican-American students (46 males, 39 females) were used for this study. However, because 160 Asian-American students responded to the follow-up, a random sample of 25 females and 25 males were chosen for analysis. Thus the entire follow-up group consisted of N=219 minority students (N=108 males, N=111 females).
AnalysesThe questionnaires were analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Ranked data were compared by quantifying differences in the number of times particular responses were rated first. Means and frequencies were calculated for demographic data.
The qualitative data were rated by two judges, who developed categories jointly and then rated responses independently. Interrater reliability ranged from 92% to 96% for each of the three qualitative questions. Frequencies were calculated for each minority group for each category. Because of the existence of low numbers and 0 cells, Chi-squares were not calculated. Instead, raw data are presented for this presentation.
Results and DiscussionDemographicsThe mean age of the students was 19.6 years at the time of the follow-up. The majority of students who reported their present activities were in college. Two of the students were not in college, and five were still in high school. One of the students had joined the military. Of the students in college, the mean grade point average was 3.35, with a standard deviation of .96. One-fifth of the college students reported that they were working while attending college.
The colleges that the minority students were attending included some of America's most prestigious institutions: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and the Armed Services Academies. Three tendencies were noted from the students' college choices. First, Native-Americans and Asian-American females were attending the least prestigious colleges of all the minority groups, although most were still placed in ranked institutions. Second, Mexican-American students had more of a tendency than other groups to attend college closer to their homes. Third, African-American students were attending high prestige institutions in large proportions as well as the finest traditionally Black colleges.
With regard to college major, by far the most popular major was engineering, for all minority students. Natural sciences, usually those leading to medicine, were the next most popular; these included biology, biochemistry, and chemistry. Social and political sciences were the next most popular. Surprisingly, only one student chose pre-law. Agriculture, education, home economics, and speech were unpopular majors, and ranked at the bottom in interest.
Attributions Concerning SuccessWhen given the choice of nine possible reasons for their success on the ACT (Effort, Positive Attitude, Academic Preparation, Family Support, Easy Test, Teacher Support, Luck, Ambition, Religion), more students ranked Effort as the number one reason for their success than any other category. Next most frequently chosen reason was Positive Attitude, and third was Academic Preparation. Clearly students in all minority groups placed the responsibility for their academic success squarely on themselves. Through their own effort and positive attitude, they perceived themselves as having made the most of their education. Several did accentuate the excellent academic preparation provided by their schools.
What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment? The responses to the question of "What is your greatest accomplishment?" contained some expected comments and some surprises. Acceptance into a good or excellent college was rated as the greatest accomplishment by African-American students, Mexican-American students, and Asian-American students. Over and over, students stated that getting into a good college was a great and often unexpected accomplishment. Many of these students were the first members of their family to go to college. The attainment of a scholarship (usually a full scholarship) was a close second for African-Americans, although not for Asian-Americans. "Honors/Success," which included selection as a valedictorian, election to office, and recognition for service or talent, was second for Mexican-Americans and Asian-Americans.
A category emerged which we think would have been unlikely among Caucasian students at the 95th percentile. About ten percent of the African-American students and a full quarter of the Native-American students claimed "Survival" as their major accomplishment. The quotes supporting this response were particularly vivid. "Just living to be twenty-one is a major accomplishment for me." "To be Black and achieving and going to college when so many others have fallen by the way." "Surviving and succeeding in White (Eurocentric) schools that did not want me except as a token." Interestingly, not one Asian-American respondent mentioned survival.
For African-American females and Mexican-American males, the creation of self emerged as an important accomplishment. Sample responses include: "Just being who I am," and "To be able to be the kind of person who achieves and who enjoys life and is a good friend is what is important to me." One African-American female listed as her greatest accomplishment, "The realization that I am a talented individual, not just a talented "minority" student. The realization that I did not have to depend on the charity of the non-black community to succeed. I created my success with the help of my family."
A few responded that their greatest accomplishment was their ability in academics or the arts. These were categorized as "talent." Table 1 indicates responses to this question.
Table 1Responses to "What is your greatest accomplishment?"*
What Makes You Different from Minorities Who Did Not Score in the 95th Percentile?There were interesting gender differences within minority groups in answer to this question. The majority of African-American and Mexican-American males, and Asian-Americans (males and females) believed that excellent academic preparation set them apart from other minority students. These included statements such as "I grew up in one of the best educational systems, where academics and learning were expected and not frowned upon." "I was fortunate enough to have been involved in a gifted program." "I went to an excellent Catholic school."
African-American females and Mexican-Americans (males and females) gave strong credit to their families or their own good attitudes. Typical responses included: "As a child, and even as an adult, my parents encouraged me to pursue higher education." "My parents always did their best to give me all that they could." "My Dad read books to me and sang to me every night." In addition, they stated, "I set goals for myself and I achieve them" and "I have a positive attitude toward school" were qualities which they believed set them apart from other minorities who scored below the 95th percentile. Some of their responses indicated anger and frustration at minority peers who did not exhibit a positive attitude: "A lot of them are just so stubborn...I had a friend who straight out told me he just needed to apply himself, but he knew he was a nobody who could do nothing!"
Both Native-American males and females seemed aware of the benefits of good educational preparation but were especially aware of the importance of family support. Table 2 indicates responses to this question.
Table 2Responses to "What makes you different from other minorities who did not score at the 95th percentile?"*
What Makes You Different from Non-Minorities Who Scored in the 95th Percentile? This question drew the most vehement and emphatic responses. There were two strong types of answers. One was "Nothing but skin color" and, in capital letters, with underlines, student after student said NOTHING. For some, this meant that they felt little identification with their labeled ethnicity. This was particularly true of Native-Americans, only one of whom claimed strong ethnic identity. Typical of their responses were, "Nothing is different about me except my tribal registration card." and "Truthfully, I am part American Indian, but I do not keep tribal ties nor ever considered myself or am considered by others as a minority."
A Mexican-American male said, "I don't think there is anything different, and that in itself might explain why I did so well. Even in high school, kids would say I was just a "white guy in disguise." For others, saying there was nothing different about them was a strong statement against ethnic stereotyping, and even resentment at the question: "Nothing is different, except I have to answer ridiculous surveys like this one (no offense)." Most Asian-Americans saw little difference between themselves and non-minorities.
The other emphatic answer, which sometimes was an angry one, acknowledged differences related to racism, poverty, missed opportunities, and the need to "prove." "What makes me different is a lack of knowledge and experience with the dominant American culture's traditions and subtleties which help to clear confusion over which of two answers is best. To do well, I had to think like a non-minority," said one Mexican-American male. "Well, I have suffered plenty...conquering a new language as a child, racism and ignorance as an adult, and poverty throughout my life; however, I am the product of two cultures and I’ve lived through the process of learning to accept myself and be proud of who I am," said a Mexican-American female. Most of these answers showed a strong awareness that the young man or young woman responding had something to prove. A black male said, "I felt it necessary to produce optimum academic performance in order not to become another number in the minority economical disposition of American society." A black female said, "I had been led to believe that only a few blacks were lucky enough to be talented. I had been led to believe that I was one of those few. Most people who seek success probably have self-doubts, but I don't think the non-ethnic student suffers from so many sources. I had to convince myself and others that I could succeed despite being black." Another black male said, "I was driven by having to uphold high standards in a situation in which I was one of eight blacks in a class of 549. I had something to prove."
For many of the students in our survey, the belief that they had something to prove came through in their statements about themselves, their families, their communities, and their successes. Having something to prove seemed to give many of these students the strength they needed to succeed in environments where they were discouraged or disappointed. African-Americans mentioned educational deficiencies whereby they felt they did not have the same educational opportunities as non-minorities. Strong support and identification with family, religion, and their need to be aware of their own culture were mentioned as differences from non-minorities. Table 3 indicates the responses to this question.
Table 3Responses to "What makes you different from non-minorities who scored at the 95th percentile?"*
SummaryThe purpose of this presentation was to provide information on a follow-up study of minority students who had performed very well (95th percentile on composite) on the ACT. The follow-up, which occurred three years after the students took the ACT, provided more insight into these students than was available from the forms they completed when they took the ACT. For the most part, these students are in college and succeeding. In reflecting on themselves, they credit success to their personal efforts and the support of their families. They appear to court "extra assistance" and also realize that they had to "prove" their talents to the larger society. It is our intent to do another follow-up with this group as they graduate college and enter their careers.
*Please refer to original version for all tables.
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