Factors promoting success of high-achieving Puerto Ricans

Date of Completion

January 1996


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Sociology of|Education, Educational Psychology|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




Puerto Ricans, a subset of Hispanic students, are at particular risk of school withdrawal at all levels. Nevertheless, a small number succeed and complete Ph.D. programs. The research problem was: Why do some Puerto Rican students succeed, and what factor or factors contribute to their successful educational attainment?^ Five research questions were used to explore personal characteristics, coping strategies and support systems, the role of the Puerto Rican family, supportive school and university services and personnel, and barriers to educational and job advancement that informants experienced at different points in their careers.^ Ten successful Ph.D. students/recipients at the University of Connecticut were interviewed three separate times using a semi-structured Interview Guide.^ The interviews were taped and transcribed. They were analyzed using a constant comparative method, noting the emergence of patterns in informants' responses. A questionnaire was used, as well as an Audit Trail to insure the appropriateness of the research and proper analysis of data. The study revealed that the family, the church, the school and the community were most important factors in participants' success. These four factors allowed participants to set high goals and to develop the skills necessary to achieve them. They reaffirmed participants' worth. They provided the participants with values, structure, role models, clubs, groups, peers, and opportunities to develop leadership skills. Achievers worked around barriers such as lack of adequate guidance, racism, poverty, low expectations, tracking, and lack of representation, or misrepresentation, in the curriculum.^ Anticipatory Socialization, and Hispanic Reference Group theories were applicable to these informants since they assumed the values of the social class they anticipated belonging to while they maintained their ties to the Hispanic community. Tinto's theory of Social Integration was applicable because participants bonded to members of the educational institutions they attended. They denied the existence of "glass ceilings" as posited by John Ogbu in his theory of Caste-like minorities. ^