Newswise — A study at Ball State University reveals that parents' education levels were better predictors of SAT scores, high school grade point average (GPA) and high school class rank than race or income level.

The study was conducted by Greg Marchant and Sharon Paulson, professors of educational psychology, and presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence. The study was based on one million students who took the test in 2001.

There was a greater achievement gap in SAT scores based on family income levels and parents' education levels than racially between blacks and whites. The achievement gap based on high school GPA was similar across these factors.

"Parent education is probably a better indicator of how much the parents value education than simply income or race," Paulson said.

Black students from the lowest income level averaged 99 points higher on the total SAT if their parents had bachelor's degrees rather than just high school diplomas. Black children of high school graduates had to come from the highest income bracket before their average exceeded that of the lowest income children of college graduates.

"Racial differences related to achievement gaps are confounded by other variables," Marchant said. "This doesn't mean there isn't an achievement gap based on race. It just means there are equally significant gaps that merit our attention, and these factors interact in complex and compounding ways."

Twice as many white students as black students came from families with incomes of more than $50,000, and almost twice as many white students as black students had mothers and fathers with bachelor's degrees or above.

"This research supports previous findings, which suggest that any simple comparisons based on just race or income, are incomplete and inappropriate," Marchant added. "Unfortunately this approach is the cornerstone of No Child Left Behind."

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The Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence