Afua Dennis




Participant: PROMISE AGEP Research Symposium, 2014

Afua Dennis
College of Education, Teaching, Learning, Policy and Leadership Department
Institution: University of Maryland, College Park



Recent research (Zhou and Kim 2006) has shown that cultural and/or social systems, values, beliefs, norms, organizations, resources, and institutions (cultural and social capital) have been key factors in the notable high academic achievement of the children of Korean and Chinese immigrants. These cultural and social systems have served to safely buffer these children from the difficulties of race, limited resources and opportunities within American public schools (particularly as regards children of color), and the woes related to poverty or a low-income existence. Given the many efforts made in the way of motivating and raising student achievement in the US amongst various demographics, the ways in which cultural and social capital operate within communities to achieve higher levels of student performance may serve as a worthwhile model for school reform. Documentation of the role of social and cultural capital in student achievement (found in the work of Zhou and Kim and others) may further bolster support for community reform as a means, in part, of school reform.

This research considers how the systems of cultural and social capital may be developed as a solution to the epidemic of low academic performance amongst students of color. This research seeks to further understand how the power within cultural and social systems may be harnessed (or re-harnessed) to rebuild and repair failing and broken school systems by first fixing the damaged communities that often surround them.

Convincing evidence was found to support the integral role of cultural and social systems in student academic performance and achievement. This research finds that the systems of cultural and social capital may be developed as a solution, at least in part, to the problem of low academic performance amongst students of color. Evidence further suggests the importance of the inclusion of discussions on community reform in the development of school reform efforts, policy, and initiatives.



A recent transplant from Durham, NC, Afua Dennis is currently pursuing a masters degree in education at the University of Maryland, College Park with a concentration in social and cultural foundations. Her initial research interest was in school community, but she has recently begun to investigate the development of practical school reform measures. Following graduate study she hopes to pursue a career in education research.


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