African American Males Exceeding Beyond the Norm

Subject: Education
Pages: 5
Words: 14562
Reading time:
54 min
Study level: PhD

The Problem


Several American professionals and facilitators are concerned about the poor performances registered by most African American males (within schools in America). This is a critical consideration when probed in the educational context. Disparities in educational performances between the general students (Blacks and Whites) remain eminent in America (Smart & Paulsen, 2012). This phenomenon is attributable to several factors including cultural orientation, manner of speech, general characters, and mode of interaction. A historical analysis of this situation indicates a considerable performance gap. This is evident during the 1970s and 1980s academic eras (Sykes, Schneider & Plank, 2012). However, it is notable that this status has changed since the beginning of 1988. Perhaps, with the increasing globalization and technological advances, the situation is set to worsen within most American schools.

Although there has been considerable attention to this disparity, not many efforts have been employed by relevant stakeholders to combat the discrepancies in academic achievement among African American males and their counterparts. Apparently, most academicians and researchers have potentially attributed this situation to several notable factors (Rivers, 2008). Among some of these include the models and explanations relating to the genetic inferiority (Nasir & Shah, 2011). In addition, structural and environmental influences have been associated with such discrepancies in academic performance (Noble, 2011).The findings of this study may be meaningful and essential to shift a trend that has lasted over a decade among African American males. This study will contribute to clarify the issue of lower enrollments of African American males into advanced placement courses.

Definition of the Problem

In the context of the ongoing governmental problem No Child Left Behind, it is important to define the most vulnerable groups of students to be able to assist them. African American male students can be regarded as one of such groups, as the rate of these students’ enrollment in higher grade courses is low (CCPS, 2012). Once minority groups, African American male students now constitute about 80% of students in many schools. At that, less than 20% of these students excel in higher grade courses (Kafele, 2009). Thus, in Georgia African American male students make up about 83%. At the same time, the number of these students in higher grade courses is slightly more than 10% (Georgia Department of Education, 2009). The number of such students also varies in terms of the major chosen. Thus, African American male students often excel in mathematics and tend to enroll in “technical” courses (Nasir & Shah, 2011). However, the rate of African American male students in English courses is still very low (Kafele, 2009). Therefore, it is important to pay special attention to the latter major to reveal factors affecting performance of African American male students. It is necessary to note that African American male students underperform due to a variety of reasons. Financial problems and cultural peculiarities are the major factors influencing the group under study. (Antunez, 2005).


Evidence of the Problem at the Local Level

The present project focuses on one of the schools in Georgia. As has been mentioned above, cultural and financial factors significantly affect performance of African American males. According to the Georgia Department of Education (2009) 37% of African American students were enrolled, whereas 45% White students were enrolled in the same year. Apparently, the number of African American students is increasing and they are not a minority any more. As far as the school in question is concerned, the number of African American students exceeds the number of Caucasian students. Therefore, African American students do not feel uncomfortable in terms of a minority status. Admittedly, the people of Georgia were affected considerably by the recent financial crisis and many families had to cut their budgets. However, as has been mentioned above, financial constraints play quite an insignificant role in African American male students’ performance.

Cultural aspect plays a crucial role in developing commitment in African American male students. Hip hop culture have been playing a negative role in development of academic ambitions of African American male students. Living in African American community, many young males adopt the culture propagated by hip hop celebrities. The so-called hip hop life style can hardly be associated with academic excelling. Apart from hip hop ideology, so-to-speak, African American male students have difficulties on linguistic level. Hip hop culture is associated with slang language which often becomes an obstacle for excelling in English courses (Clauss-Ehlers, 2008). Admittedly, academic constraints of African American male students are not associated with the gaps in educational system only, but are closely connected with peculiarities of community. Therefore, it is crucial to take into account the environment when shaping educational techniques and strategies (Epstein, 1991).

Apart from this, it is also important to understand that when addressing the problem, educators and officials do not simply assist young African American males to succeed in life. Admittedly, the primary group affected by the problem is African American young population. African American students do not strive for higher education in the majority of cases. The lack of academic ambition negatively affects their academic performance (National Education Association, 2005). Furthermore, African American males who do not have higher education have fewer opportunities in future (Allen & Jewell, 2002). However, the population affected by the problem exceeds the group of young people. The entire community and, more generally, the entire society lose. Low rates of enrollment in higher grade courses presuppose the lack of qualified personnel. The lack of professionals is becoming a great problem of the American society. Therefore, assisting a relatively small group of African American male students can positively affect the overall situation in the society as aspiring young people can inspire other people to excel in their academic life.

It is necessary to note that in the advanced courses only 13% of the students are African American males. In remedial English classes African American males make up 83%. The total number of students in AYP grade levels were 347 in which only 230 participated in the English portion and 95% passed. The math portion of the test is where this Jonesboro school failed to meet AYP the 2010-2011 school year. Only 74.9% of students met and/or exceeded passing rates. The subgroups which lacked success were African Americans and economically disadvantaged (in which there may be overlapping) with 68.8% African American passing and 67.5% economically disadvantaged (Georgia Department of Education, 2009). Thus, the quantitative variables of the present research will be enrollment rates in higher grade courses as well as test results of African American male students. These variables will illustrate the importance of the problem addressed. The rates of enrollment and students’ results will show the extent to which African American male students need help. As for the qualitative aspect of the study, personal opinions, behavior and contemplations of the participants of the study will be analyzed.

As has been mentioned above, a number of factors contribute to the development of the existing trend. Some researchers tend to consider genetic peculiarities (Hodge et al., 2008). However, many researchers agree that economic and cultural factors play the most significant role. The recent financial crisis made many families reshape their lifestyles and cut their budgets. Many young people had to rethink their academic aspirations as many of them had to start working instead of continuing their studies. However, the availability of various programs aimed at assisting aspiring young people; diminish negative effects of the financial crisis. Therefore, economic factors are not crucial.

As has been stated above, cultural peculiarities of the African American communities play a very important role in the development of academic preferences of African American males. Hip hop culture becomes a considerable obstacle for many young people, especially when it comes to such majors as English. Furthermore, African American males often lack models to follow. These young people become victims of stereotypes and start working instead of enrolling in higher grade courses. Notably, many young African American males excel in certain subjects (especially in Maths) but even these excelling students report about a lot of pressure which they have to resist (Stinson, 2008). Finally, recent feminist movement aimed at helping females can also be regarded as a significant factor that affects African American male students’ enrollment in higher grade courses (Kafele, 2009). Thus, Kafele (2009) notes that educators and officials often focus on female students and male students are often left behind. Such attention to females is especially obvious in such courses as English as male students rarely choose such majors.

It is important to note that the present research has very critical implications as it focuses on the factors that affect performance of one of the most vulnerable groups of students. Understanding factors that negatively affect African American male students’ performance will help educators develop corresponding strategies and techniques to address existing problems. Educators will be able to find specific ways to communicate particular ideas to this group of students. Understanding why these students excel or underperform will help to diminish the gap between the teacher and the student. Promoting higher grade courses, educators will be able to inspire young people to succeed in their academic life and in their future life as well.

Evidence of the Problem from the Professional Literature

Notably, several American professionals and facilitators are concerned about the poor performances registered by most African American males (within schools in America). This is a critical consideration when probed in the educational context. Disparities in educational performances between the general students (Blacks and Whites) remain eminent in America (Smart & Paulsen, 2012). This phenomenon is attributable to several factors including cultural orientation, manner of speech, general characters, and mode of interaction. A historical analysis of this situation indicates a considerable performance gap. This is evident during the 1970s and 1980s academic eras (Sykes, Schneider & Plank, 2012). However, it is notable that this status has changed since the beginning of 1988. Perhaps, with the increasing globalization and technological advances, the situation is set to worsen within most American schools.

The academic performance among the middle-class African American male students is generally diminished (Lynn et al., 2010). Researchers articulate a number of reasons for such a trend. Economic, social and cultural issues which affect performance of African American students have been discussed. Researchers also suggest various options to address the problem.

Upon executing several class-based investigations on African Americans and White male students, it is clear that African American students should join schools with impeccable cultural and academic prowess (Gasman, Baez, & Turner, 2008). Reportedly, this ought to be based on the family integration as well as the upbringing trends. However, according to recent studies, several sub-urban Black learners are persistently underperforming. This occurs despite the fact that some of these African American students come from privileged families. These students have the necessary financial resources to succeed in studies but they still underperform. Therefore, it is notable that the economic level of some families plays an insignificant role in the performance of these learners. There must be underlying factors that contribute to their underperformance and lack of ambition to enroll in higher grade courses. Presently, the topic is of great interest to most researchers.

In latest investigations, “skills gaps” have been discussed by most researchers (Bush & Bush, 2010). This occurs in relation to math and sciences as critical subjects to all students. The national student performance data indicates a general and obvious disparity in the academic gaps and performances in these two highlighted subjects between the Black And White students. Notably, the male African American students have immensely improved and developed an impressive performance since 1970s. However, this trend remarkably transform when these students reach high school level. This is observable in the present scenario. Around 77% of White students have performed better relative to the average African American student (Pampaloni, 2010). On the other hand, it can be noted that only 23% of the African American students are better readers relative to the average White learners. Observably, this is a 5% reduction from the notable trend in the past sixteen years. The situation is complicated in the performance of African American male students (The children’s aid Society, 2006).


The definitions and terms that will be used in this study will be used for better comprehension of district and state level educational requirements for students. These terms include:

  • Adequate yearly progress, (AYP): Adequate yearly progress (AYP) is the measure by which schools, districts, and states are held accountable for student performance. States are required by law to use a single accountability system for public schools to determine whether all students, as well as individual subgroups of students, are making progress toward meeting state academic content standards.(Education Week, 2004).
  • Best Practices: This term is in reference to educators who remain up-to-date on current issues, strategies, and concepts effecting students; consistently evolving in professional development; and guiding schools to becoming more rigorous, collaborative, and student-centered.
  • Clayton County Georgia Professional Standards, (CCGPS)/Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI): Newly adopted curriculum standards set in place as part of the presidents Race to the Top Grant. The standards adhere to preparing students for college and career.
  • Classroom Teacher Performance Assessment System, (CLASS Keys): The CLASS Keys is an evaluation system that was developed to support the standards-based classroom and replaces the Georgia Teacher Observation Instrument.
  • End of Course Test, (EOCT): An academic assessment conducted in many states by the State Board of Education. Georgia, for example, tests from the ninth to twelfth grades.
  • Professional Learning Community, (PLC): Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) shift the focus of school reform from restructuring to reculturing (Louis, 2006). A PLC is an ongoing process used to establish a school wide culture that develops teacher leadership explicitly focused on building and sustaining school improvement efforts. Generally, PLCs are composed of teachers, although administrators and support staff routinely participate (Bolam, McMahon, Stoll, Thomas, & Wallace, 2005; Huffman, 2000; Deal & Peterson, 1999).
  • Scaffolding: Scaffolding refers to the idea that specialized instructional supports need to be in place in order to best facilitate learning when students are first introduced to a new subject (Barth, 2001). Scaffolding allows teachers to continuously build on students’ prior knowledge of a subject.
  • School Improvement Plan, (SIP): The purpose of the school improvement plan is to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the school, so that greater numbers of students achieve proficiency in the core academic subjects of reading and mathematics. The school improvement plan provides a framework for analyzing problems, identifying underlying causes, and addressing instructional issues in a school that has not made sufficient progress in student achievement (Banks, et al, 2001).
  • Socialized instruction: This is an instructional design that educators use to address the need of diverse learners through relationships develop skills both socially and cognitively among the learning community.


The purpose of this project will be not only lessening the achievement gap between African American males and their counterparts but helping African American males excel in school. For the past three years the case school failed to achieve AYP (annual yearly progress) due to one sub group, free and reduced lunch/lower socioeconomic group. Change is required if these students are to succeed. Various articles researched seemingly focus on the shortcomings of African-American students in particular.. Other potential factors have been reproduction, opposition, resistance factors, and trends notable within the African American lifestyle and general affairs.

The present project as well as similar research will provide the necessary data to reshape the present educational strategies to help African American male students fully integrate into the educational system of the country. Successful examples of excelling students and their experiences will help develop strategies aimed at promoting higher education among the African American population. These effective strategies will help make young people of color understand the importance of higher education. These strategies will inspire African American male students to take new challenges and achieve academic success. More so, development of effective educational strategies aimed at a particular group of students will become a good example for researchers working in other spheres (with other groups of students). Of course, this does not mean that the developed techniques will be effective for Asian, Native or Caucasian female (male) students. However, some techniques may be modified and successfully used with other groups of students.

Besides, the effects of the successful educational strategies are not confined to academic achievements of some students and better rates for schools. Effective educational strategies will have significant impact on the American society. Increasing rates of enrollment in higher grade courses will result in an increasing number of qualified workers. Increasing number of professionals will, in its turn, positively affect the development of the American economy. Therefore, research aimed at developing academic ambitions in African American students has a number of long-term benefits for the entire society.

Guiding/Research Question

The shortcomings of African American males in schools are often based on behavioral problems and academic failure. Growing concerns are increasingly observed that many African American males are misdiagnosed by educators who do not understand the culture. As a result many of these males are labeled and placed in special education classes and suspended at higher rates then their white counterparts. There is minimal effort to include African American males in higher level academic courses.

Many African American males in the schools are not meeting higher standards of education, nor excelling past their counterparts. At a senior high school that will be named Jefferson, in two observed advanced courses only 13% of the students are African American males. At this same institution in remedial English classes African American males make up 83%. The school has faced several obstacles, the number one being that many of the students withdrew from the school after the initial loss of county accreditation. A substantial number of the 12th Grade students (primarily enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP courses)) chose dual enrollment and attend the college instead of secondary school. This is the third year in which Jefferson High School failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The subgroups in which we seem to be unsuccessful in is the lower socioeconomic group and special education. Investigations involving students that struggle in school suggests that students work better in small group and collaborative learning environments (Alexander, Smith, Pickering, & Marzano, 2005; Adelman, 2006; Deal & Peterson, 1999; Furry & Hecsh, 2001). This study examined the connection between academic performance and socialized instruction of African American males in high school English courses. Consequently, educationalist suggests the lack of exceling in English may be connected to African American males’ attitudes towards academics and the lack of interaction with others within the classroom (Lasley, Matczynski, and Rowley, 2002). This may also lead to increased rates of high school dropouts among the students (Stearns & Glennie 2006).

Contributing factors to the achievement gap among African American males and European males behavior in some courses is said to be due to poor home training or apathy on their part. Educators must be educated themselves on better teaching practices.

Only teachers who utilize a variety of instructional models will be successful in Maximizing the achievement of all students. Teachers need to ‘play to’ students’ Strengths and to mitigate students learning weaknesses. This can be done only Through the use of instructional variety (Langer, 2002, p. 49).

Subsequently the lack of involvement from not only family and community, but educators and students is a major obstacle that limits the growth of our programs. African-Americans whose parents lacked a high school education scored 191 points lower than their white counterparts (Freeman, Hrabowski, Maton, & Greif 1998). The family environment must be examined in order to identify the attitudes, values, and beliefs of African-American students.

Notably, African American males do not only need to earn diplomas, they need to excel in schools. The graduation rate of African American males is lower than their counterparts, but among those who do graduate, the percentage of them enrolled in honors and/or advanced courses is lower than their counterparts. The data in further chapters will explain the breakdown of African American males enrolled in higher level courses.

Review of the Literature

Much attention and research has been conducted over the prominence of the achievement gap in education. In the previous sections I explored background information for the research problem and historical context were explored. In the literature review we will investigate several theories, the most dominant for this study, and Sternberg’s Triarchic view of intelligence and Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development to support the theoretical perspective of socialized instruction (Snowman & McCown, 2013; Snowman, McCown & Biehler, 2012). Best practices were set in place which concentrated on internal factors such as educators’ and students’ understandings of education, background, and parental involvement (Douglas, 2006).

This chapter includes a comprehensive review of the literature relevant to the issue of educational aspirations of African American males in high schools. This section is organized into three categories: (a) data to support hypothesis; (b) existing research on means influencing educational endeavors; (c) a discussion of the conceptualized framework on which the study focuses.

Brown versus the Topeka Board of Education

After Brown vs. The Board of Education in 1954, national attention was focused on ways to close the achievement gap between African American students and white students. The federal government stepped in to help close this gap in what was called, The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The goal of the EOA was to provide federal money to local agencies and school systems to be used for early development programs for preschoolers who were socioeconomically challenged (Hanushek, Kain & Rivkin, 2009). After the Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education, the federal government funded a study to examine the progress made in educational opportunities for minority students. The study they conducted entitled, Equality of Educational Opportunity, focused on the significant differences in academic achievement between economically advantaged White students and poor minority students (Schmidt, Cogan, & McKnight, 2010; Coleman, et al., 1966). This report explains how a family’s socioeconomic status plays a huge part in predicting a child’s success in schools.

Evidently, this area requires intensive research in order to develop critical skills in the explanation of this discrepancy. Indeed, in spite of the history of potential educational achievement since 1954, it is observable that an awesome number of African students continue to underperform academically and fail within most American schools (Bush & Bush, 2010).

Data for hypothesis

There is a Title I school in Jonesboro, Georgia where adequate yearly progress was not attained the previous school year. In Georgia 11th grade students are required to pass four core subject tests and a writing exam before earning high school diplomas after their senior year. Consequently the pass ratio in this high school study case is: 84% Social Studies, 79% Science, 94% Math, and 91% English. The pass ratio for the Georgia High School Writing Test percentage last year was 93%. Evidently, test scores are relatively successful despite failing to meet AYP.

Underlying Theories

Most educationists have investigated the factors that manipulate performance and patterns of education amongst different races and population segments within US. The academic trends notable within the African American males have been observed (Gibson & Krohn, 2013; The children’s aid Society, 2006). Evidently, there exist fundamental approaches often applied in the analysis of these trends. The personal or individual characteristics or traits have been analyzed. Apart from this, the cognitive and non-cognitive variables amongst the African American males have been analyzed comprehensively. As a result of these studies, various explanations can be attributed to the low instances of enrollment amongst African American male students in higher courses such as the advanced placement and honors (Clark, 2010; Furry & Hecsh, 2001).

Basically, the cognitive variables refer to aspects that may include the high school grade score aggregate. On the other hand, the non-cognitive variables embody the elements comprising social integration, motivation, and general student’s self-concept. In a more empirical way, cognitive variables may be defined as the variables that measure the intellectual competencies and are depicted by certain numerical score. This occurs through ranking or a given range. On the other hand, non-cognitive variables may refer as an emotional, psychosocial constructs, skewed in nature, which express the feeling, opinions, and attitudes. Studies depict those indicators. This includes high school score, grade points, the test scores, and education level (Ogbu, 2008).

In these studies, the peculiar attributes notable within the higher institutions have been singled out. In this context, it is evident that whenever all these socioeconomic factors get managed, the enrollment rates of the African American males within high-level courses might just be equivalent to those high rates observable within other groups (Grant-Thomas & Orfield, 2009). Therefore, there is an evidence of the increasing importance of the institutional elements of the decisions and performance of African American male students once they enroll in their high schools. The role of the institutions in the influence of the decisions and the fate of these students is seemingly vital and can never be underscored. There are also indications that the various underlined cognitive factors act synergistically with other institutional factors to influence the enrollment decisions as well as the capabilities of the African American male students (Losen, & Orfield, 2002). In essence, this project can draw a lot of lessons and potential approaches notable within other past investigations. This perhaps elucidates why it is critical to consider the diverse case studies so as to develop a comprehensive research.

For many decades, most educational scholars such as John Ogbu have conducted studies and theorized on the issues of academic performance. Some of the observable concepts that have been stipulated within such studies include the concepts of academic performance and disparities between the immigrant as well as the non-immigrant populations (Clauss-Ehlers, 2008; Carter, 2004). Minority students under this case have been studied and scrutinized depending on their migration and cradle land status. Although normally debated within the realms of education for stereotyping, it is clear that these studies have been critical in the comprehension of the attitudes as well as characters of the general African American students enrolled within the America’s public schools and other learning institutions (Carter, 2004).

Related studies capturing the intricacies of analyzing the African American accomplishment gap with respect to education have been conducted (Gibson & Krohn, 2013). Particularly, these have been conducted within the ethnographic investigations of most upper-middle-class and the sub-urban Shaker Heights society in the exterior of Cleveland, Ohio (Rivers, 2008). Most studies have also applied the cultural-ecological explanation model to investigate and analyze the many intertwining elements or conditions that may influence the students’ school performance. This has similarly been done to investigate the African male’s academic engagement as well as the notable coping skills necessary for effective performance. Following these studies, there been a considerable development of spectra of knowledge and assumptions. For instance, the cultural-ecological model related to the minority schooling integrates two major groups of factors or elements that may mold these minority students and learners’ school adjustment as well as their consequent academic performance (Clauss-Ehlers, 2008). These include: 1) the manner in which a particular community together with its notable educational and learning institutions manage and have handled its minorities and 2) how these minorities interpret and consequently respond to this treatment.

It is critical to observe that the first set of factor deals with the general system prevalent within a society. However, the second factor deals with personal or individual predisposition about certain manipulative or affective factors eminent from the major systems of the society. The last factor is also unique because it majorly relies on the distinct history as well as the minority conditions or status within the larger American society (Ogbu, 2008). In general, these factors may be viewed to be the set of conditions originate from the community forces. The focus of most studies has also intensively reviewed and analyzed the general student beliefs, practices, perceptions as well as characters of the African American male students. Some of these have potentially included factors such as their fundamental educational convictions as well as behaviors. Their associations with the general education system as well as schools and their explicit convictions and behaviors have also been critically analyzed and investigated (Sommers, 2012).

The manners in which the African American male students interpret and consequently respond to the notable cultural and language disparities remain significant. This is due to their united identity citation. In addition, the educational strategies and approaches applicable and pertinent to these affected persons are vital in the analysis and examination of the basic reasons or factors influencing and leading to their underperformance. An element of most studies such as the Shaker Heights has been to expose the reason for Black students’ poor and general disengagement from the academic work, potentially resulting into their underperformance (Kafele, 2009). The information or facts from most of such investigations and studies have been assisting in the comprehension of the existence of low-achieving African male students not just within the urban setting, but again within the suburban communities (Gibson & Krohn, 2013). Thus, it is notable that the class-based inspection of the challenges confronting African American male students is still insufficient. Evidently, current studies of the African American male students attending public schools seem limited and minimal. Thus, the research will contribute considerably to the mentioned Black-White educational catastrophe. The issues of African American students advocate addressing and investigating the experiences of living as well as attending learning institutions within a racially-mixed but predominantly White society. It is crucial to consider these provisions in the educational context. The educational trends assumed by the black American male students are quite devastating. They require immediate attention from the concerned organs (Rumberger, 2011). This has been evident even within most research cases and study findings. Therefore, it can no longer be assumed that the prevalence or domineering of the White student populations within certain specific public institutions has a potential influence or manipulation in the performance of the African students.

Some notable scholars and educational researchers have stressed and implied that the present educational discourses are pertinent in the attribution of African American students to underperformance (Thelin, 2011). Elementarily, this is due to the school, personal, and communal factors. Some of these notable influences might emanate from factors such as tracking, stereotype teacher characters, traits, as well as convictions. Other factors that have been predominantly attributed to the notable academic performance of the African American male students include the social class and society stratification influences, and major cultural dissimilarities observable between home as well as school (Kafele, 2009). There has been a general observation that the African American community students can best be understood by considering African American males attitudes toward academics and the willingness to succeed.

Thelin (2011) asserted that there is an increasing and overwhelming pressure for the notable investigators and practitioners within the education sector as well as all relevant stakeholders to consider the necessary community forces that are likely to stimulate and propel the African American male students’ performance. Community forces herein, has been defined as the particular manners in which the minorities interpret and as well as respond to school going, their convictions as well as characters in the larger community concerning education, learning and other traits that students from minority communities carry to the schools (Rumberger, 2011).

The African American Male Students

In 2007, the African American females enrolled in historically black colleges in higher percentage as compared to their counterpart males (Bush & Bush, 2010). In general, there has been a decrease in their percentile enrolment in higher courses and colleges relative to the female enrolment rate. Despite this, low trend of academic performance has been noted amongst the general African American student population relative to that of the White students’ performance (Ogbu, 2008; Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000). The numbers of the degrees earned by the female counterparts are also considerably higher as compared to those of the African American male students within higher colleges of learning and universities.

According to some reports issued by the Schott Foundation for Public Education in 2006 (regarding 2003 and 2004 academic year), 55% of the African American male students never received their diplomas compared to their other classmates (Whites) just four years following their high school period (Pampaloni, 2010). Additionally, numerous states, for example Florida and Nevada, did not graduate a third of the African American male students. This trend has also been noted in the general national performance comparisons from different American states. A similar trend with intensive cases of drop outs particularly for the male students has been reportedly noted in the major US cities including the New York, NY Detroit among other cities (Gasman, Baez, & Turner, 2008). It is crucial that educators reach students before they fall through the cracks and become future problems for our society.

Observations presented by the yearly study in the US Office of Civil Rights indicate that African American males generally constitute a disproportionate percentage of the learners or students present within the special education, optional schools, as well as most remedial classrooms. In addition, these students have been represented to be among those students predominantly diagnosed to be mentally challenged and depicting gross learning disabilities. Furthermore, it is critical to note that these surveys have also revealed that the African American male students have been victims of severe emotional as well as social disturbances (Rumberger, 2011). Based on this assumption African American males may observe discrimination, mistreatment, and employment caps historically leading to low paying jobs and little to know advancement. Perhaps, it might be concluded that these are some of the factors that have significantly contributed to their dismal performance within the public schools and consequently lack of the attitude and capability to enroll for higher grade courses.

Notably, related investigations have depicted an existence of a significant and increasing correlation between the African American males performing dismally at school and with low motivation to enroll for higher courses with their consequent connection to the state’s penal system. For instance, the 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics information indicates that the African American males were jailed in prisons compared to other racial or ethnic groups. Consequently, this group has also been depicted to have a higher incarceration rate as compared to that observable or notable with their counterpart White males. Furthermore, such studies or surveys have indicated that for every three number of the African American males, especially those within their early 20s or 30s, most of them spend a significant proportion of their lifetime either incarcerated, or on state legal probation (Kafele, 2009). They might also be observable under certain kind of command from the state penal system at a particular point in their life time. Information from the US education department indicate that even hen regarded to be shy as well as demoralized, the present day’s females have potentially outshined their male counterparts.

English is the common language within the US and most African American males do not always want to associate with the subject within higher professional levels. The analysis of factors surrounding is discrepancy is important and the review of several past studies would be most vital in developing vital theoretical models and assumptions to help in the explanation of the trend (Sommers, 2012). This explains the core objective of this research, given the several instances and lessons that can be drawn from the different sources of data on the general education trends.

The Advanced Placement (AP) Course Program

This program was established in1950s through the help of College Examination Board for the US. Majorly, it comprises high school courses, which are dependent on the curriculum drawn on reliance of the introductory courses for the college (Rivers, 2008). However, it remains very distinct from other programs because it is characterized by technical and standardized post-course examination. The AP technical course remains remarkable throughout the US and has significantly gained recognition after the administration of almost 32 diverse subjects in the 2000 throughout the country. Some of the notable subjects that are eminent in this program include the American history, English literature as well as composition and calculus AB. Other subjects that have been offered under the placement program are English language as well as composition, the general US federal politics and other life sciences including biology subjects (Gasman, Baez, & Turner, 2008). Generally, most states within the US have had dramatic and notable transformations in some of their students enrolling and undertaking these high level examinations for grade course.

It is important that the advanced placement programs have a unique approach to education. This is because they offer several benefits both to the personal students, their mentors or teachers and the general system of learning and education. It is crucial to understand these provisions in the educational context. It is from this context that the mentioned arguments lie. The design of this program was based on several substantial reasons following an adequate researches and investigations that were conducted by several scholars, educationists as well as policy formulators within the education and learning sector. For instance, it was postulated that highly performing students who may generally find high school life boring would alternatively get challenged by an improved work (Sommers, 2012). Accordingly, this group of students could be exposed to a high level and platform of learning that is needed by the colleges.

The system itself operates under stringent guidelines with high academic expectations from the interested students who qualify. Ideally, it is observable that students must work hard to increase their chances for admission. They also have the mandate to choose their own preferred colleges and courses to attend. However, this largely depends on their level of performance during the technical examinations (i.e. SAT, AP, GHSGT, or EOCT). It is apparent that these stringent requirements and regulations have also played a critical part in lowering the number of the African American male students who are enrolled in the various courses like English within this program.

However, the program is noted to have obvious benefits for the entrants. This perhaps has also heightened the level of competition and chances available nationally or in every American state (Grant-Thomas & Orfield, 2009). For instance, the students under this program have the chance to obtain their college credits while still in the high school. This therefore reduces their period within the college and as well minimizes the tuition fees required while undergoing their college training.

The AP exam outcomes offer an exterior and standardized corroboration of the facilitator’s competency to assist students in obtaining their high performance standards. On the side of teachers, they gain the opportunity to extend their potential as well as develop their inherent capacity and competency since they are able to instruct the college-level materials. It is also notable that all the school systems possess an advantage and room to scale up their pre-AP-level curriculum. This is in academic preparation of the students so that they are competent enough to face the challenges of the AP system and examinations (Smart & Paulsen, 2012).

In the AP system, however, certain practices are more likely to hinder some segments of the students from joining the system or enrolling for the courses offered. For instance, this program is usually practiced within the private school setting. This implies that the students within the public school domain may at times be technically locked out from enjoying the program benefits (Thelin, 2011). This might be particularly applicable to those students from economically challenged family backgrounds.

There are obvious issues and debates that have developed and cropped up due to the emergence of the AP program. For example, most critics have potentiated that this course emphasizes so much on facts together with memorization. These, as they have stated, might reinforce scores for the AP tests. This contrasts critical thinking knowledge and skills, which may hold great value in a person’s learning, professional, as well as personal life (Rivers, 2008). This is a critical provision in various contexts. Subsequently, there also exist complaints that the program is severely exclusive in conception and by all standards. Therefore, these high grade courses are seen to be favoring some students who may have an easy access to adequate and proper academic preparation. This also contributes to the element of the students’ financial orientation either and level of economic status of the family. These enlisted factors are most likely to play significant roles in the minimization of the number of the African American male students registering for the high grade courses in America.

Most significantly, there are concerns as to whether the AP courses are readily available for all the qualified students in the entire nation or within all American states (Pampaloni, 2010). There have been significant reiterations over these concerns. Most people have associated the concerned programs with some element of prejudice and biasness based on several factors. The locality and family backgrounds of the concerned students have also contributed to the alleged low enrollment rate among black Americans as indicated earlier (Thelin, 2011). This regards students who reside in rural areas and come from low income zones. Concurrently, gender and ethnicity issues have been cited as major contributory factors to inequalities recorded in the enrolment patterns as well as performance factors. This is a critical provision based on its contribution to the low enrolment rates and other relevant educational concerns. African American males have been disadvantaged because most of them are residents of rural areas and come from low income zones within their respective states. Apart from these areas being potentially disadvantaged (in terms of access to higher educational programs), there have been intensive issues of female advocacy in these native regions (Sommers, 2012). This has led to a largely feminist society that has majored exceedingly on the welfare of the females relative to the males. The females under the auspices of gender equality, can therefore access more elevated and beneficial programs, notwithstanding the waivers that they have to enjoy on enrolling to such programs, subject to their claims on “weaker sex” (Sykes, Schneider & Plank, 2012).

Another condition that might hinder African American male students from enrolling for higher educational programs is inequality, prejudice, and lack of adequate opportunities to establish, exercise, and embrace their creativities (Smeldley & Jenkins, 2007). When students are enrolled in schools where the faculty or management opposes or does not embrace creativity, uniqueness, novelty, and other cultural inclinations, this might interfere with the mentioned enrolments. Alternatively, there are cases where the system has been largely viewed as propagating gross inequality within the general learning system (College Board, 2010). Technically, this might hinder the African American male students from enrolling into the high grade courses within their schools. Basically, there are underlying factors acting synergistically to manipulate the performance and enrollment of the African American male students. This interferes with the mentioned high level courses such as the placement program.

Design Principles

In an effort to engage African American males and receive the highest level of achievement, the entire learning community must become involved in making the changes. Observingly, African American male students will be motivated to achieve if support is perceived and set in place for them. Evidently, disruptive and violent behavior in schools hinders the educational process for all. Although we typically associate the term violence with physical assaults, emotional violence in the form of severe teasing and harassment is often viewed by students as potentially worse and often more of a daily occurrence than the threat of physical injury (Martins & Wilson, 2011).

Notably, classrooms will play a major role in changing the behaviors of students and fostering caring constructive learning environments. Black pupils are statistically two to five times more likely to be suspended than their White counterparts. (Gregory & Weinstein, 2008). Consequently, effective instruction and learning must ensue in the classroom.

Martins and Wilson (2011) state that, “Five specific design principles for the focus of this study on improving the quality of education for African American males to excel are:

  • Students are able to see themselves as competent and effective learners (academic efficacy);
  • Students set and work toward self-selected learning goals (academic self-determination);
  • There are caring and authentic relationships between teachers and the students (teacher-student relationships);
  • Students have ongoing and rewarding friendships with their classmates (peer relationships);
  • Families know about and strengthen the learning that occurs in the classroom (home-school relationships).” (Martins & Wilson, 2011)

Academic Efficacy

Positive reinforcement is needed for most people. For one to strive and attain a sense of accomplishment, high expectations must be set in place. When people feel a sense of pride in their work, they flourish and strive to continue the pattern of success. We want our students to be engaged and motivated in school but we cannot lower our academic standards in the process. One obstacle that may arise with the high level of standards is that students who do not receive the perfect grade/score may feel defeated; hence poor behavior ensues to “cover-up” the fact that the student does not understand the material. A clear understanding of what success is must be present in the classroom. Students must understand that any step towards the positive is a good step.

Academic Self-Determination

Students must buy-in to their own educations. Students must set goals for themselves and be held accountable for fulfilling them. Observably, one child may strive to become the Valedictorian while another may strive to earn a B or pass the course. “If we are not seeking and using students’ ideas often, we are squandering an important resource for making schools better both academically and socially.” (Sergiovanni, 2012, p. 71). Importantly, each student must feel pride in what he/she wishes to accomplish and make sure that it comes to fruition. One obstacle for this principle is the lack of motivation in some African American males. The lack of motivation holds these children back and they are more likely to cause discipline problems within the classroom and school. By allowing the students an opportunity to voice concerns regarding education, students will gain a sense of pride and will look at the future and set attainable goals.

Teacher – Student Relationship

For effective teaching and learning to take place students must feel that their teachers care about them and their futures. Students need to feel safe with educators. When teasing and bullying occur, the person that they are in contact with on a daily basis is the teacher. They need to feel as though they can approach one of their teachers for help. In addition, it is true within the classroom. Often teasing occurs while instruction is taking place. Educators must be vigilant when it comes modeling positive behavior to students.

Peer Relationship

The quality of relationships among students is also related to school safety. High School students reporting a strong sense of community are less likely to cut classes, drop out of school (Cheney & Sanders, 2011), and engage in violent behavior. A strong sense of community among students may reduce violence by increasing students’ tendency to identify with other students. If people identify with a group, they tend to have more favorable and personable views of the members of that group (Doll, 2009). Peer pressure is very powerful. Problems may arise among various groups because of racial, ethnic, religious differences however. Tolerance must be taught in schools to help students from different backgrounds relate to one another without discriminating.

Home – School Relationships

Students are more likely to feel safe and supported and to achieve academically when they see a positive, respectful relationship between their families and the school (Doll, 2009). By involving parents in the running of the school (goals, safety), they feel a sense of ownership in the school. They are more likely to participate in school activities and programs and support educators. The community plays a large role in the future of our students and by working together the school will become successful. One obstacle that may arise is involving a diverse group of parents and community involvement. With the changing demographics it is crucial that we reach out to those parents who may otherwise feel isolated (i.e. ELL parents who may not speak English).

Contributing Factors

On January 8, 2002 President George W. Bush signed into law a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA. Given the title No Child Left Behind (NCLB) educators attempt to narrow the achievement gap by linking the standards in schools to stringent accountability by the entire learning community. The Act requires states to adopt a high level of standards to educate all students regardless of background. NCBL requires all states to develop curriculum standards that will reach each child yet the focus is primarily on reading and math. Each state controls the standards and defines scores for proficiency, but they are still required to demonstrate an increase in progress each year until 2014, when 100% of all students must reach proficiency. Annual assessments will measure student progress towards specific standards mandated at the state level.

The issue is important because society is seeking to end the academic achievement gap. Identifying factors contributing to the academic achievement gap may enable academic institutions to meet the mandates of NCLB. When students enter school for the first time they are required to bring records from their doctor showing their immunizations are up to date, and that physically they can meet the challenges being a student represents. No exam is required to determine emotional or cognitive fitness. The demands placed on schools by No Child Left Behind (Hayes, 2008) have led to observations regarding whether or not the tools available to educators have kept up with the demands placed on academic institutions. Educators must help the child who on their first day of school may be further behind than his/her counterparts.

Evidently, after identifying factors contributing to the achievement gap, it then becomes possible to offer solutions to not only closing the gap, but helping African Americans excel.

Slightly more than one-third of the population of the United States – 34 percent – claims “minority” racial or ethnic heritage, a jump of 11 percent from 2000. The increasing minority population represents a major change in the history of U.S. population growth. (, 2011). Mahrt-Washington (2008) stated, “African-American, Hispanic, and low-income males lag behind their female peers in terms of educational attainment and are far outpaced by White, Asian-American, and middle-class men and women” (p, 25). The major gap among the groups was that of the African American males. Culture plays a critical role in learning. Culture is central to student learning, and every student brings a unique culture to the classroom. And while students are not solely the products of their cultures and they vary in the degree to which they identify with them, educators must become knowledgeable about their students’ distinctive cultural backgrounds so they can translate that knowledge into effective instruction and enriched curriculum (Hollins, 2008). Educators need to be cognoscente of differences among culture. Understandably, educators should all be culturally competent in so much as to understand differentiated instruction of today’s youth.

Recent educationists focused on finding effective solutions for African American students who face many more challenges that stem from being Black. In October 2006, this group met at The Harvard Club with three objectives:

  1. To review the nature of the problem of Black Male Development,
  2. To discuss ideas and evidence for the efficacy of interventions that might deliver better outcomes for this particular population,
  3. To formulate interventions and strategies for implementing such interventions (Rice, 2008).

The success of African American males relies heavily on the community, not just one person. Reportedly, the dehumanizing of African American males over the years has caused apathy and underdevelopment. Strategies are identified for contributing to the success of the African American males. Focusing on the historical backgrounds of African American males is key in understanding how and why they learn in a particular fashion. Four recommendations where written and may be effective if the entire learning community buys in to the system. The Children’s Aid (2006) recommend that mentoring, academic support with higher teacher expectations, Theory/evidence based practice that considers race, gender and class, and a multi-tier approach (Rice, 2008).

Mentors were defined at the meeting as ‘teachers of relationships, rights, and responsibilities’ and the group agreed that African American males really need male role models. (Rice, 2008). The relationship between teacher and student is also an important factor for African American males. Teachers must have high expectations for African American males and complete professional development on how to be sensitive to cultural differences. Theoretically, best practices are key in understanding risk factors for effective change. A multi-tier approach will allow the entire community to become involved in student achievement. Sustaining these reforms is one of the main issues in this article. Strategies and ideas can be set in place but unless they are all sustained so the African American males can develop long-term, the programs will fail (Wynn, 2007).

In these studies, the suggestion is that there is too much bureaucracy and not enough action. This investigation differs from the previous in that it is based on historically observed emotional experiences. The research stems from actual experience, through the thoughts of educators themselves. Williams says, “we’ve got a school day that doesn’t make much sense. Between lunch and breaks between classes we have one of the shortest school days of effective learning in the industrial world…we’ve got too many babies raising babies who don’t have the resources or the knowledge of how to take care of their children” (Spence, 2009, p. 45). Notable scholars show the humanity in education and how a child’s background can and will effect learning. It is not always about the data or statistics; it can also be about what we see/witness daily.

Not only are African American males not excelling in honors programs, many are ‘targeted’ for special education.

Racial, gender, cultural and linguistic biases remain integral aspects of the special education process, particularly for African American males….the entire process is seriously biased against African American male students, from first experiences in regular education through their disproportionate referral to, assessment for, and placement in special education programs”(Codrington & Fairchild, 2012, p. 16).

Assumedly, African American male students suffer from a lack of appropriate male role models in their lives. Black children are surrounded by an overabundance of negative images of black men (Prager, 2011). African American males are hoped to prosper when their futures are often predetermined by those who view them as special needs children based on limited information (Ascher, 1991; Hoff, 2000). Educators in today’s society must educate beyond the classroom. Consequently, educational institutions need to offer programs with positive images of African American adult males. Author Prager (2011) Addressing Achievement Gaps: Positioning Young Black Boys for Educational Success believes that one program that may help African American males is to have all male classrooms and/or schools. She further states that because the values are absent in much of the inner-city neighborhoods, programs have to rid the “fear of acting white” that hinders school achievement. Educators must combat this perception with positive role models in the African American community.

Family Involvement

Research investigations suggest a supportive relationship between high school students and their parents. Relationships developed between teachers, students, and other stakeholders were interwoven network systems. Research shows that teachers and educational psychologists place severe importance on teacher-parent relationships and parental involvement in successful educational outcomes (Bansal, 2009). Positive parental involvement in education has a great impact on students’ achievement. The facets discovered to be most effective were “parental expectation, checking homework, and communication about school in the home” (Christenson, Reschly & Wylie, 2012, p. 38). Additionally, supportive instruction taught by the teachers is linked to students’ achievement.

Evidently, involving families in education is not a concept that has just been revealed. For decades educators have been saying, “If only parents would help we would have a great system” and parents have been saying, “If only teachers would do their jobs our kids would learn”. Spence (2009) states that, staff and active parents and family members should discuss why they want more involvement and what the term more involvement means to them. A clear mission statement needs to be developed before a school can understand the needs of the learning community.

A large body of research supports the importance of family involvement in the middle and high school years, and intervention evaluations increasingly demonstrate that family involvement can be strengthened with positive results for youth and their school success. Such results can be achieved when there is a match among youth’s developmental needs, parents’ attitudes and practices, and schools’ expectations and support of family involvement. Three family involvement processes for creating this match emerge from the evidence base:

  • Parenting consists of the attitudes, values, and practices of parents in raising youth.
  • Home–school relationships are the formal and informal connections between the family and secondary school.
  • Responsibility for learning is the aspect of parenting that places emphasis on activities in the home and community that promote youth’s social and academic growth.

Notably, these three family involvement processes are the same as those that are related to academic and social-emotional outcomes in the early childhood and elementary school years. However, the nature of these processes shifts from those of earlier periods. Parenting, home–school relationships, and responsibility for learning outcomes need to become more respectful of adolescents’ drive for independence, expanding cognitive abilities, and widening social networks (Cloud, 2008).

Conceptualized Framework

Most high quality curriculums reflect research and best practices in the field of education. They must of course, comply with the Department of Education. Most curriculums that are developing now focus on the holistic learner. The need and requirement for differentiated instruction in schools is crucial for helping all of our children succeed. An effective curriculum results in positive outcomes for all children, including children with special education needs.

There are four categories of learning-profile factors, and teachers can use them to plan curriculum and instruction that fit learners. There is some overlap in the categories, but each has been well researched and found to be important for the learning process. A student’s learning style, intelligence presence, gender, and culture can influence learning profile (Tomlinson and McTighe, 2006, p. 119).

Originally developed by social cognitive theorist and psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the concept of the zone of proximal development opposes the use of standardized tests as a means to measure student intelligence (Berk & Wrisler, 1995). Vygotsky suggests that instead of assessing what a student knows to determine intelligence, it is more helpful to compare their ability to independently solve problems with their ability to solve problems with the assistance of someone who has mastered the concepts being learned In a classroom setting, the teacher is responsible for structuring interactions and developing instruction in small steps based on tasks the learner is already capable of performing independently — an instructional strategy known as scaffolding. The instructor is also charged with providing support until the learner can move through all tasks independently (Axford, Harders, Wise & Burgess, 2009).

Children develop theories of what it means to learn and understand that profoundly influence how they situate themselves in settings that demand effortful and intentional learning (Snowman & McCown, 2013; Snowman, McCown & Biehler, 2012). Educators need to be one of the influences in a child’s life so they can mature and develop theories of what it means to learn. Sternberg’s (2000) Triarchic View of intelligences’ explains:

  • Traditional education tends to “shine the spotlight” on certain children almost all of the time, and on other children almost none of the time.
  • The result is that some children are placed in a much better position to achieve than are others.

Although both Vygotsky’s (1998) zone of proximal development and Sternberg’s Triarchic view of intelligence (Sternberg, 2000) both agreed that for students to learn and develop social and cognitive skills, socialized instruction is paramount, the process in which they acquired these skills differs (Snowman & McCown, 2013; Snowman, McCown & Biehler, 2012). Vygotsky’s theory is student-based where the child focuses on ways that he/she learn best (Britton, 2008; Miller, 2011).


Differentiated instruction is used throughout the school system when it comes to teaching various learning styles. Develop, in the curriculum, activities that include all students, not just mainstream America. Assumedly, educators establish a degree of competency in which they were highly qualified to implement differentiated instruction for students. The instruction for students in the learning community is based on district core curriculum in which all teachers are assumed to be teaching the same content as well as pacing instruction. The curriculum should also represent a variety of cultures by embracing struggles and the contributions different ethnic groups have made throughout history (Ryan & Cooper, 2010). Students beginning the study are assumed to follow the same curriculum at the same time as their counterparts in schools across the district. This practice allows students to retain prior knowledge if placed in another school. Students transferring in and out of the school’s individual courses (i.e. Student transfer from Advanced Placement English to regular English) may affect the number of participants completing the study.

A differentiation in instruction can affect society in two various ways. First, the use of differentiated instruction can help diminish the achievement gap between African American males and their counterparts. Secondly, it may bring about change, at the institutional level, increase the enrollment numbers of advanced courses for African American males, and increase the number of these young male students who continue their education post high school graduation. When the pertinent evidence for African American male students’ English performances has been identified, the results will be salutary for classroom teachers, improve schools’ test scores and AYP ratings for administrators, and increase the number of African American males enrolled in higher level courses.

Limitations of the Study

The removal of small group instruction from the district may limit the data collection process for African American males excelling in high school. Students’ lack of enrollment in higher level courses may limit the level participation. Investigations determine one teacher is assigned to teach Advanced Placement English which may allow for research bias. Although this project will focus on a single discipline, English, the inclusion of several disciplines such as: Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies allow for a larger sample population. Presumably this study will be limited by the number of participants and longevity. Observation of student success from the freshman year to senior year of high school would have provided more reliable and valid data to support this study.


Current research from theories of Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development, and Sternberg’s (2000) triarchic view of intelligence were addressed in this literature review. Both theories focused on the use of socialized instruction to improve the achievement levels of students (Britton, 2008; Miller, 2011). At the core of this theory is Vygotsky’s belief that human development–child development as well as the development of all humankind–is the result of interactions between people and their social environment. These interactions are not limited to actual people but also involve cultural artifacts, mainly language-based (written languages, number systems, various signs, and symbols) (Snowman & McCown, 2013; Snowman, McCown & Biehler, 2012; Kozulin, Gindis, Ageyev, and Miller, 2003). An analysis of the African American culture explained the need for cooperative learning groups. Learning styles of individual students as well as parental involvement are other possible contributors to the underachievement of high school African American males (Jeynes, 2007). The relationship between socialized English instruction and exceling in higher level courses is the focus of this study. This research could be beneficial to gage whether parental involvement and teacher-student relationships were useful for all students. Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence is a thoughtful way of defining intelligences among children and it attempts to explain about the intrinsic nature of intelligence. Simply speaking, intelligent behavior among children can involve adapting to their immediate environment or ambience or changing/transforming it or choosing/selecting a better environment (Loh, 2012).

Cognitive change can occur in the zone of proximal development given a shared purpose and focus, but the social environment of schools is often counterproductive. (Education Encyclopedia, 2012). This is a significant provision when considered critically in the educational contexts. Although there have been extensive studies regarding this issue, it is vital to consider the importance of additional investigations in this area. Evidently, this will help in elucidating more on the phenomenon. Vygotsky’s theory focused on interventions that engage students in the simplest and best ways to learn (Britton, 2008; Miller, 2011). Similarly, policy makers and educationists emerge as key partners and stakeholders in attempts to address policy and learning issues that continue to propagate this notable disparity. The need for effective policies and measures to control this discrepancy is largely eminent. It is necessary to make higher learning courses and their curriculum more accessible and easily adaptable.

The techniques and research strategies that will be used include Google, ProQuest, Qualtrics, ERIC, educational journals and research magazines. Further research is crucial in this context. It will provide critical information on educational trends and policy implications. Even though significant studies on educational disparities have been done, it is necessary to conduct more research for purposes of refining the US education system.

The Methodology


The previous section presented the related theoretical literature and research on English performance and the relationship between African American male students. In this section, the research design will be addressed and the study of the relationship between advanced English course enrollments and socialized instruction for African American males in one high school. A foundation for the research study will be provided through questions provided and the research design.

Research Design and Approach

The study will look at the relationship between the level of participation of African American males who enrolled in advanced English courses and why enrollment is not as high as their counterparts. The researcher will use the survey instrument to collect data and make inferences regarding the participation of African American males based upon English assessments. A survey instrument will be preferred because of the expense, convenience, and rapidity in return time (Creswell, 2003; Fink, 2006).

Various methodologies will be applied in this study. For instance, the use of quantitative approaches utilizing the logistical regression strategies and retention will be applied. In a typical study, it is vital to note the dependent and independent variable in this context in order to conduct a comprehensive statistical analysis of the concerned factors. For example, in some investigations, the independent variables have been categorized into four basic sets (Rivers, 2008). For instance, the pre-college influences, comprising of the parent education extent as well as high school preparation, may include the first independent variable in a study. Consequently, testing the competencies and analyzing other cognitive factors influencing the students’ capabilities might also be an independent variable. The student lives and experiences both inside and outside the college or high school have also been applied in most studies as independent variables. These have demonstrated a potential depiction of the common behavioral and decision influences concerning the subjects they should and ought not to enroll in (Gibson & Krohn, 2013).

The quasi-experimental design will include a pretest and a post-test, and EOCT scores upon entering the final year of high school, to assess academic standing. The data analysis will also include qualitative design, which will include: a focus group, observations, and interviews to access student attitude and participation. The EOCT test will measure students’ performance after three years of high school English. A multiple baseline design will be used to compare the pretest and posttest results.

Ideally, a multivariate approach to analysis of the gathered information would be critical in application during such studies. Factors such as elevated school GPA, course credit durations and their numbers, and the adequacy of preparation for maturity and enrolment in various programs emerge as potential influencers of the decision of the African American male students to enroll or not within the high-level courses (Cuyjet, 2006). Generally, there is an observation that many scholars and researchers still doubt the contribution of cognitive as well as the non-cognitive factors in the determination of various factors influencing the students’ decisions on education. Additionally, these scholars have also largely doubted the validity of such studies that the cognitive as well as non-cognitive factors may manipulate the factors surrounding the academic decisions of the African American male students in high school. Recent research indicates that it is vivid that increased attrition rates notable within the African American male students may be largely associated to their inherent socio-economic orientation (Clauss-Ehlers, 2008).

A mixed-method approach for data analysis will allow a rationale for the research design while providing a genuine foundation for the significance of the study. Basically, ethnographies fieldwork usually involves participant observation, informant interviewing, and artifact collection in an effort to come to understand the cultural knowledge that group members use to make sense of their everyday experiences (Hatch, 2002, p. 21). Establishing a strong foundation for successful leadership is imperative for assisting students in their academic achievements.

The sequential transformative strategy will be the framework in this study for the mixed method design. The undertaking of this study will be comparing the grades, tests scores, and social behavior of African American males enrolled in courses ranging from small group special education to advanced placement. The purpose of a sequential transformative strategy is to best serve the theoretical perspective of the researcher. By using two phases, a sequential transformative researcher may be able to give voice to diverse perspectives, to better advocate for participants, or to better understand a phenomenon or process that is changing as a result of being studied (Creswell, 2003, p. 213). The reason for this design is primarily because African American learners seem to bring their backgrounds and family traditions with them into the world of academia. Unlike some other cultures such as Asian American where education is the main priority for adolescents, the African American children rely on social order and on the family influence to shape who they will become in our society socially, not academically Creswell (2003) quoted, “Ethnography is a qualitative design in which the researcher describes and interprets the shared and learned patterns of values, behaviors, beliefs, and language of a culture-sharing group” (p. 68). By including Ethnography as well as sequential transformative the threat to validity will be minimal.

As a process, ethnography involves extended observations of the group, most often through participant observation, in which the researcher is immersed in the day-to-day lives of the people and observes and interviews the group participants”. Because of my own personal experience, being the only African American female in my classes throughout elementary school, my role as the researcher is not only to gather data but to empathize with the participants and help guide them in their understanding of the educational system (Creswell, 2003, p. 69).

Setting and Sample

A code name will be given to the high school involved in this study. The school’s name is James High School in Jonesboro, Georgia. Sequential transformative and Ethnographic designs will allow the opportunity to observe and interact with the participants and not only mark behavior and learning patterns, but learn how in-depth ones background and culture truly are when teaching our youth. Subsequently the use of quantitative-to- quality approach using: social science theory, qualitative theory, advocacy worldview will be used. This quasi-experimental mixed method study using a quantitative pre-/post-test control group design will compare the performance of seniors from a Title I school in Jonesboro, Georgia, 37 African American males in three various levels of English courses. The participants are enrolled in the three classes. The participants will not be divided into other smaller groups as environment and community has proved to be important, so the students will be observed in quite natural settings. Each group will participate in the standard based classroom which focuses on scaffolding for student comprehension. Each class will participate in a higher level writing prompt, yet one class (i.e. inclusion group), will be modified. Scores will be collected from the Clayton County Public Schools website that publishes the test results by school for the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) and the End of the Course Test (EOCT). Results of the participants will be compared with the overall results of the state testing. The participants’ results will also be evaluated in terms of state requirements. It is important to understand how many students (and which participants) meet the state requirements. This will help understand effectiveness of the formal testing and impact of this testing on students. Individual student grades will be supplied by the principal from James High School. Georgia is moving towards the EOCT for validity on student achievement and teachers have been trained on the use and given resources: workbooks, technology, and benchmark assessment tests to ensure student comprehension (Clayton County Public Schools, 2012).

The qualitative phase will impact the study heavier due to daily observations with notes and personal interviews with students regarding academics and social background. To make sure observations are accurate and comprehensive, a research journal will be used where all stages of the study will be depicted in detail. The research journal will also contain interview transcripts. Notably, apart from interviews, additional group or individual meetings may be held. Transcripts of these meetings will also be included into the research journal. During these meeting specific problems that may occur will be discussed. The meetings will help obtain more insights into participants’ life, and environment. An observational journal will also be used. It will contain each participant’s profile where the participant’s progress will be noted.

The researcher’s role may be bias in some way but through the data collection and analysis the integrity of the study should remain focused. The threat to validity may be the researcher’s personal experiences and background play too large of a role and that is why it is essential the use of an external auditor for validating findings. The purpose is to study and understand why African American males do not excel at a higher rate. Why do they choose to be labeled and remain in courses that may not challenge them intellectually?

Mixed method research approach will guide my study in the direction most conducive with the participant’s backgrounds. Quantitative research method will ensure accurate data concerning the dimension of the problem. The results of the quantitative phase will show how many African American male students in a particular community excel or underperform. As far as qualitative aspect of the research is concerned, it will help provide in-depth analysis of participants’ backgrounds, aspirations, fears and motivations. This part of the study will help come up with ideas concerning factors affecting African American male students and their academic achievements. These comprehensive data will help work out specific educational techniques and programs which will address the problem. Therefore, the mixed method used will address all the research questions of the present study.


The purpose of this study is to understand and change the negative views some African American male students may have towards enrollment in high school English courses. The graduation rate for many African Americans is low, yet those who do graduate still show a high level of apathy towards their own educations. The following questions will be broached: Is this behavior modeled at home, by peers, or is it a sense of self-doubt? Do a students’ origins shape his experiences in high school? Do ethnicity, and/or race play a role in academic prowess as it relates to honors and advanced courses?

African American male students were chosen primarily due to proximity. At the start of this study it became evident that the use of students enrolled in the researches courses would be optimum for observational value. The case school’s demographics in 2001 were 90% Caucasian (with changing demographics) is now 85% African American. After research and discussion, the participants chosen best fall under the method of sequential transformative strategy based on the strong cultural influence within the classroom, and parallel similar experiences with the researcher. These particular young men were chosen because the courses range from special needs to advanced; and it allows the opportunity to observe males with similar social backgrounds yet differing academic backgrounds. The fact that the researcher is also the instructor ensures that the same methodology will be used in each classroom.

The participants will be chosen by race and gender irrespective of social background and age. The majority of the participants come from middle-class families living in the neighborhood. The data analysis will derive from three courses: small group inclusion, average English course, and Advanced Placement Literature & Composition. A major focus of the study is made on English classes as such courses are rarely chosen by African American male students due to a variety of reasons discussed above. It is important to focus on these classes as they suggest a comprehensive picture of African American male students’ academic aspirations and difficulties as English courses are regarded as more challenging for the group of students in question. Thus, the present study can help understand why African American students decide to take an extra challenge and what makes them excel in this sphere. The problems and achievements during English classes can be generalized. This generalization will help understand major challenges of African American male students and effective strategies used by successful students within the group in question. It is important to add that the participants have quite different motivations. Some of the participants plan to continue their studies and wish to excel whereas some students are not that ambitious. It is important to understand motivations of these students to develop appropriate educational techniques. It is also important to observe progress of students who lack confidence or who are not ambitious enough.

Instruments needed

The instrument that will be used to measure performance for English courses will be the End of course test (EOCT). This state assessment was administered to participants towards the end of their junior year of high school in Georgia. The tests were administered onsite, collected by administrators, and submitted to the state for scoring. The EOCT is aligned with the 11th grade American Literature common core curriculum. The purpose of the tests is to assess the specified content knowledge and students skills. In addition, GDOE (2012) states, “the assessments provide diagnostic information to help students identify strengths and areas of need in learning, therefore improving performance in all high school courses and on other assessments, such as the GHSGT.” Journal of observations will be included to address students’ attitude and participation, as well as interviews. Research journal will document each stage of the present study. The journal will contain a section of personal opinion. This will help differentiate between facts, assumptions and my personal opinion, which, in its turn, will help to avoid possible bias.

A survey will be administered to participants after the results of the EOCT were reviewed. The survey will measure students’ attitude and participation in English courses at one school. The participants will be given the survey in an envelope to complete at their residence.

Data Collection

The data collection process will begin with a request to be submitted to the school’s principal to conduct and collect data disclosures of tests and surveys results of individuals involved in the research study. The results will serve as the pretest and post-test data for participants. A committee consisting of an administrator, Advanced Placement coordinator, and researcher will be established. For the initial meeting, rules and time lines will be established. The researcher will pull all participants from class rosters in: three AP Literature & Composition courses, two collaborative courses; and one small group course. Student identifiers will be replaced for random codes within the profiles for confidentiality.

Two teachers will be responsible for teaching 12th Grade English. Subgroups will be based upon students’ English courses. The students involved in this study will receive both classroom instruction in English using the district curriculum, Common Core State Standards Initiative, interventions that will include differentiated instruction and small group tutorials. The participants will have their strengths and weakness in English courses identified during the initial phase of the research study. The CCSSI will offer a standard-based classroom, differentiated instruction, and more collaboration with the classroom.

The state assessment test, EOCT, is considered reliable because this test is aligned with the state’s curriculum. The EOCT test is taken at the end of students eleventh grade year. The data from this test will be used as a pretest to determine students’ academic prowess in English courses. The participants growth will be measured by comparing the students’ data from pretest and posttest scores and the change in scores will be used to address research questions.

The Qualtrics survey (2012) will be used to measure students’ participation and attitude, as well as knowledge of rudimentary English concepts. The survey is a way of engaging students’ comprehension to the pretest and posttest performance results. This survey is considered a reliable measuring tool, and was used in studies such as, Georgia Race to the Top Grant. Jackson (2012) states, “We have identified five (5) reform areas of focus to raise student achievement, close achievement gaps, prepare better students for college and careers, and ensure teachers and leaders are highly effective.”

Data Analysis and Validation

Researcher’s role

As an African American educator my personal experiences with racism and isolation in the classroom will allow me the opportunity to empathize with my students and understand the underlining behavior exhibited in the classroom. My father was in the military for the first 7 years of my education. From 2nd grade until I reached middle school I was the only African American female in the class with one African American male. My methodology for the classroom is very hands on. I not only instruct my students academically, but I also view my classroom as a comfortable learning zone for my students. The relationship I hold with my students and the participants is that of instructor and nurturer. I often inquire about my students’ backgrounds and goals for the future.

I will fulfill several roles for the present research. First, I will continue being a teacher who runs classes and observes students’ progress and assesses students’ performance. This is important as to understand what makes students perform well or poorly, it is important to understand how exactly students are performing. It is also necessary to observe students’ behavior during classes. The teacher has a great opportunity to observe students in their natural settings. It is possible to observe whether students cooperate, whether excelling students help those who underperform. It can be also important to observe interpersonal communication during the classes. Finally, students’ attitude towards the teacher is also important to observe as this can help work out effective patterns of teacher-student relationships in future. I will also be a formal researcher who will collect quantitative data: results of a number of tests. These data will help define the dimension of the problem. The data will show how many students excel, perform well and underperform. I will also be an advisor as I will talk to students trying to get to know them better. Finally, I will be a researcher who conducts interviews and asks particular questions concerning students’ studies, family life, aspirations, dreams, and models among others. I will also ask participants about their backgrounds and the role community plays in their lives.

Threat to reliability and validity

Triangulation method will be one of many used to gather data, observations, and interviews for validity, as well as clarification of researcher bias and participatory modes of research. Clarification of researcher is crucial and may be the main threat to quality because I will bring my own biases into this study, but in documenting my actions as well as those of the participants, as well as using participatory modes will help maintain the integrity of the study.

Measures taken for protection of participants

Permission will be requested from the Walden University review board before gathering any data for this research study. The guidelines from the Clayton County Public Schools and Georgia Department of Education will be used to protect the rights of the participants (Clayton County Public Schools, 2012). Prior to selecting the study group, the administrator was informed of the rationale for the study. The high school was selected based on failing to meet AYP in previous years, the change in demographics, and proximity for the researcher. The high school can benefit from this particular study because their greatest need among African American males is excelling in higher level courses and closing the achievement gap.

Informed consent forms will be sent for parents/guardians to agree to their children’s participation (Appendix A). The participants’ information will not disclose names of the students involved with the study.

A disclaimer form will be given to all participants to sign before they commit to the study (Appendix B). This form acknowledges the rights of the participant for protection of data collected, as well as their right to be excluded from the study at any time.

The collected data will be gathered through the school and county system. Student data will be collected from a school generated list and codes will be assigned to protect the rights of the participants. The data will be kept in a secure location in the home office of the researcher.


The purpose of this quasi-experimental project study will be to test the theories of triarchic view of intelligences and the zone of proximal development. The focus will be on how these theories relate to socialized instruction and its influence on the poor enrollment rate in advanced English courses of African American males at one high school. Socialized instruction may reveal attitude and participation, the independent variables – through peer relations, tutorials, and differentiated instruction. The dependent variables, academic performance measures the level of improvement from students through assessments and performance tasks.

Ideally, a multivariate approach to analysis of the gathered information was critical in application during this project. Factors such as elevated school GPA, tests scores, course credit durations and their numbers, and the adequacy of preparation for maturity and enrolment in various programs emerge as potential influencers of the decision of the African American male students to enroll or not within the high-level courses (Cuyjet, 2006). In general, there is an observation that many scholars and researchers still doubt the contribution of cognitive as well as the non-cognitive factors in the determination of various factors influencing the students’ decisions on education. These scholars have also largely doubted the validity of such studies that the cognitive as well as non-cognitive factors may manipulate the factors surrounding the academic decisions of the African American male students in high school. Recent research indicates that it is vivid that increased attrition rates notable within the African American male students may be largely associated with their inherent socio-economic orientation (Clauss-Ehlers, 2008). Based on these assumptions, the mixed-method approach for data analysis allows a rationale, as presented previously, to provide the foundation for this project.


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