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TNLI: Action Research: Curriculum Implementation: Closing the Achievement Gap


Would an ethnocentric curriculum raise the achievement levels of my struggling minority students?


Minority students around the United States are scoring lower on standardized tests and graduating at a lower percentage than Caucasians. In Delaware, students graduate with a basic, standard, or distinguished diploma. In 2004, 76% of African Americans graduating in Delaware received the lowest form of diploma, a basic diploma, compared to 71% of Hispanics and 41% of Caucasians. Twenty-two percent of the African American graduates received the standard diploma, compared to 28% of the Hispanics and 48% of the Caucasians. Only 2% of the graduating African Americans achieved the distinguished diploma, compared to 1% of the Hispanic graduates and 11% of the Caucasian graduates. Overall, Asian students fared the best, having the lowest percentage receiving basic diplomas (30%) and the highest percentage achieving distinguished diplomas (24%).

These figures show that across the state, Hispanics and African Americans are well behind their peers when it comes to academic achievement. These figures are similar to figures across the United States. This research report focuses on trying to narrow this gap by infusing an ethnocentric curriculum into classrooms to attempt to boost interest and achievement for these struggling minority learners.

After analyzing the data from the surveys, I learned that more than half of the African American and Hispanic students feel their education has not provided them with knowledge of their own ethnic group. The Hispanics had a greater number who expressed this sentiment, followed by the African American students. Both groups overwhelmingly claim to have more interest in what they are doing when their learning pertains to their own ethnic group. Both groups of students expressed the desire for and interest in this type of education; however, the data from work done in the classroom seem to contradict this interest. It appears that at the eighth-grade level, the majority of the students are more concerned about which project is the easiest rather than what the topic is about. The cause of that may be that the students are performance driven instead of learning driven. What that means is that the majority of the students may be more concerned about just getting a passing grade instead of learning the material. In the case of the students who did choose the option related to minorities, there wasn’t an overwhelming increase in the student achievement. The majority of the students stayed consistent with how they usually perform. One interesting note when analyzing the students who stayed the same is that the majority of these students were already high achievers and their achievement stayed high.


  • Further research should be done to see if the results of an ethnocentric curriculum differ by age.
  • If student achievement is performance- based versus learning-based, determine why many Asian students can still achieve without an ethnocentric curriculum.
  • Determine whether the gap is due to cultural issues and if more time should be spent on changing cultural perceptions of education rather than the material itself.
  • Teachers need to acknowledge other ethnic groups and allow for choices in their classrooms where students can learn more about their own ethnic group if they choose to.

Chris McLean

8th Grade
Social Studies
Conrad Middle School

TNLI Affiliate:

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute--Delaware, please e-mail Michael Rasmussen.



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