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Abstract

The documented higher performance of minority students in Catholic versus public schools raises questions about motivational factors that may underlie the impact of parochial education. This study examines attributions for success and failure and their relationship to mathematics achievement in a sample of African American, Latino, and Caucasian fifth- and sixth-grade public and Catholic school students. Results showed that relative to their public school peers minority students in Catholic schools endorsed attributions that were more adaptive for learning. Specifically: 1) Latino and African American Catholic school students were less likely to attribute success in mathematics to external factors, 2) Latino Catholic school students were more likely to attribute success to ability, and 3) African American Catholic school students were less likely to attribute failure to external factors. Further, for Latino students, Catholic but not public school membership was positively associated with mathematics achievement. Results are discussed in the context of school culture.

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