VSL:SCIENCE // Writing off the racial gap

Researchers believe that poor self-esteem accounts for the low scores that some minority students get on standardized tests. But a new study argues that a simple essay exercise can reverse this effect.

Three years ago, University of Colorado psychologist Geoffrey Cohen found that black students who spent 15 minutes writing about a value they held dear before taking a standardized test outscored their black peers — and closed the gap between their scores and the scores of white students by more than 50 percent. Now Cohen has released a new study, which finds that black students who wrote such essays three to five times a year consistently outperformed black students who wrote about their morning routines, and scored half a grade higher on their report cards. (White students who performed the same exercise showed no perceptible improvement.)

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