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'Anti-Achievement Attitude' Among African-Americans Challenged

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A report on African-Americans in Indiana schools challenges the notion that the peer culture of black students tends not to value academic achievement.

Contrary to earlier studies that have found that black students feel pressured by peers not to get good grades, the new report says Indiana's black students do not report encountering an "anti-achievement attitude.''

"Eighty-three percent of African-American students surveyed say they believe they have the talent they need for their intended careers, and neither a lack of motivation nor low self-confidence is a barrier to their high hopes,'' concludes a draft of the report by the Indiana Youth Institute.

"There are no differences between the academic aspirations of African-American and white seniors,'' says the study, which was based on a survey of 5,200 students around the state.

The report, the latest in the "High Hopes, Long Odds'' series, says 85 percent of the black and Hispanic students surveyed felt grades are important to their friends.

When asked how much value friends in their neighborhood placed on attending a four-year college, 45 percent of those students said their peers viewed college attendance as "very important,'' while 31 percent said their friends saw it as "somewhat important.''

The researchers also surveyed more than 4,700 parents and found that black and white parents share equally high hopes for their children's academic futures.

Color-Blind Friendships

The study also is upbeat about racial integration of the schools.

Most African-American students in highly integrated schools perceived little racial discrimination around them, the study indicates. Regardless of their schools' racial composition, black students tended to express more satisfaction than white students with the services they received at school.

Most students, white or black, said they were part of a well-integrated circle of friends. A third of black seniors and 14 percent of white seniors said about half of their friends came from other racial or ethnic backgrounds.

But the report also makes clear that Indiana's black students continue to face serious obstacles.

Focus groups conducted by the researchers found that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately represented among families and in neighborhoods where there were few college graduates.

Slightly less than a third of black seniors were enrolled in college-preparatory programs, compared with more than half of white students, the survey found. Black seniors also were far less likely to have completed geometry, which is often a prerequisite for college, or to have taken the S.A.T.

Black students also were more likely to feel they did not have the money to go to college.

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