A number of factors must be examined to understand how and why gifted minority students underachieve. Sociopsychological, family, and school factors should all be considered. Sociopsychological Factors and Underachievement Poor self-esteem and low academic and social self-concepts contribute significantly to poor student achievement.
Family-Related Factors and Underachievement-Few studies have explored the influence of family variables on the achievement of gifted minority students. VanTassel-Baska (1989) focused on the role of families in the lives of 15 low socioeconomic status (SES) gifted students, eight of whom were Black, and many living in single-parent families.
School-Related Factors and Underachievement-Numerous factors in schools can influence the achievement of gifted minority students. For example, in a study of gifted Black achievers and underachievers (Ford, 1995), underachievers reported (a) less positive teacher-student relations, (b) having too little time to understand the material, (c) a less supportive classroom climate, and (d) being unmotivated and disinterested in school. Underachievers also expressed more concerns regarding the lack of attention to multicultural education in their classes, which contributed to their lack of interest in school.
Excessive use of competition can also hinder students’ achievement, damaging academic motivation and special needs education engagement. Given the more social and less competitive nature of minority students (e.g., Hale-Benson, 1986), competition can heighten students’ anxieties, lower their achievement motivation, and lower their academic and social self-concepts.