Rethinking “(Under) Performance” for Black English Speakers: Beyond Achievement to Opportunity

Patriann Smith, Alex Kumi-Yeboah, Rong Chang, Jaehoon Lee, Paul Frazier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We draw on the concept of the opportunity gap explanatory framework in this study to problematize the notion of “(under)performance” of Black American (i.e., African American) and Black immigrant youth. Examining reading literacy achievement results of Black American and Black immigrant youth using a corpus of data from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), we demonstrate the ways in which these youth self-identified as language speakers on the PISA reading literacy assessment measure, the influence of this self-identification on interpretations of their reading literacy, and the influence of other demographic factors on this achievement across subgroups. We suggest that the disaggregation of data for Black subpopulations can allow for a better understanding of the ways in which demographic, social, and cultural factors impact achievement within specific Black subgroups. We also highlight the need for reframing examinations of Black students’ literacies in ways that are humanizing. Implications for research, practice, and policy are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-554
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Black Studies
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Black
  • achievement
  • assessment
  • immigrant
  • literacy
  • race


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