Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


American Studies

First Advisor

Kenneth Aslakson




students, district, city


This thesis studies the effects that race and socio-economic status have on a student’s academic achievement in the American public education system. It compares the experiences of students from Schenectady, New York, a low-income, minority-populated small city, and neighboring Niskayuna, a predominately white, affluent community, by looking at graduation rates, school budgets and resources, teacher salaries, household income, and rates of poverty. Despite the annual budgets and student expenditures being similar amongst the two districts, the rates of poverty and racial disparities are dramatic. Therefore, this research exposes how there are countless variables outside of the school itself that impact a student’s academic proficiency. Much of my research has come from census data and local news sources. However, my largest and most effective source were the two districts’ superintendents, who I had the honor of interviewing. Both men offered insight into the reasons for the achievement gap seen between their districts, and furthered my claim by explaining how the culture of poverty and subsequently parental involvement largely effects a student’s achievement. This thesis begins with a review of the secondary source literature I used to contextualize my claim and is followed by three chapters focusing on the general history of Schenectady County, the history of education in Schenectady, and a direct comparison of the discrepancies between Schenectady and Niskayuna. It is completed with an epilogue that shines light on some of the national programs that have been implemented to reform the American education system.