Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

James C. Cavendish, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maralee Mayberry, Ph.D.


academic achievement, school engagement, race


In the United States today, significant gaps exist among the races along a variety of measures of academic success, including standardized test scores, grade point averages, and drop-out and graduation rates. In recent decades, social scientists and educators alike have sought to uncover the reasons for these gaps, and many have focused on the role of cultural and institutional factors within the school setting. In recent years, researchers have examined such factors as a students' school identification (Osborne 1997; Voelkl 1997), students' opportunities to learn and the classroom climate (Oakes 1985), students' sense of school belonging (Goodenow 1993), and of particular interest to this researcher, sense of school engagement (Fredricks, Blumenfeld and Paris, 2004). Using data drawn from the Community College Survey on Student Engagement (CCSSE) administered by Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in the spring semester of 2007, I explore (1) whether students' levels of academic achievement, as measured by grade point average, vary across racial groups, as much of the literature has shown; and (2) whether any of the observed racial differences in academic achievement can be explained by differing levels of school engagement. Results show that black students at HCC do, in fact, report lower academic achievement compared to their white counterparts, but that these racial differences persist even after controlling for levels of school engagement. In other words, school engagement predicts academic achievement for all students, blacks as well as whites. The strongest predictors of academic achievement for students at HCC are class attendance, quality of student-faculty relations, and hours spent studying.