(Mis)Understanding underachievement: a response to Connolly

Stephen Gorard, Emma Smith

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    5 Citations (Scopus)
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    In British Journal of Sociology of Education Volume 29 number 3, 2008, Connolly presented what he termed a 'critical review' of some of our previous work on the relative attainment of male and female students in UK schools. He proposed three general areas for criticism - our use of attainment gaps, our consideration of outcomes other than at specific thresholds, and our querying of the idea of student 'underachievement'. These problems, he claimed, have 'given rise to a number of misleading conclusions that have questionable implications for practice'. However, those of his 'criticisms' with any merit are actually the same as our own conclusions, transmuted by Connolly from our papers that he cites, while his remaining 'criticisms' are based on faulty elementary logic. In case readers have not read our work and were somehow misled by Connolly, we give here a brief reply to each criticism in turn. This matters, because a greater understanding of patterns of attainment and of the nature of underachievement is a precursor to the design of successful initiatives to overcome inequalities in educational opportunity and reward. This is both a practical and an ethical issue.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)705-714
    Number of pages10
    JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008


    • achievement gap
    • equity
    • research quality
    • political arithmetic
    • gender gap


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