Theories used explain the underachievement of students of diverse cultural, linguistic, and racial backgrounds.
1. Genetic and Cultural Inferiority - proponents assert that students of racial minority and economically poor backgrounds are genetically or culturally inferior
2. Economic and Social Reproduction Theories - schools tend to serve the interests of the dominant classes by reproducing the economic and social relations of society; schools help to create and maintain these inequalities.
3. Cultural Incompatibility Theory - school culture and home culture are often at odds, and the result is a “cultural clash” that gets in the way of student learning
4. Sociocultural Explanations for School Achievement - cultural practices of particular communities are linked with their students' learning in school settings. Shirley Brice Heath's (1983) classic research with a Black community that she called "Trackton" is a persuasive example of the power of aligning teaching to students' cultural practices.
5. Students as Castelike Minorities - According to Ogbu, given the long history of discrimination and racism in the schools, involuntary minority children and their families are often distrustful of the education system. It is not unusual for students from these groups to engage in what Ogbu called cultural inversion, that is, to resist acquiring and demonstrating the culture and cognitive styles identified with the dominant group.
6. Resistance theory, as articulated by scholars such as Henry Giroux (1983), Jim Cummins (1996), Herb Kohl (1994), and others, adds another layer to the explanation of school failure. According to this theory, not learning what schools teach can be interpreted as a form of political resistance.
7. Care, Student Achievement, and Social Capital - for Nel Noddings (1992), care is just as — and in some cases, even more — important than entrenched structural conditions that influence student learning. Valenzuela (1999): subtractive schooling concept; Ricardo Stanton-Salazar (1997): social capital networks framework
Newer theories: race, context of incorporation, and others - are also at work. Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Mexicans as economic refugees, who have significantly lower earnings than Cubans and Vietnamese, even after controlling for level of education, knowledge of English, and occupation. Alejandro Portes and Rubén Rumbaut (2001) found that immigrants fleeing from Communism are received more favorably than those fleeing economic exploitation.