Obama’s mere presence is raising African American test scores, according to study.
by Christopher Paslay
According to a recent story in The New York Times, Barack Obmaba’s whirlwind rise to power is so inspiring that black students have become better test-takers. Researchers call it the Obama Effect, a psychological phenomenon that helps blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes and renders them more confident and proficient in academics.
“Now researchers have documented . . . that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election,” the New York Times reported.
Although the study the Times story is based on has not yet undergone peer review, researchers are taking the results very seriously; the study is currently being looked at by The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
As an educator who teaches students from diverse backgrounds, I see the effect that both culture and confidence has on test taking and academic achievement on a regular basis.
Students who come from backgrounds where education is not a priority tend to be less self-assured when taking a test. Many times it’s also an issue of effort and concentration. They don’t see standardized tests as important so they don’t focus. As a result, this hurts their overall achievement and self esteem, lowers their confidence and produces more test anxiety. It’s a self perpetuating cycle.
The opposite is also true. Students from cultural backgrounds where education is valued and held in high regard have much more confidence. They have the ability to sustain focus and put in maximum effort on standardized tests. In turn, they score high which boosts their confidence and lessens anxiety.
This may explain some of the positive outcomes of the so-called Obama Effect; black students see the new president as a role model and are now believing in themselves.
The documented existence of an authentic Obama Effect remains to be seen. But there is much to hope for in its potential.
As educators, we must work to understand the mindsets of our students. We must do our best to keep them thinking positively, and instill in them the confidence needed to succeed academically.