Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Special Education

First Advisor

Marshall F. Zumberg


The search for an answer to the question of the achievement gap between Black and other minority students and their White counterparts has been pervasive. This study, however, reframes the question not by using the White student as a frame of reference against which to make the comparison but by using the Black student himself. Therefore, relying on some scholarly work that found that studies of achievement within ethnic groups yielded far more significant results than between groups, the study focused on a comparison of the academic achievement between urban Black students with learning disabilities and their typical peers. The choice of what variable to examine was suggested by scholarly work that indicated certain psychological factors influence academic performance. Two of those variables that were the focus of this study were perceived academic self-efficacy and locus of control. Participants consisted of 40 students (15 students with learning disabilities and 25 general education students) from two high schools in an urban school district in southeastern Michigan, this study examined the influence of perceived academic self-efficacy and locus of control on both groups of urban Black students. The results confirm those studies that show that students with disabilities are disabled not so much by their skills or lack of skills, but by the beliefs they hold about their own abilities. This is a pointer to policy makers and education professionals that enhancing students' self-beliefs is more likely to provide the long-sought answers to the question of academic performance with the added benefit that the student is spared the possibility of the humiliation and embarrassment that accompany comparison with another group.