Barack Obama has been president less than a week but professors from Vanderbilt, Northwestern and San Diego state universities say they’ve already documented the “Obama effect” on black students.
They gave a 20-question test, gleaned from the Graduate Record Exam, to blacks and whites before Obama’s nomination and after his acceptance speech, and again after the presidential election. On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks. But on the tests administered immediately after Obama's nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap “statistically nonsignificant,” researchers said.
Harvard professor Ronald F. Ferguson, who studies the achievement gap, wasn't surprised. He said there is "empirical support for the proposition that Obama's election could increase the sense of competence among African-Americans, and it could reduce the anxiety associated with taking difficult test questions.” In SAT test score comparisons in past years, researchers have found that blacks performed significantly poorer when asked at the start to fill out a form identifying themselves by race.
The study has not yet undergone peer review, and academics said they would be interested to see if other researchers would be able to replicate its results.
A lot of teachers, parents, politicians and others are likely anxious too.