Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Education for Social Justice

Dissertation Committee

Maya Kalyanpur, PhD, Chair Joseph Lathan, PhD, Member Paul Rasmussen, PhD, Member


Achievement Distortion, Connection Gap, Standardized testing, Black student achievement, Black Genius, Groundtruth


Is the achievement gap real? Using a mixed-methods approach, this study reframed standardized testing through a Quantitative Critical and Black Critical lens. It interrogated the deficit framing of Black student achievement by asking the following questions: (1) To what extent do the aggregated standardized test scores for Black students in California correlate with other measures of achievement? Included in this analysis are: (a) To what degree does the ratio of Black students relate to the achievement variables? and (b) To what extent did COVID impact this correlation? (2) What beliefs do Black educators have regarding the standardized test scores of Black students? and (3) How do Black educators define Black Genius? Data sources included a quantitative comparison of three achievement variables from 56 school districts over two cohort years (2017/2018–2021/2022), a questionnaire, and document analyses. “Groundtruthing” (Pérez Huber et al., 2018) was also used to verify the data with 23 Black educators. Findings revealed a lack of any strong correlation between the state standardized test to other, more meaningful outcomes for Black students. The study proffers three terms to frame the issue more accurately: Achievement Distortion, Connection Gap, and Black Genius. Groundtruthed by Black educators, Black Genius is defined as an intelligence that exists outside of the traditional, status quo, Western conceptualization of intelligence. Black Genius is rooted in Black community, consciousness, and our collective history, propelling Black people to achieve, persist, and make progress in the face of persistent anti-Blackness.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies