Introduction to the Problem
To quote the words of Neal Vivienne, “the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954, integrated public schools after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, and more than five decades later, black students still lag behind White students on standardized tests” (Neal, 2013). Even after this landmark ruling, the achievement gap continues to persist.In only 3 hours we’ll deliver a custom Moving Students Forward: Efficacy of Strategies for Teaching Struggling Students essay written 100% from scratch Get help
In a bid to minimize the achievement gap between students, George W. Bush, the former president of the U.S., in 2001, signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act, or simply NCLB. It was evident even at this time that other students lagged behind their white counterparts. African-American students were not able to take advanced courses. In a bid to reduce inequalities in the ratio between whites and students of color, black students were promoted to the next grade without proper qualifications, skills and knowledge. This trend, which was referred to as social promotion, meant that students were promoted without the ability to handle the class ahead.
The results were increased dropout cases and a higher number of half-baked graduates that lacked the proper skills in the labor industry. As the need to close the achievement gap increases, the education system has introduces high-stakes testing programs to ensure accountability as outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act.
In an effort to understand how the academic performance gap has changed, more than 50 years after public schools started admitting students from all racial backgrounds, this study researches on and analyses the extent to which the difference in classroom perforance exists between African-American and other students, the case study being in the state of Georgia. The study also expounds on results by other researchers on achievement gaps between white and African-American students.
In this state, African-American students have continually registered a poorer performance on all parts of the GHSGT, or Georgia High School Graduation Test, compared to their white classmates. This is in comparison to their white classmates. From available literature and results from various schools, this trend is evident across all socioeconomic levels of African-American students in the state. The results of this study revealed that the gap between African-American and white students in English Language Arts increased significantly within a four year period; between the year 2006 to 2009. This trend was the same for the graduation rate.
There exists a problem at the high school level in regards to the enrollment rate of minority students in higher-level courses. The problem specifically is the lack of African American male students enrolling in higher learning English courses in high school. Several American professionals and facilitators are concerned about the poor performances registered by most African American males. For one high school, African American males represent less than 27% of the enrollment for advanced courses in 12th grade English courses. From the first day of school to the fifth day, the enrollment of African American males enrolled in Advanced Placement English Literature & Composition decreased by 7%. It is evident that there is a problem within the community settings that lead to these disparities (Christenson, Reschly, & Wylie, 2012).
Naturally, all students are expected to perform averagely when they study in the same environment. However, this has not been the case and there are concerns that there must be a problem somewhere that is causing all these differences (College Board 2010). A significant concern is that all these students are educated by the same teachers and use almost similar education curriculums (Cloud 2008). However, the greatest concern with regard to this issue is the fact that there seems to be a repeated pattern in the low number of African American males enrolled in higher-level English courses.Academic experts
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Background of the study
The gap between white and African-American students continues to grow in class performance in different parts if the United States, including the state of Georgia. To quote Chub and Loveless (2002), “the average Black student in high school achieves at the same level as an average White student in the lowest quartile of White students’ achievement”. African-American students are less likely than their white counter-parts to join and graduate from high school, proceed for higher education, and then proceed to earn a living from a good education. In addition, African-American students are more likely to suffer from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds and experience other social problems.
Minimizing the achievement gap between white and African-American students will increase the chances of the later group to become more productive and engage less in illegal activities. As Chub and Loveless (2002) argue, it will also reduce racial tensions that arise from unequal opportunities when students graduate from high school.
A big achievement gap between these two groups of students in the 1960s necessitated the introduction of beneficial changes in the education system in 1970s. One of the strategies employed includes tracking student’s performance every two to four years, a system that did not exist before. The results were almost immediate. “In the 1970s, more African-American students applied for a place in college than they had ever done before” (Neal, 2013).
However, despite the efforts, and increased admission level, the performance difference between black and white students persisted on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and Scholastic Assessment Test or SAT (Chubb & Loveless, 2002). There were significant gains and improvements in the 1980s, but this slowly changed in the 1990s as the performance gap between black and white students went up again.
An analysis conducted in 1999 revealed that 17-year-old African-American was lagging behind white students of the same age by 22 percent in reading examinations. The figure stood at 13 percent for mathematics examinations (Levitt, 2008). In addition, from the Schott Foundation statistics, cited in Frierson, Pearson & Wyche (2009), black male students that graduated from high school were only 49%. Notably, the performance gap was not a factor of socioeconomic status because students from high and low-poverty levels were affected on an equal measure. “However, in technical subjects such as mathematics, black students from high-poverty schools grew less in academic performance” (Levitt, 2008).
Several factors contributed to the big performance gap between black and white students at that time. Schools settings and management was one of the factors. African-American students went to schools whose diversity in the teacher-student population was lacking. The resources available to these students were and are still lacking or are below an acceptable standard. There also was a general lack of motivation among black students, who did not relate success to academic achievement.
This negative mindset can motivate bad behavior, which further dips their academic performance. In addition, negative mindset among black students that related correct use of language and being smart with acting white was counterproductive. By the year 1999, only about half of black students in Georgia graduated from high school. After the Supreme Court ruling in 1954, many people were hopeful that the integration of African-American students would improve the performance of the students and reduce the achievement gap between them and white students. Many decades later, there have been tremendous improvements, but black students still lag behind their white classmates in their academic performance.15% OFF Get your very first custom-written academic paper with 15% off Get discount
Locally, African American males represent less than 5% enrollment (among eight high schools within this county’s school system) for advanced courses at the high school level (Clayton County Public Schools [CCPS], 2011). 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.
Purpose of the Study
Academic performance of students of different racial backgrounds has been the subject of intensive study by scholars, research organizations, government agencies, and other stakeholders for many decades. This study attempts to contribute to an area that is not well researched on. In particular, it aims to examine the problems affecting black male students, with a particular emphasis to the Georgia District in the K-12 grade. This study focuses on the problems affecting their academic performance, with an intention of formulating recommendations that will help resolve the problems at the end of the study.
The purpose of this study was to research on, analyze and evaluate, based on primary and secondary data, the size of the performance gap between African-American and white students in Georgia schools. If African-American students are to be equipped for the future, and be prepared to tackle a global technology economy, being intelligent both academically and socially is critical. All students, regardless of their racial background must, not only be able to qualify and proceed to higher institutions of learning, but also excel and graduate.
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 very important in changing a pattern that has been in existence for over a decade among African American males. Do ethnicity and/or race play a role in academic prowess as it relates to honors and advanced courses? “Once minority groups, African American male students now constitute about 80% of students in many schools (Kafele, 2009). The author also mentions that less than 20% of these students excel in higher-grade courses. 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 important for stakeholders to realize that African American male students’ poor grades are influenced by a variety of reasons. Is this behavior modeled at home, by peers, or is it a sense of self-doubt? This study will not probe research questions poised to implement change but contribute to clarify the local level issue of lower enrollments of African American males into advanced placement courses.Get your customised and 100% plagiarism-free paper on any subject done for only $16.00 $11/page Let us help you
Beyond giving recommendations that will help address this problem, it is expected that this study will also prompt more questions that need to be addressed in the Georgian, and in the bigger picture, the American education system to help student from all backgrounds perform better. For example, beyond the good figures of citizens who have access to education, there is a need to research more about those who have been excluded in good performance and why.
At the end of the research paper, relevant recommendations will be made on who plays what role in improving the performance of black students in the state of Georgia. Good performance for these students translates to well-prepared people that will go to the workforce and affect the economy. Better performance will also mean that the students stay in school for a shorter period of time, which will save the government money.
Evidence of the Problem at the Local Level
This project focused on one high school in the southern region of the United States. In this southern school system, the enrollment and success of African American males in advanced courses is elusive. There still lies a lingering existence of exclusion and lower expectations for African American students. The school system has not adequately responded to alleviating this problem. 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 southern school failed to meet AYP the 2010-2011 school years. 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). Does a student’s origin shape his experiences in high school?
Thus, the quantitative variables of the present project 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.
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. Is this behavior modeled at home, by peers, or is it a sense of self-doubt? This questioning becomes a factor in understanding the decision process African American males undertake when determining their academic paths. The lack of academic ambition negatively affects their academic performance (National Education Association, 2013).
Furthermore, African American males who do not have higher education have fewer opportunities in future (Allen & Jewell, 2012). However, the population affected by the problem exceeds the group of young people. “We must examine the systems in which our districts, schools and classrooms operate and ask what the systems themselves are doing to close the achievement gap for African American students” (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction [AMA], 2008).
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.
The community should know the reasons why African American males have a lower number of enrollments in honors and advanced English courses compared to other students. The reasons for this will be beneficial in developing strategies that will ensure these figures continue to increase as more students enroll in higher-level English courses of learning. Parents feel happy when their children attend schools and further their education beyond the secondary level. Therefore, they may find this information useful when planning future of their children in terms of learning. 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
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. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions (OSPI), 2008, explains, “this persistent challenge is deeply harmful to the African American community, to our state, our nation, and our democracy”. The author also records that “With every passing year, the damage mounts and the danger to our future grows more acute.
Lower rates of high school graduation lead to less employment, higher rates of incarceration, ill health, substance abuse, and intergenerational poverty. No failure is more costly than the failure to educate our African American children” (The Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions, 2008).
A number of factors contribute to the development of the existing trend for the low enrollment numbers for African American males in advanced English courses. 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, availability of various programs aimed at assisting aspiring young people; diminish negative effects of the financial crisis. Therefore, economic factors are not crucial.
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 Mathematics) 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. Do gender, ethnicity and/or race play a role in academic prowess? Such attention to females is especially obvious in such courses as English as male students rarely choose such majors.
Cultural aspect plays a crucial role in developing commitment in African American male students. Living in African American community, many young males adopt the culture propagated by hip-hop celebrities. A 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).
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. 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, most researchers have discussed “skills gaps”. 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, which is why it is important to understand special terms regarding strategies and implementations in our school systems.
Significance of the Study
The purpose of this project will be to increase academic achievement for African American males in Clayton County Public Schools as evidenced by state, national and international assessment results. What are the connections between academic performance and socialized instruction of African American males in high school English courses? 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. Through curriculum development with a focus on differentiated instruction, this study will guide educators on strategies to increase enrollment of African American males in advanced English courses. 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 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.
The research questions that guided this study are as follows: How are African American males placed in advanced level English courses? Is a student’s attitude toward academics a behavior modeled at home, by peers, or is it a sense of self-doubt? What factors contribute to the disproportionate number of African American males represented in advanced English courses? Sub question: Is differentiated instruction a strategy teachers should utilize to help increase tests scores and eliminate apathy African American males develop regarding rigorous courses?
The shortcomings of African American males in schools are often based on behavioral problems and academic failure. Most white American parents teach their children that education gives them independency and the ability to use their talents to change their society, on the other hand, their counterparts are often taught that education is an opening to justice and power. This bred conflict of interest between these two divergent groups led to a high number of low enrollments in honors and advanced English courses among the African American male students.
This research aimed at finding out the reasons that account for a lower number of African American males enrolling in higher-level courses compared to their counterparts. Even though, all other mandatory aspects like finance and availability of schools remain constant, there is still a huge gap between these groups.
Growing concerns are increasingly observed that educators who do not understand the culture misdiagnose many African American males. As a result, many of these males are labeled and placed in special education classes and suspended at higher rates than their white counterparts are suspend. How are African American males placed in advanced level English courses? There is minimal effort to include African American males in higher-level academic courses.
There is a southern high school where the African American males enrolled represent 13% of the Advanced English courses. 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 the southern high school failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
The subgroups in which we seem to be unsuccessful in are the lower socioeconomic group and special education. This study will examine the connection between academic performance and socialized instruction of African American males in high school English courses. This study will address a possible connection to African American males’ attitudes towards education, among other underlining factors, such as family involvement, and socialization.
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. The review of the literature is geared to promote social change for African American males in high school courses.
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. The definitions also align with the definitions given by the U.S. Department of Education. These terms include:
- Academic performance: Academic performance means how well a student does in school. Good grades mean a high academic performance and poor grades mean bad academic performance.
- 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, 2011).
- AYP: Adequate Yearly Progress is a measurement that evaluates how public schools are performing. The measurement is set by the No Child Left Behind Act, and is based on standardized tests.
- 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): This is an assessment done in several states to evaluate their academic performance, and it is conducted under the State Board of Education. The state of Georgia, for example, conducts the assessment on ninth to twelfth grades.
- Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT). An academic assessment conducted in Georgia that tests the comprehensive results of students from the ninth to eleventh grades. The core subjects are tested in the eleventh grade: English, Math, Science, and Social Studies.
- High-Stakes Testing: A high-stakes test is a test whose results have importance consequences for the person sitting the test. An impressive performance can earn one a scholarship, a diploma or a license to practice in the profession they are studying in.
- NCLB: The No Child Left Behind Act, which was passed under the president Bush’s regime in 2001. The Act requires that all public schools get funding assistance to have their students do a standardized test. For the test to be effective, therefore, it has to be conducted under similar conditions by all students. If the results are not impressive, then steps are taken to improve the school’s performance.
- Professional Learning Community, (PLC): “Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) shift the focus of school reform from restructuring to reculturing” (Louis, 2006). It is a continuous and ongoing process used to evaluate and understand a school wide culture, which in turn develops teacher leadership. This strategy is solely aimed at building and sustaining school improvement tasks. “Generally, PLCs are composed of teachers, although administrators and support staff routinely participate” (Bolam, McMahon, Stoll, Thomas, & Wallace, 2005; Hoff, 2013; Deal & Peterson, 2010).
- 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 (National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, 2007). Scaffolding allows teachers to continuously build on student’s prior knowledge of a subject.
- School Improvement Plan, (SIP): This plan is intended at improving the quality of learning and teaching in a school. The expected results are that the students perform maximumly in mathematics and other reading subjects. “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, 2011).
- SOL Testing: SOL, or Standards of Learning, is a standardized testing program that sets forth-learning expectations for a student’s core subjects for grade K-12.
A lot of research has been conducted in the area of student performance and the factors that affect it. These studies have been conducted at different school levels, including at the college and university level. Student performance is usually affected by a multitude of factors ranging from those that stem from the student at a personal level to those that are generally explicit to the student. Some of these factors are such as “gender, age, teaching faculty, students’ schooling, father/guardian social economic status, and residential area of students, medium of instructions in schools, tuition trend, daily study hour and accommodation as hostelries or day scholar.” (Ali, et al. 2013, 283).
Different researchers have highlighted different factors as predominantly affecting student performance. Graetz (1995) and Considine and Zappala (2002), both quoted in (Ali, et al. 2013) indicate that the social/income status of parents has a strong impact on the student test score. “The primary utility of such studies lies in the need to identify and rectify factors in order to improve the performance of students” (Cilasun, 2013).
When it comes to academic performance, a general norm is the assumption that past outcomes are predictive of future outcomes. What this means is that educators generally assume that students who perform better during their inception years in the academic field will reproduce these results (Ali, et al. 2013). Cilasun (2013) who cites research findings by Lincoln (1917) and Astin (1971) indicates a similar finding. Both of these researchers have found that high school performance is usually reproduced in university, as opposed to university entry exams. This underpins the need for the early detection and rectification of factors that affect education.
Another issue regarding why it is important to investigate factors affecting student performance is to determine how student effort is affected. According to (Brookhart 1998), student effort is important for teachers. This is because of a profound belief in the traditional values of homework completion, attention in class and active participation, since these are perceived to contribute towards better performance. These two examples help to elucidate on the different perspectives or approaches through which they need to understand factors affecting students in order to overcome them.
Discursive Identity Theory
The discursive identity theory involves the study of how other people may view and define any given individual. Human beings are social beings and thus they co-exist in a social environment. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, esteem needs are identified as important determinants of human behavior. These needs include the desire to achieve certain aspects of life and to be appraised and held in high regard by other people. In this case, whatever others perceive of a given individual tends to be an important need for human beings than simply interacting with these individuals.
An individual’s self-esteem is maintained through making various achievements in the society and attaining a given capacity that would place them in a position that would earn them respect from other members of the society. They tend to attain self-respect via accurate assessment by their own selves and other individuals whom they trust. Individuals have the ability of influencing the view of others concerning their character. As such, most individuals desire to be viewed in specific ways, such that they tend to recruit certain discursive identities. However, some individuals do not adapt to other discursive identities because they do not care how other individuals view them. Such individuals do not really care about the views of others concerning them (Hall, 2007).
The way individuals view themselves determines the motives of the various actions that they may engage in and the efforts and commitment that they may direct towards such actions in the view of achieving certain outcomes. The discursive identity theory can thus be used to determine and understand the decision making process among struggling students concerning various aspects in their curriculum.
On the other hand, this theory can also be used to accurately interpret the various actions that such individuals may engage in, with the view of identifying if they are aimed at improving or they do not apply any mechanisms aimed at improving their performance (Hall, 2007). Through identifying these various aspects regarding the behavior of a struggling student, one can be able to initiate responsive interventions that would help improve their performance. Most struggling students desire to be observed as intelligent by their teachers and their classmates.
Thus, such students maximize on the various subjects in which they are strong in the quest of influencing the perception of others concerning them. In these subjects of strength, these students participate more in the activities that go on in the class, they put all efforts towards bringing out their best, and outdoing their classmates, an aspect they believe would be of great help in sending across a message that they are intelligent.
However, such students find it a problem when they get to other subjects where they are still in the presence of their classmates and the teachers, yet they are not able to understand the texts and other activities being carried out as they did in their strong areas. In such subjects in which they have weaknesses, such students show little participation and they fail to ask questions even when they have little or no understanding of the issues being discussed (Hall, 2007). Such students believe that by asking questions, they may tarnish their image as intelligent and build an image of less intelligence as observed by other students and teachers.
It is important to note that such students tend to look for different ways in which they can manipulate and influence the interpretations of other peers and teachers regarding them. Thus, they adopt different actions aimed at influencing the discursive identity type developed by others concerning them (Hall, 2007). These actions may include class participation, the way they approach and complete various assignments, and the decisions they make when they are expected to carry out a given activity such as reading a text in class. It is important to note that the efforts of such a student in influencing the perception of others may not alter the ultimate judgment and categorization that the others may develop concerning them as students.
Through development of an understanding of the type of discursive identity, that struggling students try to achieve is essential in explaining how they behave whenever they are asked to carry out any activity such as reading out a text or their varied efforts in trying to appear intelligent and better in their academics. As such, through analyzing discursive identity, teachers can be able to understand the various behavioral practices as posed by struggling students, and thus alter the instructions they give in the classes so as to offer more support to these students and to facilitate an all round achievement of the desired discursive identity (Hall, 2007). By all round achievement, it is meant that such individuals should be able to adopt strategies that help them improve in all areas.
By observing the actions of struggling students, with reference to discursive identity, an individual can be able to recognize that struggling students also have multiple goals that make them complex people. Thus, discursive identity disproves the idea that struggling students are demotivated, an aspect that makes them to engage less in learning activities (Hall, 2007). The theory develops a way through which researchers and teachers can identify the various ways in which struggling students exhibit their care for learning, an aspect that would enable them to identify the various aspects that are of importance to these students.
Through understanding the way in which struggling students view curriculum content, perceive themselves, and the way they desire others to perceive them, educators can be able to come up with various strategies that would enable them to effectively respond to the needs of such students.
It is important to note that when such students are supported by their teachers to develop strong egos and high self-esteems, they achieve feelings of worth, self-confidence, capability, and strength, which enable such individuals to attain even higher goals. On the other hand, when an individual’s self-esteem is thwarted, they may develop psychopathology in the form of inferiority complexes, insecurity, and helplessness (Hall, 2007).
Such individuals whose esteem needs are not adequately met tend to become discouraged and withdraw in most cases. It is very important for teachers of struggling students to direct all efforts towards helping them to attain their discursive identity, as this would grant them the gratification they desire to aim at even higher goals that would facilitate their improvement in terms of academic performance. The discursive identity theory also enables teachers to identify the various struggling students who have already given up and do not care about the views of other people concerning them. This would help them to disburse the most appropriate measures to help such individuals to improve their self-esteem.
According to Conflict theorists, public schools do not reduce the inequalities in the society but instead they perpetuate and reinforce such inequalities while basing on various social differences including gender, ethnicity, race, and class. “To conflict theorists, the education system strives to maintain the status quo while giving less regard to the needs and opinions of individuals from lower status” (OpenStax College, 2013). When it comes to identifying struggling students in relation to the conflict theory, they focus on ‘tracking’, which they refer to as a sorting system that has been formalized to place students on “tracks”, based on the low achievers versus the advanced achievers (OpenStax College, 2013 ). This promotes inequalities between the high performing students and the struggling students.
“Most educators believe that development of tracked classes places students in a better position to perform better because they interact and share with other students of the same needs, and they access individualized attention from the educators” (OpenStax College, 2013). However, conflict theorists refute this idea with claims that tracking only promotes self-fulfillment where students live either up or down the societal or teacher expectations.
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).
Other 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). 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. Because 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 scores. 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 are 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 are 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 to develop a comprehensive research.
For a long time, most educational scholars have conducted studies, researched, debated and theorized issues of intellectual achievements or 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 also 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).
Contributing factors to the achievement gap among African American males and European male’s behavior in some courses is said to be due to poor home training or apathy on their part. Is this behavior modeled at home, by peers, or is it a sense of self-doubt? Subsequently the lack of involvement from not only family and community, but also 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.
Understanding 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.
African American high school students are notably falling behind their white counterparts in graduation rates, dropout rates, literacy rates, and college preparedness rates (Alliance for excellent education, 2008), 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 dropouts 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 lifetime. 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 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 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. Several scholars, educationists as well as policy formulators within the education and learning sector based the design of this program on several substantial reasons following an adequate researches and investigations that were conducted. For instance, it was postulated that highly performing students who may generally find high school life boring would alternatively be 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.
Challenges Facing Struggling Students
As human beings are social beings, they have esteem needs and thus desire to be appreciated in terms of their achievements, and to attain self-actualization. In the cases where individuals are subjected to less or no appreciation in the society, they tend to develop a low self-esteem, which leads to further deterioration in terms of behavior and response to such situations. Because of low self-esteem, individuals are prone to developing psychological and mental health problems, which may further affect their societal status and general lives. Individuals with a low self-esteem are also prone to engaging in deviant behavior such as drug abuse because of developing a feeling that they have been failed by the society.
Less Prospects of Furthering Education
Through developing a low self-esteem, students tend to weaken their egos, develop feelings of unworthiness, lose confidence in their selves and their capabilities, and they develop a negative perception of life. With these kinds of developments, it is evident that the struggling students may lose hope for future studies and focus their efforts on other activities that are not much beneficial.
Dropping Out of School
When struggling students lack the feeling of belonging to the school society due to their difference with other students, they are more likely to think of dropping out of school to save themselves what they consider as shame. This may worsen in cases where they are insulted and isolated from other students who find them inadequate. The lack of ability in conducting simple tasks may also cause frustration among struggling students, prompting them to consider dropping out of school.
Challenges Faced by Teachers of Struggling Students
Teachers face the toughest challenges in handling struggling students since they are the closest people who interact with these students in the school setting. The teachers play the central role in implementing intervention measures that are developed towards promoting student performance. One of the most common challenges faced by teachers is the programming for all the struggling students who have diverse needs (Busch, 2010).
As much as struggling students may share some of the characteristics, these students have different needs that require different approaches. In addition, these students tend to respond differently to the intervention measures that these teachers may incorporate in the instruction to facilitate learning. As a result, teachers are forced to adjust effectively in order to incorporate effectively interact with all the students including those with bad behavior and those who offer less cooperation. These interactions subject the teachers to a great challenge as they may fail to interact effectively with some of the students.
Teachers also face a problem with poor parental involvement in the entire process of promoting improvement among the students (Busch, 2010). Most parents of struggling students may not be easy to respond, and in cases where they are reachable, they tend to respond slowly to any requests that teachers ask them. In most cases, parents do not attend individualized education programs. This is an issue that becomes a problem for the teachers as they miss the perfect opportunity of informing the parents of the progress of their children and the roles they are supposed to play in the entire process of promoting the performance of the students.
In addition, most parents do not help their children with the homework that they are given. As a result, the parents fail to recognize the difficulties that such students go through, and they also fail to play their role in supporting the teachers in helping the students. The parents have a role in helping the students to build on their self-esteem and thus feel encouraged to put more effort towards developing their skills. The parents also fail to return the various documents that they are offered with to sign. This prevents the teachers from accessing the feedback on the various experiences that the parents have with the students.
It is important to note that the decision making of individuals in other areas other than education can be indications of improvements or deterioration. Teachers also face a difficulty in scheduling and organizing their time (Busch, 2010). This is due to the fact that they are faced with the task of offering extra time to the small groups of struggling students and in some cases, individualized attention to some of the students who fail to show improvement.
On the other hand, the teachers still have to take care of the rest of the classes that they teach, and their personal lives. As a result of all these requirements and inadequacy of time, teachers face a hard time in scheduling all the activities and allocating them enough time that would ensure that each involved party benefits (Busch, 2010). Through proper management of these challenges, teachers can be able to indulge themselves in appropriate activities that would promote improvement among struggling students. The teachers should develop good rapport with the students they interact with so as to ensure that they promote good communication with such students.
They should gently but firmly show the students that they are in command so as not to compromise their relationship by being harsh or their respect by allowing the students to do whatever they want. They should also develop strategies that engage the parents more, through involving them in more activities that would demand their attention. The teachers should also spread their activities across the schedules and ensuring that they allocate each activity enough time by starting with the highly prioritized activities and combining those activities that are closely related.
Students with Disabilities in Education Act (2004)
Students struggle with learning mathematics, reading, and writing skills, among other subjects of importance in the academic curriculum as a result of various factors. These factors may include emotional difficulties, low English proficiency, early childhood development in settings that are economically disadvantaged, and is some cases because of poor academic instruction. In some cases, students are identified with learning disabilities. Various strategies have been adopted by the society and the schools with the aim of improving the acquiring of academic beneficial skills among these students.
After the government adopted the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ in the year 2002, which was aimed at solving the needs of the children in the society who are economically disadvantaged through funding their education, the federal government was concerned with the improving performance in the academic system in the United States (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). The government emphasized more on high quality instruction, early intervention, and general accountability for academic outcomes within the school system.
Two years later, the government passed the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act in the year 2004 (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). This act entails all the policies that govern special education in the United States. This Act maintained provided for early intervention requirements, and allowed districts to come up with various models of service delivery, which would focus on the student’s response to intervention. Such models screen all students and identify the various problems that they may have in their behavior and academics. They also monitor the children who are at risk of developing difficulties in academics and behavior and note their progress.
Lastly, they provide various interventions in response to the outcomes of the various assessments that are conducted. Individual students who fail to respond to these interventions are referred to evaluation for it to be determined if they are eligible to be subjected to special education. After evaluation, the students who qualify are enrolled in the special education program while the rest, who do not show signs of learning disabilities and do not have any specific problems that require them to be subjected to special education, are referred to other services as per their needs (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
Response to Intervention (RTI) Models
RTI models are systems of deliveries, which are used by schools to provide interventions in the education of students, which are prone to intensify with the students’ response to the instruction offered (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). In order to implement RTI models in a way that will give results, there are several options and approaches, which do not have to be dependent on a single model. Instead, they can be implemented through a set of steps and processes, and the way they are implemented can vary. The approaches available have been associated with two main historical origins, all designed and intended at implementing programs that would allow prevention strategies in any school setting.
The first origin involves the efforts that are put in place by all involved parties in the quest of preventing changes in behavior. Through these models, a problem solving procedure is adopted, in which a team of decision-makers carry out an assessment and they point out to any academic or behavioral problem. They then proceed by developing various strategies that can be used to handle the identified problem and evaluate the outcome of any interventions put in place. The team would then reconvene to discuss the outcomes in order to determine if the earlier identified problem has been effectively solved, thus leading to improvement in the affected areas (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
The second origin involves research on the various strategies that can be put in place to prevent difficulties in reading among children. “There are various standardized protocols that are used by these approaches in delivering various interventions as per the instructional response of the students” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). A standard protocol model involves the screening of all students and identifying those students who are at risk of developing academic problems (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
The students at risk are further assessed on a frequent basis. The teachers are provided with professional development in terms of skills that enhance the intensity and differentiation, and effective instruction. They receive these through various grouping strategies and measures of evaluation of their progress, which determines any changes and thus allow for the development of other measures that could be used to further enhance their development. Those struggling students who fail to progress as per the set limits both at the local and the national level are placed in small groups and offered additional instructions for 20-40 minutes in a day.
In cases where a student fails to register positive improvement even in cases where they are placed in these groups, they are placed in smaller groups, with more time assigned to them, and specific teachers’ attention directed to them. The evaluation of progress is done every week or after two weeks. “Implementing problem-solving model and the standardized protocol model are aspects of a positive course” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). This is due to the fact that development of effective instructions among students through screening, professional development, and monitoring of progress, need to be maintained through adequate professional training.
Screening and Progress Monitoring
The RTI model is mainly used to screen all students in the country for any academic difficulties. “The instrument used in screening can be criterion referenced or norm-referenced, in which case the former represents progress monitoring tool’s initial assessment” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). Conducting administration of the key should be done with consideration to sensitivity and accuracy since the devices for grading cover the entire grade. Technological advancements have been greatly incorporated in the implementation of the various measures that have been designed to monitor progress. One of the commonly used technologies is the curriculum-based measurement (CMB).
The device engages students in a short assessment that could only last up to three minutes, and the teachers who readily interpret the assessment results administer it in the classroom. The assessment process involves asking the students to handle a certain activity such as reading a text, spelling, or solving math problems (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). The amount of activity done by such students is then plotted on the graph, where it is later compared with the benchmarks set for the student’s grade-level. This is a very reliable tool as it produces immediate results that can be effectively applied by the teachers in adjusting instruction so as to stir positive change among the struggling students.
Further application of the CMB is important in determining the progress of students once instruction has been adjusted for their benefit, with the long-term view of attaining positive results. However, despite the significance of the measures provided by the CMB, various concerns have been developed regarding the text passages’ equivalence. Moreover, it is still tough to determine the reliability of the various CMB measures in determining progress across the tiers (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
It is also difficult to determine the best benchmarks between those set at the national level and those provided at the district level. The application of CMB in determining the eligibility of students is an issue that has faced a lot of controversy due to lack of specified criteria for determining inadequate responses. As such, instructional response cannot be relied upon as the only determinant of the eligibility of students prior to subjecting them to special education.
Evidence-based interventions are highly dependable and important in the use of RTI models to prevent academic struggling. Different meta-analyses and syntheses have been put to test and proven the importance of interventions in helping students who have trouble in their academics to improve. One of the most comprehensive meta-analyses of all times on the need for interventions to promote performance among students with learning difficulties was conducted by Heskyn, Swanson, and Lee, who, in a period of 30 years, reviewed and evaluated 180 interventions (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
The three found out that there were moderate or high effect results across the studies. However, the effects were even higher in the cases where the interventions were carried on in resource room circumstances, as compared to those conducted in the general education settings.
In another study conducted in the year 2007, Wanzek and Vaughn deduced various studies conducted on broad reading interventions that were carried out in more than 20 sessions per participant. As per the results, a diversity of effects was recorded, ranging from moderate to large (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). It was noted that the larger effects were obtained in cases where the participants were children from the kindergarten and first-grade as compared to members of grades 2-5. The effects were also observed to be larger in cases where there was the use of a comprehensive reading program and in cases where the interventions were delivered one-on-one to the participants, or in small groups that could easily allow for the reach out to every member.
Scammacca also conducted another meta-analysis in the year 2007, where he analyzed the interventions that had been put in place to assist older students who experienced difficulties in reading. The total number of studies analyzed was 31 with the total size of the effect being registered as 0.95. A lower effect size of 0.42 was registered in cases where there was use of standardized non-referenced measures (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). In other 23 interventions studies, which focused on the reading comprehension of the participant struggling students, and incorporate measures that were experimenter-designed, the effect size was recorded as 1.33. In the cases where the reading measures were standardized, the effect size was recorded as 0.35.
As per these results, one can conclude that intervention can still be delivered to older students who have difficulties in reading even in the stage of adolescence. It is also important to note that students effectively benefit when they are subjected to not only word-level but also text-level interventions. In order to achieve large effects, one should adjust their instructions in strategies of reading comprehension. In addition, it is important to note that once a student is taught a given word, they tend to learn the meanings of these words (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). Because the older students, especially those with difficulties in reading may take a longer time to match up to the set benchmark, it would be more productive to focus on prevention efforts.
In another meta-analysis carried out in 2007, Graham and Perin examined the importance of intervention in facilitating effective writing practices. In their study, the researchers recognized various practices that can be incorporated in the instruction design to facilitate improvement in the student outcomes.
Such practices included writing strategies, which included expressively teaching struggling students to revise, plan, edit, and brainstorm; writing down summaries; engaging in group collaborations as this would provide them with feedback; assigning students with goals that are reasonable enough to help them to improve in writing; and sharpening their skills in other practices including sentence combining, word processing, and writing, as these would help in improving the proficiency of students in their areas of difficulties (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
Lastly, through an empirical synthesis conducted by Gersten, Baker, and Lee in the year 2002, it was identified that through the use of effective instructions in mathematics, both the students and the teachers are provided with recommendations that would facilitate good performance among students (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). Effective instruction also facilitates the use of peer pairing in promoting the learning experience of struggling students. Instruction in mathematics also provides approaches that have been explicitly developed by the teacher specifically for promoting success among struggling students. Through proper intervention in mathematics, various practices are developed to promote communication between teachers and parents, regarding the successes of the students.
Coordinated Systems of Service Delivery
As much as there is sufficient evidence supporting the efficiency of RTI models, the implementation of the models is very important as it involves scaling issues. The intervention services are mainly funded by different programs including ‘No Child Left Behind’ Fund and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act Fund (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). These programs have however developed certain criteria for determining eligibility, which make it difficult to coalesce resources in order to promote school-based intervention models and thus student improvement. “The isolation of these programs from the classroom setting and the general education is so as to ensure that there is fragmentation of the instruction” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
Schools should develop a slow but careful approach towards implementing these models as they may take several years to change fully the education system. The slow movement of embracing intervention may be mainly attributed to the traditional ways of viewing instruction. “Districts should make appraisals of the resources they have and redeploy them towards supporting service delivery through the RTI models, in order to avoid developing problems with inadequate resources in future” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
A major problem according to Fletcher and Vaughn (2009), “is the fact that most educators look at RTI as an initiative applicable in special education cases, and because it is now under IDEA 2004, the implementation of RTI faces major challenges”. In order to counter this perception, the implementation process should involve close collaboration between the general education, the “No Child Left Behind” fund, special education, and any other program that may be entitled to this initiative (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
Problems with scaling have also been identified because of lack of completeness in the evidence onto which intervention is based. The implementation and success of RTI models in high schools has not come as easy as it should have, because the tools used to monitor progress among older struggling students and research carried out on the various interventions applied have weaknesses. Due to poor implementation of the prevention component, the conception of RTI models has faced many difficulties.
As much as various researches have provided information on successful Tier 3 interventions, these types of interventions have been inadequately used as important parts of multitiered interventions, an aspect that brings out the cost of research with reference to the model of multitiered intervention (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). “There is poor establishment of the layered Tier 3 interventions efficacy as a result of inadequate studies conducted on the children who are identified as inefficient responders in the RTI model” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
According to evidence established, most teachers have reported difficulties in teaching these students. Most of these students exhibit little improvements in their reading even after being subjected to intervention for a whole year, followed by other intensified forms of additional interventions. However, according to an analysis of multitiered interventions, it is evident that the rates of individuals who are recognized as inadequate responders have greatly reduced to as low as 2-5% (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
As the number of such students who require intensive interventions reduces, various schools may consider channeling resources towards facilitating the redressing of struggling students as rated by the inadequacy of their responses. As much as these challenges may come up, the implementation of RTI models in various districts has proven to have positive results including the reduction in the number of individuals who are referred to special education and improvement in general academic achievement.
As much as an individual’s cognitive deficits have been greatly linked to learning difficulties, inter-individual discrepancies do not bring out a reliable identification of learning difficulties. If such a measure of identification is adopted, inappropriate interventions would be implemented leading to poor outcomes. This is an important t aspect to consider especially in the case where one is targeting at using IQ-achievement discrepancy identifications models.
According to two meta-analyses that have been conducted in the view of identifying the cogency of IQ-discrepancy models, there is a small difference between the IQ-discrepant effect size and the poor non-discrepant readers’ effect size (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). The analyses were based on the outcomes of phonological and reading processes among the participants. The response to instruction among IQ-discrepant and non-discrepant readers was also identified as almost the same with no differences registered. These findings differed with the kind of framework that is used in the schools and clinics in identifying learning difficulties among individuals, in which case these institutions focus on the various discrepancies that are observed between achievement and ones IQ.
RTI Models and Identification
RTI models take a completely new dimension of identifying learning difficulties among struggling students, putting more focus on the discrepancies related to instruction and age-based expectations, instead of the cognitive discrepancies that are focused upon by the IQ-discrepancy model (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
This provides a better practice of identification than the traditional practice, where students are screened early enough and monitored throughout their education in order to subject them to appropriate measures about different levels of progress, which would facilitate success. The traditional models of determining eligibility among struggling students were inefficient given that they highly relied on referrals, and thus individuals were subjected to interventions at later stages of their education, when they had already failed.
The data provided by an analysis of the instruction response allows the teachers to evaluate their students and thus to develop mechanisms on how to teach them in order to help them achieve the best results. “However, instructional response data may fail to address all the problems that influence the process of identifying students with learning disabilities” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). The reference to rigid cut-points is a major problem associated with IQ-discrepancy models. Applications of such rigid cut-points in setting benchmarks that would help in identifying students as either adequate of inadequate responders in RTI models, could lead to the development of the same problems as in IQ-discrepancy models (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009).
“The problem with models of cognitive discrepancy is that the various factors under study remain normally and continuously distributed when those students who have injuries in the brain are excluded from study sample” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). In such a case, the process of deciding reliability remains inherently arbitrary given that there is the presence of a disability. Such a process of identification depends on criteria instead of IQ scores (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). Nevertheless, in such cases where there inherent qualitative spaces do not exist, the expected responses are still likely to be instructional.
“The inadequate response criteria may tend to be as arbitrary as a dimension of achievement, or cut point, thus develop different formulae without studying their validity, forming such unreliability as displayed by IQ-discrepancy models” (Fletcher & Vaughn, 2009). If such issues are to be resolved, Fletcher and Vaughn (2009) contend that “it would be paramount to integrate the use of consequence evaluation to come up with different decisions and confidence intervals in order to establish whether to go ahead with an intervention, or choose a different path”. The decisions made in other sectors that are not associated to academics are also important in determining how adequate an individual’s decision is. The decisions made by experts should also be adequately evaluated in terms of their validity and reliability.
This chapter is aimed at describing and giving an explanation of the methodology used in the study. The research’s mixed method of research procedure will guide my studies in the course most conducive and relevant to the subject’s environment. Quantitative methods will largely assist in the accuracy of the data collected with reference to the dimension of the problem at stake. The quantitative analysis will provide us with the different types of methods teachers can employ in order to ensure even the struggling students receive their instructions at a satisfactory level.
The qualitative approach will ensure that the results obtained from the data will be beneficial in the comprehensive analysis of the participants’ history and aspirations in terms of how they will improve the level of cognitive understanding of the instructions they are given and how the givers of the instructions (the teachers) can improve the process of instructions dispatch. This chapter also serves as an outline of my reading on the different research methods that gave me a bearing when it came to choosing the most appropriate methods.
This section will also play a part in the production of ideas that are concerned with issues affecting the African American male students in terms of educational achievement or failure as a result of the struggle or prowess during interpretation of the instructions they receive from their mentors or teachers in this context. The data obtained will be consequently used in the development of detailed procedures and programs in the field of education for curbing the problem at stake. The study outlined is a practical research project case study.
In Section 1, I gave an introduction of the main subject of this dissertation which is about moving students forward by providing an efficacy of strategies for teaching struggling students. A struggling student is a student that has a lower cognitive ability to interpret and digest information when compared to others of the same level in education. I have put my focus mainly on the struggling learners primarily the African American males. I am particularly interested in how teachers differentiate their instruction when giving them to the struggling students.
There is a vast library to choose from when it comes to models of research processes, most of which outline the process as a combination of steps and stages. Cohen and Manion (2013) outline eight stages of action in a research study. However, they are too technical and seem to suit better with scientific studies. Since I was seeking to find a rather more practical, social and psychological approach to understand the skills, techniques and strategies teachers use, I had to seek a more relevant approach.
As Bell (2008) would put it, I was seeking to “understand an individual’s perceptions of the world and knowledge.” Blaxter et al, (2010) sees the research process to included five stages shown in diagrammatic form illustrating the design, sampling, collection of data, analysis of data and the presented report that comes at the end. This, to me, was a too simple way to represent a whole process of research that is long and very complex.
According to Johnson (2008), in the research process, the following stages of activity must be worked through in carrying out and completing an investigation: Establishing the focus of the study, identification of the specific objectives of the study, selection of a research method, arrangement for the research access, development of the research instrument, data collection, the investigative phase, data arrangement and analysis and a final write-up. All these are representations of the overall research path one takes during the study.
Research work is not in any way linear (Blaxter et al, 2010) but a number of cycles that are interconnected to each other in such a way that they affect each other. Though all models offer a good guidance of the approach to a research study, I preferred the model by Johnson since it has small well-defined steps that fit perfectly well into the subject matter of my research case study. I also went for this option because it sensitizes on a research as a process that has the rational and analytical dissemination of the findings as the final step; my main objective for the study.
Guided by Johnson’s model, the remaining section of this chapter will dwell on the description and explanation of the methods I undertook in the six months of my case study.
Establishing the focus of the study
The research process is powerfully affected by the researchers own motivations and values which help the researcher sustain the interest on the same topic over a very long period of time. For this reason, establishing the focus of the study was a very easy thing since this is the area of my interest (teaching) and the case study was aimed at improving it. With interest being my main strength, I utilized it, alongside my prior knowledge on methods of teaching and how to improve the art, to embark on this mission that would eventually be very useful in my professional life.
Identifying the specific objectives of the study
According to Cohen and Manion (2013), the first stage of the research process is indentifying and formulating the problem and case study, or the hypothesis. It is not conventionally known that a research has to have a problem; there may not always be a problem that needs to be solved. In this instance however, there is a problem. Georgia has the greatest number of people with a bachelor’s degree as compared to her neighboring states. The problem here is, however, the fact that recently some students, in fact, majority of the students in Georgian schools have been struggling in their academic life due to their incapability to appropriately interpret the instruction they receive from their teachers.
This therefore means that the exemplary performance in Georgia can still be improved if new techniques of teaching students how to disseminate instructions can be implemented and having teachers learn the methods of differentiating the instructions given to struggling students. This was seen recently when schools in Georgia moved to a common core academic standard of curriculum. The same was seen when integrated math, a mathematics course that combined three math concepts into one course, was introduced. Many students had many hardships with it especially in Georgia and therefore it was declared that students could drop it in the districts.
At about the same time as I was embarking on my work, Georgia’s Department of Education came up with a new way of measuring the performance of schools and school districts referred to as the College Career Ready Performance Index that was meant to grade schools on a scale of 0-100. It was meant to replace the No Child Left behind (NCLB) and Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP). The advantage of using this system was; it would dwell on specific indicators of performance rather than just scores in tests.
According to this framework most schools were seen to perform at an average of 56; a very poor result. This triggered my interest on the education system in Georgia and why the levels of perform were this flabbergasting. An underlining reason was the fact that most teachers do not pay attention to the struggling students; they assume all students are similar. For those who do, I wanted to critically analyze how they do and if their methods can be improved for the aid of others as I will suggest from my findings.
Background reading and review of literature was an expansive and dynamic process. Initial reading influenced “formation of research objectives” Johnson (2008), but the research also put into consideration the fact that new reports are published, even as the study continues. These reports had a huge impact on my work especially on reinforcing my work from the findings perspective.
Selection the Research Method
Using guidance from Johnson (2008), I gave priority to the selection of the research method because it was a very important moment of the whole process of research. The methods I decided to use had to work with each other in terms of reinforcing each other. For this reason, I chose a variety of complementary research methods, which were largely complementary to each other. The methods were largely qualitative like interviews with the teachers and some of the students, observation of several lessons being undertaken as I watch as a guest and later on as the instructor and examination of secondary data like documentary evidence in order to create case studies.
I also used some quantitative methods when I was trying to find out the background evidences of the teachers’ experience in practice, their attitudes towards their jobs and their students and the most common methods they use to teach. All these were used in the setting up of the scene.
I also used case studies as a tool for doing a follow up and as a means of adding to my content; the case studies were a way of adding flesh to the bones of the study (Bell, 2008). It was an addition to a thorough examination of the participants, their perceptions and the level of judgment they have (Simons, 2008). Case studies have not been accepted by all scholars; some people are staunch critics of this method but it is “now widely accepted as a form of research” (Simons, 2008) and it fits perfectly well into my objectives of investigating how teachers seek to find methods of differentiating instructions given to struggling students and how teaching can be improved in terms of ensuring all students are attended to at a level that suits their level of cognitive comprehension (the art of scaffolding).
The idea of a using paradox case studies is introduced by an author whose explanation is that “by studying the uniqueness of the particular, we come to understand the universal” (Simons, 2008). The expectation of the study is that the results can be used to give insights to stakeholders who seek to transform the education sector.
Even though qualitative methods are seen to be very slow due to the lengthy processes involved, it provides reliable first hand information. My visit to four schools to interview eight teachers was a very long, tedious and time consuming process but it was what I felt was a better alternative for me to use in obtaining better illustration of the varied nature of the schools and reflect on the individual perceptions and experiences of the teachers during their teaching experiences and in their endeavor to make sure every student understands what they are taught at least even if it is not to the same level of comprehension.
The main purpose of this study is to develop means through which teachers can differentiate the instructions they give to their students to cover the cognitive disparity between the struggling students and the rest of the students. As this is being developed, the study sought to find out the means by which teachers currently differentiate the instructions, the criteria they follow in the identification of the students that are perceived to be struggling and how the lives of the students affect their cognitive development and their perceptions of the academic arena in general as guided by the framework of Lev Vygostky (zone of proximal).
The rate at which African Americans graduate is low and those who graduate still demonstrate a high level of lethargy towards their own education. The study keenly sought to find out if this behavior is modeled at home or by peers or if it is just a matter of self-doubt. The origin of the participants was determined and the relation of this in relation to this behavior was outlined. Questions like, do ethnicity and/or race play a role in the academic prowess as it relates to the performance of the African American make students in the world of academics? Were guiding the study and emphasized where the information ought to be looked for.
African Americans were chosen mostly because of the proximity. The use of students in the schools that were experiencing changes in their educational system (introduction of the common-core curriculum) and the recent spotlight in terms of academic performance fluctuation was identified as the most relevant path during the initial periods of the study. After research through sampling and the results analytically discussed, the participants chosen fall under the method of sequential transformative strategy. This was based on the participants’ strong influence from culture within the classroom setting, the parallel and similar experiences with the researcher.
The African American male students were chosen since it was a general observation that teachers had a perception of students in terms of categories based on the cognitive abilities hence this allowed the opportunity to observe makes with similar social backgrounds yet a huge disparity in terms of academic backgrounds. This would enable me to have a control group to compare the results. Since I was the instructor, I would ensure that the same methodology is used in each classroom.
The participants were chosen on the basis of their gender and race irrespective of their social background and age. Majority of the participants come from the neighborhood and belong to a middle-class family. The data analysis was based on the performance results of three major courses namely; small group discussions, the average English course, and Advanced Placement Literature & Composition.
A major focus of the study was placed on the English classes as such courses are rarely chosen by African American males and for those who do, the performance is still substandard. It is very important to focus on these classes since they suggest a comprehensive picture of African American male students’ academic aspirations and difficulties as English is regarded as more challenging for the group of students in question.
Thus, the present study can enlighten us as to why African American male students face some difficulties when it comes to such courses and what inspires the ones who performs nicely to take the extra challenge and apply more effort with regards to ensuring they understand the instructions they are given. The problems and achievements during the classes were generalized to help in the comprehension of the major challenges the African American male students face and the most effective strategies that can be applied to successfully curb these challenges within the group in question.
The fact the participants have different sources and levels of motivation should not be ignored. Some of the students are still hopeful and are very willing to improve their performance and even further their studies while others are very reluctant and are satisfied with what their performance level is even though it is poor. The motivations that the students have is very important as it will form the foundation for the development of the most relevant and technically proven educational techniques and strategies that will be used to curb the problems faced by the struggling students. Recording and understanding the progress of the less motivated students or the struggling students is also very important in the process of evaluating and applying the suggested methods.
Arranging Research Access
Being an aspiring teacher leader and having a lot of proficiency and experience in the field of education, on top of being a native of Georgia, I had a very high level of enmeshment in the subject of my research, and was among the active participants. My close and deep affiliation to this study and the field of education and my commitment and desire to make it better was significant in this study. The persistence enabled me gain access to various stakeholders, and most importantly, the teachers I interviewed. It also helped me gain access to teachers’ lessons and work plans because I could relate with their work easily.
The qualitative phase of the study was seen to provide a reconnaissance observation that is very crucial for any research effort to be successful. The necessity of carrying out a reconnaissance trip meant to make prior observations of the areas of study, if possible address the relevant authorities, and inform them of your intensions and the relevance of your study to them and how it would benefit the institution and the education sector at large is very crucial.
The pre-study trip also played a big role in enabling the researcher to identify with the participants, familiarize themselves with the problems they are facing in relation to their social and cultural activities (Bush and Bush, 2010). It was also very important to have the intended participants notified that they will be a part of a very important study and outline what the study will be expecting from them in order to get the most relevant information in terms of data and results. This played a very big part in ensuring that everyone is prepared for the participation in the study hence sets the foundation for a credible and successful research study.
On top of the pre-study trip, it was also very important to develop a time-oriented work plan or schedule that comprehensively outlined the activities expected to be carried out and integrate it into the casual schedule of the school being studied. Time is a very potent limiting factor in the research process hence it should be spent very shrewdly. The schedule was meant to give an overview of the whole study process in terms of describing what happens where, at what time and for how long.
This kept the participants aware of where they were supposed to be and at what time and what was expected of them at a particular point in time. It also ensured that the participants had enough time to take part in the research (Codrington & Fairchild, 2012). The researcher must have observed the place and planned for anticipated challenges that are bound to occur during the study on top of ensuring the relationship between him and the participants was formal. This was seen to give the participants a sense of confidence and comfort while they were taking part in the study.
An external third party meant to carry out an audit is also very important since they will ensure the researcher’s role is not biased in any way and that the data obtained is credible since the level of integrity is maintained as the main focus of the study. I took the role of instructing the participants involved in this study and having a background of growing up among the minority population in an arena of academics that was mainly dominated by white people, empathy towards the participants should be anticipated.
The main agenda is to try and find out why male students of the African American race have problems in their cognitive comprehension of the instructions they receive in their casual classroom setting and how their teachers differentiate the instructions to attend to these needs with the aim of finding out other methods through which the teachers can enhance the level of understanding of the instructions they give to their students.
During the study, I gave out questionnaires to teachers as they embarked on their classes and small research projects aimed at finding out the different ways through which they can differentiate the instructions they give to their students, especially the struggling ones. This was done in the period between August and October 2013. This work had a lot of value sentimentally to the researcher and therefore it was greatly affected by the “researcher’s own motivations and values” (Blaxter et al, 2010).
The sample of the teachers is small, all undertaking their additional courses on message deployment methods and the art of scaffolding as outlined by the framework given by Lee Vygostky’s in his “Zone of Proximal.” The teachers came from four different schools making the data sample more effective since the conditions of the schools were all very different even though all the schools are in the state of Georgia. Retrospectively, it would have been possible to include a school in this study which is young on or had not started yet appreciated the framework provided by the Zone of Proximal. This would have made it possible to make comparisons with schools that already apply it.
Developing the Research Instrument
This study utilized three main research instruments. An initial survey questionnaire was issued to the teachers during their casual teaching activities. The questionnaire changed after being put to the test with a teacher who was not part of the sampled group of participants. Bell (2008) gives very reliable advice when it comes to questionnaires. The questionnaire was designed to be quick enough to be filled within five minutes and easy for the teachers to complete easily without feeling intimidated by the questions as a means used to test their competence. Most questions in the questionnaire were answered by ticking the correct answer represented by a box, and only a few questions required detailed answers.
This was all in the endeavor of making the questionnaire as comfortable as they could ever be. Thirty two questionnaires were returned indicating that our participants formed a small sample. The questionnaire issued for this study is included in Appendix I. A researcher’s choice for the questionnaire can be a “non-probability sample if the participants are selected for convenience and they attend a face-to-face introduction of the framework of Lee Vygostky’s on the Zone of Proximal” (Cohen and Manion, 2010). This was the case for this study. Because most of the sampled participants completed the given questionnaire on time, they enabled the researcher to complete the study on time, enable a proper analysis of the results, while at the same time reducing the level of inconvenience, if any, to the teachers.
The data acquired from the questionnaire was complied and analyzed and the results can be found in the next chapter of this dissertation. This study used questionnaires to gather primary data, with the sole purpose of providing a description of the situation and conditions currently (Cohen and Manion, 2010). From this first questionnaire, I was able to identify a group of participants that was ready to complete another questionnaire even if it required more of the time and a little more detail in the responses. These were the people I intended to use for a more detailed study.
The preceding step was carrying out the research to form the case study. I paid a visit to four schools and conducted my interviews as designed on the questionnaire included in Appendix II. With interviews being very adaptable (Bell, 2008), I decided to ask some of the teachers some one-on-one questions covered in the questionnaire under Appendix 2. All the interviews were semi-structured and even if the questionnaire was based on the same questionnaire schedule as that of the first step, some of the schools visited did not really appreciate the idea of interviews.
As part of a background study of the schools, I utilized available academic reports as secondary references, and also gathered analysis reports of the various aspects of the schools. In the case study schools, there was need to conduct an examination of students’ works and test scripts, and in some schools, there was need to conduct an informal lesson observation during the visits. These were used to provide a recognized context for the study and to draw some conclusions with the results from zone of proximal application trends in the schools.
Research Design and Approach
The study looked at the relationship that exists between the types of instructions a teacher gives to their students and how the students, especially the African American male students, interpret the instructions. It sought to focus on the difference in cognitive understanding of these instructions and tried to find out why the difference exists and what the teachers can do to reduce the disparity between the two groups of students outlined in the previous chapter; the struggling students and the capable students.
As outlined above, the instruments used were majorly the interviews, questionnaires and secondary sources of data combined with a case study survey instrument used for data collection. These tools were extensively used in making inferences relating to the capability of African American male students to interpret the instructions they are given by their teachers and how their teacher can improve the differentiation of the instruction when being given to the struggling students. A case study was preferred since it greatly excels in bringing people to a detailed understanding of a complex problem in the society and it can greatly add strength to the pre-existing research work.
Since a case study lays a lot of emphasis on the analysis of a limited amount or number of conditions and how they are interrelated in a particular context, it was the best tool to use to examine this real life problem and provide the foundation for the easily integrated application of ideas and methods into the school systems in Georgia. The case study well served as an indicator as to if the qualitative themes outlined majorly by the educational system outlined by the government generalize to the true reality on the ground when it comes to whether the systems give a satisfactory approach to all the needs of a students; whether struggling or not. It also worked to provide a basis for future approaches to this topic.
With regards to the quantitative approach, it occurred that it was vital to outline the predictors of the instances of struggle in the class setting in order to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the statistics of the factors involved with the problem.
The statistics will include the number of students categorized as struggling and the criteria used in this categorization, how the students under the category of struggling perform and how the teachers contribute towards the changing of the situation in terms of holding remedial classes to give more mentorship to such students. I will use regressors and adjustments as predictor variables in the outlining of the data as collected in the study.
The regressors will allow the prediction of the reasons as to why the results of the students are as they are. The predictor variables are outlined as: The effects pre-school has on cognitive capacity, the level of parent education as the students were growing up, the levels and methods used in high school preparation, the amount of time a teacher spends in class and after class with the students. The dependent variable will mainly be the results of the students as indicated by the school’s progress reports and transcripts.
All the data was equated to the levels of cognitive comprehension of instructions and was used to develop methods and strategies that can be applied to improve these levels especially in the struggling students. The lives of the students, whether in school or outside school, were also considered alongside the predictor variables. This is because they have demonstrated a potential depiction of the common behavioral, cognitive and decision influences concerning the types and formats of information the students can relate to and easily interpret.
The study also used the quasi-experimental approach that majorly entailed the initial data from scores the students had in their first tests followed by the consequent tests that followed. The qualitative side of the data analysis entailed the focus group which was mainly the African American students that are perceived to be struggling alongside their teachers, observation of the process of teaching in the classes was done to outline how the teachers use their skill in the differentiation of the instructions given to the students and the interviews that was carried out on both student and their teachers.
For the students, the interviews sought to find out what their attitude, perception and view is on the process of learning and how they think it can be improved for them to perform better in school while for the teachers, the interview sought to find out what they do to ensure their students grasp all their instructions and what according to them is challenging in ensuring the students understand. This was also be used in the development of methods through which the teachers can improve the way they give out instructions to the students to ensure maximum comprehension.
It has been an observation that I made that many scholars and researchers doubt the connection and contribution of science theory and non-cognitive factors towards the determination of the various factors that influence the behavior and intuition of students in the classroom setting. The scholars have also disagreed to the fact that both the cognitive and the non-cognitive factors may manipulate the factors that surround the academic decisions of the African American male students (Smart & Paulson, 2012) in the Georgian high schools. Studies that have been recently carried out indicate that it is indeed very vivid that attrition rates that are very conspicuous and particular to the African American male students have a possibility if being largely associated to their socio-economic orientation.
This study applies the Exploratory Sequential Design framework for the mixed method design. This study was to a great extent dominated by the comparison between grades and scores in tests and their relation to the social behavior of the African American male students and their cognitive ability to interpret the information relayed to them by their teachers. The main function of the framework (Exploratory Sequential Design) was to serve the theoretical perspective of the researcher and giving room for philosophical assumptions.
The use of two phases a sequential design researcher was able to give a voice to diverse perspectives, to better represent the participants and fight for their argument, or to understand the phenomenon or process that is changing as a result of research being done about it (Creswell, 2012).
The design was preferred because it is in the natural coding of African American males’ personalities to bring some aspects of their personal individual life into the academic world because they rely on social order and family influence to shape their destiny in the society especially socially. This is opposed to other cultures like Asian Americans who value their education more than anything hence when it comes to academic issues education is all that matters.
Setting and Sample
Four schools took part in this study. However, one of them was majorly sensitized on and this was given the name School One for purposes of the discretion of the participants as promised during the study. The Exploratory Sequential and Ethnographic designs were used to indentify how the social and emotional backgrounds of the students affected their attention and full devotion in class especially when it comes to the subject of receiving instructions but also make the behavior and learning patterns through observation and interaction with the participants.
This study that takes the quasi-experimental embodiment of mixed methods and an incorporation of a quantitative control group will strive to give a comparison of the performance of students identified as capable by their teachers and those termed as struggling. Of course, the groups wouldn’t know which category they fell in order for to avoid emotional grudges between the two groups. The groups were not, however, divided into smaller groups as environment and community has proved to be important, so the students were observed in quite natural settings. Each group participated in the standard based classroom, which will lay its focus on scaffolding for enhanced student comprehension.
Scores were collected from the schools’ websites that publish tests results by school and the results of these participants were compared to the overall results of the state testing and the national average. The results of the participants were also evaluated according to the requirements of the state. The number of students that meet the state’s requirements and the number of participants who fall under the same category was also very crucial in the understanding of the effectiveness of the art of scaffolding on the students.
The individual academic records were then be analyzed as provided by the study schools’ administration. It was observed that the teachers in Georgian schools have been trained on the use of resources like workbooks, technology like the internet and simulation programs and benchmark tests that ensure the students have optimum comprehension of the subject matter of the lessons (Clayton County Public Schools, 2012).
Having been born and raised in military bases for the first eight years of my life after which my father retire from the military, I had to embark on my journey into the academic world from a school with only two African American students between the age of seven and twelve; me being the only female of color. This led to me experiencing a lot of racism and in more acute situations isolation from the classroom. The background I had inevitably allowed me to have a lot of empathy towards the participants of the study and assisted me in the development of relevant strategies to curb these problems as I reflected on the strategies I applied at a personal level to overcome or endure the milestones, challenges and hardships I faced at that time.
The role I took was that of the English instructor of the participants in the study and the researcher simultaneously. I intended to have a relationship based on trust and respect with the students I had. The setting of a classroom provides a learning environment that is very conducive to positive interactions and exchanges of ideas. All ideas were welcomed with a warm heart since I believe in a philosophy of everyone being right as long as they have an ethical and rational reason to suggest what they have. No one was classified as wrong or right in the class; all opinions were shared and expressed among one another.
The expectations from the English instructor are those of the utmost disciplined; failure is not acceptable, hard work as well as help where needed is all fostered. The relations of the researcher and the participants did not affect or interfere with the data collection process. With the safety of the participants being the main priority during the study, participants were to be removed from the class if the participant felt that their grades was in jeopardy, they did not feel like their privacy was being respected or if they no longer wanted to be part of the study. The best possible education was stretched to such parties regardless of their choice. No participant withdrew.
My experience might have biased the qualitative phase of the study since I have the ability to emphasize with the participants. I have gone through several psychologically torturing experiences like being referred by the name racial slurs, being placed in classes for the average students and my potential of being a candidate in the advanced classes being overlooked. This therefore made the study more vulnerable to bias. For this reason, I had the involvement of a third party auditor who reviewed the qualitative data from the observations and the interviews carried out.
The major quantitative instrument was used in the study will be the End of Course tests (EOCT) that is used to assess the whole state. It was administered to the participants during the final month of their junior year of high school. These tests were administered by the instructors of different departments in relation to the test being taken. For example, the mathematics instructor was the invigilator of the American Literature test. The exam was conducted for four days, on campus and was collected by administrators then submitted to the state where the scoring was to be done. The test was aligned with the 11th grade American Literature common-core curriculum.
The main reason for the test is to assess the specified content knowledge and the skills the students possess. On top of this, states that the assessment give the state the diagnostic information they need for them to help the students to identify their strengths and weakness in terms of the different areas of the course hence the overall improvement of performance in all the schools’ courses and on other local assessments (Georgian Department of Education [GDOE], 2012). The scores obtained from the scores are released in summer hence they provided me with ample time for the analysis of the quantitative data of the study. The results or score were critically analyzed.
The journals of observations were included on the address to the attitudes and participation of the students. The interviews were used for the qualitative phase of the mixed study. The research journal can be referred to give an account of each stage of the study up to date including a section of my personal opinions. The journal will greatly assist in the process of distinguishing the facts, the assumptions and my personal opinions thus avoiding possible bias. A qualitative survey was given to the participants in an envelope (to be filled in their places of residence then returned to the school) after the EOCT results were reviewed. The survey was meant to measure the attitude of the students and their participation in the courses in school.
The data collection process began with a written request sent to the principals of the different schools. The request was meant to give the researcher the permission to conduct and collect data disclosures of the tests and survey results of the individuals that took part in the study. The techniques and strategies used were mainly Google, Proust, Qualtrics and Thinkgate. The data was entered and the scores were received then an analysis chart was created to desegregate the data among the African American male students. I merged with an administrator and an Advanced Placement coordinator to form a committee.
We met the first time to establish the rules, regulations, minimum quantities, policies and criteria that would govern the committee, its function and the data analysis. I pulled all participants from the class rosters into three AP Literature & Composition courses and two collaborative courses. Student identifiers were placed for random codes within the profiles for confidentiality of the participants. The information was then save in a dedicated USB memory stick that was dedicated specifically to the study and only the researcher had access to the information; even the participants had no access.
Two teachers were responsible for teaching 12th grade English. These were the researcher and a collaborative special instructor. The sub groups were made based on the students’ English courses. The students involved in the study were given instructions for both classes in English using a District curriculum, Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), interventions that included differentiated instruction and small group tutorials. The participants had their strengths and weaknesses in English courses identified during the initial phase of the research study. The CCSSI offered a standard based classroom, differentiated instructions, and more collaboration with the classroom.
The state assessment test, EOCT, is very valuable since it is aligned with the state’s curriculum. It is taken at the end of the student’s eleventh grade year. The data from these tests was used as a pretest to determine the student’s academic prowess in English courses. The participants’ growth was then measured by comparing the students’ data from the pretest (control) and the post test scores and the change in scores was used to address the research questions.
The survey that was used to measure the students’ participation and attitude on top of the knowledge of rudimentary English concepts is referred to as Qualtrics. The survey was a way of engaging the students’ comprehension to the pretests and the posttests performance results. This survey is considered a very reliable measuring tool, and it was used in studies like, Georgia Race to the Top Grant.
Questionnaires were distributed to the teachers in the school and they were collected from them at the end of the casual day-to-day classes that I attended in my endeavor to find out the level of differentiation of instructions done by teachers during the classes between August 2013 and October 2013. It was important to measure the levels of performance of the students before the implementation of the zone of proximal. In addition, the teachers adopted the art of scaffolding in order to gather additional information used as background information for the case studies. The initial questionnaire was confidential, but the teachers who were willing to participate in the consequent questionnaire were allowed to provide their names if they so wished. I had to keep my promise of full discretion hence the anonymity in the report was promised and respected.
The questionnaire provided a mixture of data; some of the data was subsequently analyzed using a quantitative method and a huge part of this was concerned with the background and experiences of the teachers and the resources, methods and techniques they previously used in their teaching practice to ensure optimum interpretation of the instruction they gave to their students. The other parameters like how students perceive their teachers and their teaching methods and how the teachers perceive their students when it comes to categorizing them into able students and struggling students were approached in a rather qualitative way.
Field work for this study was conducted between August and September 2013 and it formed a very significant and primary phase of the research (Johnson, 2008). During this time, I made trips and visits to four high schools in Georgia and carried out an interview on eight teachers with the assistance and guidance of the follow-up questionnaire. I also did a lot of observation and scrutiny of the students’ results and progress reports that were provided for by the school administration. The main agenda of the interviews was to gather more information the teachers’ strengths and weakness and their skills and techniques during the dispatch of instructions and mentorship to their students.
I was also keen on finding out what the teachers plan for the future in terms of the improvement of their methods of teaching especially when it came to the differentiation of the instructions they give to the students and how they are designed to cater for the needs of the struggling students during their teaching practice. These visits took five months after the schools in Georgia were integrated to the common-course curriculum system so that case studies could help in the determination of the reasons as to why schools in Georgia do not perform to their expected levels with regards to the national average despite the fact that they have the most number of people with Bachelor’s Degrees as compared to the states that are bordering her.
Sources that provided more detail to the qualitative data used from the case studies included interviews conducted on the teachers and some of the students, together with the classrooms observations made and the transcripts, performance reports and results slips analyzed alongside with the trends the teachers took in their teaching. This data will be outlined in the consequent chapters of this dissertation. The areas that were identified as those needing reforms were: raising student achievement, closing achievement gaps, better preparation of students for college and careers and ensuring teachers and leaders are highly effective (Krigman, 2009).
Pulling the Phase for the Investigation
Field work was the most important part of the research. It set the ground for gathering the primary data and experiencing the background of the study. Since this stage was indeed the most interesting and rewarding part of the study, I found myself being tempted to visit more schools, although this was impossible considering the project’s timeline. The visits took each about two hours. This time was used to conduct a tour of the school, conduct interviews, do observations in and outside classrooms, and have dialogues with a few students. The research was intentionally carried out during the assessment of the schools by the government since this was when most teachers were in the psychological mood of being asked questions about what they do and how they do it when it comes to improving their teaching practice.
Some schools were however still at an early stage in terms of establishment and therefore peak performance was not really expected from them hence I only did an incitement tour to find out what they hoped would make the performance of the school exemplary. In fact, in School B, teacher 6 made a comment that came out more or less like, “Come back in February and you will see what we have done by then” when they hoped their systems would be more stable and the developments would have been more embedded in their practice. This one of the downfalls of scale-scale research like mine; in some ways, it never seems completely comprehensive and complete.
Arrangement of the Data
For the purpose of record keeping, all the questionnaires filled and returned were stored both in print and electronic copies. This was to allow subsequent analysis and for the purpose of ensuring the security of the information. It also allows accountability accountable for the investigations and date collected. Field notes for this study were written based on the interviews and classroom observations.
A summary of the results obtained from state assessment test EOCT were considered because this test is aligned with the state’s curriculum. The EOCT test is taken at the end of student’s eleventh grade year. The data from this test was used as a pretest to determine students’ academic prowess in English courses. The participant’s growth was measured by comparing the students’ data from pretest and posttest scores and the change in scores will be used to address research questions. The tables have an indication of the average scores obtained from each test and outline the social reasons that may have affected the results and made them the way they are. The results were analyzed and the participants were grouped into two broad categories; the excelling students and the underperforming.
The criteria for this categorization was simply the national cut off mark which was 50% (C) above which one is considered as excelling regardless of whether they need to improve or not.
We then computed the mean averages from the scores and came up with Table 1.
|Excelling Students Underperforming Students|
|Social Pressure||Single Parent Male||Single Parent Female||Social Pressure||Single Parent Male||Single Parent Female|
|52% 74% 56%||40% 50% 26%|
|74% 82% 64%||60% 64% 58%|
Table 1 Mean Scores obtained in the tests; a pretest and a posttest as compared to the most likely social determinants that affect the results in most students.
The study was mainly guided by some questions that were outlined in the introductory sections of this chapter. These questions were concerned with the negative views some African American male students towards high school English courses hence low performances is most due to the struggle for cognitive comprehension of instructions given to them and the fact that 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.
To have a brief overview, the questions sought to find out if this behavior is modeled at home, by peers, or is it a sense of self-doubt and if the origin of a student is what shapes his experiences in high school. It also sought to find out if ethnicity, and/or race play a role in academic prowess as it relates to honors and advanced courses. It is for this particular reason that we came up with several hypotheses to try to illustrate what the study sought to find out and compared this to the truth on the ground as indicated by the results obtained from the study.
The most underlining reasons, as obtained from the survey the students took home were the fact that they have single parents who are always too busy since they were trying to pull strings together or were busy getting drunk, their neighborhoods were unsafe and people were intimidating them for being in school instead of protecting the “hood” and reasons like those. The results helped us answer the questions we had in the beginning of the study. For the information obtained in the study to be fully understood in relation to the social factors affecting the students to be clearly understood and the connection to be clearly outlined, the following hypotheses were developed.
Female Single Parents
This hypothesis stated that students with female single parents perform poorly in class and this will not change in any way even if the teacher gives them more attention and guidance during their classroom experience. This hypothesis was not agreed to.
Male Single Parents
This hypothesis suggested that students with illiterate male single parents would improve in their academic performance if given more attention and guidance through the art of scaffolding. This hypothesis was agreed to.
It was assumed that African American male students get pressure from their peers and relatives who are not in school and the situations in their neighborhood. More guidance was thought to have the ability to change their performance in class for the better. This hypothesis was agreed to.
Origin and Social life
It was predicted that the origin and social events in the lives of African American male students is not related in any way to their academic performance and experience in high school. This hypothesis was viewed as false.
Effect of Scaffolding
It was predicted that scaffolding does not have any potential to change the academic performance of the African American male students. This hypothesis was not agreed to.
In relation to the results in Table 1 above and the hypothesis of “Female Single Parent”, it can be seen that the students who came from a single parent family that only had the female parent were not really poor performers as suggested by the hypothesis. This is because the table clearly indicates that the students under the excelling category had an average mark of 74% and those in the underperforming had an average of 50%; both of which are above the cut off mark of 50% hence they are not the worst performers. Looking at the hypothesis of “Male Single Parent” the students with their illiterate fathers as the only parent are seen to perform very poorly.
This is because even the ones under the excelling category only have 4% above the national mean cut off point. The ones in the underperforming category are way below the cut off mark at an astonishing 26%. Looking at the hypothesis of “Social Pressure” it can be seen that the students did improve in their performance after receiving closer attention and guidance. It is however true that they perform very poorly in school due to the experiences they go through at home as indicated by the fact that they scored the lowest mark in both categories as compared to the rest; 52% in the excelling category as compared to the 74% and 56% in the other groups and 40% in the underperforming category.
Looking at the hypothesis on “Origin and Social Life” it can be seen clearly that the issues discussed above are all social issues and they are clearly affecting the trend and patterns of the students’ academic performance. On the hypothesis of the interrelation between scaffolding and the academic performance of the participants, it can be clearly seen from the table that the results or the scores attained after the study, which mainly took the art of scaffolding into practice, were all higher than the scores attained in the pretest.
For the results to be visually interpreted at a glance, the same data obtained from the study was transferred into two separate bar charts for the excelling category of the participants and the underperforming category.
Figure 1 Mean Test Results for both tests taken compared to the different social factors and situations face by the participants considered as excelling.
Figure 2 Mean Test Results for both tests taken compared to the different social factors and situations face by the participants considered as underperforming.
According to the hypothesis on “Female Single Parents,” students with female single parents perform poorly in class and this will not change in any way even if the teacher gives them more attention and guidance during their classroom experience. This appears to be false as the results indicate. From the results of the study, we can clearly see that such students have an exemplary performance in the classroom setting. For the category of excelling students, the participants with their mother as their only parent appear to have scored an average of 74% in their first tests. The participants that fell under this category but were not very exemplary in their performance in the tests scored an average of 50%.
This is the highest score in the category of the underperforming students. This therefore shows that the students, as opposed to the suggestion of the hypothesis, performed very well in their academics since they recorded the highest average for all categories. This can be attributed to the fact that the students, of male gender, have been proven to have a strong emotional affiliation to their mothers according to psychological studies. Further detail into this group of participants was acquired from the interviews carried out during the study. It was brought to light that that the reason for this performance was the fact that the students spent a lot of their childhood with their mothers who constantly encouraged them to make their lives better.
Most of the participants claimed that they had many problems as they grew up in terms of finances and casual day-to-day needs like shelter. Going through these problems together with their mothers amplified the emotional attachment between them and their mothers on top if the natural attachment that the males have towards their mothers. They therefore would keep on striving to be the best they can ever be for them to make sure their mothers were happy.
Advances in the field of neuroscience that seek to find and establish the development of the brain in the early stages of life. Brain scan taken at the tender age of a person have taken and indicate that feelings and emotional connection and understanding are hard-wired deep within the brain as one grows from one experience to another. This is because the vital chemicals that enhance the cognitive and social development of a person are released through the initial interactions with the caregivers at tender ages. These initial patterns are coded into the brain and the subject relates to most things in their life according to his code.
The African American male students were therefore keen in their adherence to the advice they received from their mothers. The results of this group were seen to shoot up after the study since the study applied a lot of scaffolding to the students. The participants’ improvement in terms of grades can be attributed to the fact that the researcher was seen to be very hands on in terms of the application of the things taught during the classroom experience. The improved levels of attention gave the participants the sense of belonging in the class and they felt more of students than clients of the school; as one of them commented. This extra emotional concern given by the teacher filled the void left since most of their parents were seen to be working tirelessly to ensure that the lives of their children were up and running.
This therefore limited the amount of time they spent with their children; leaving an emotional void that once filled made them whole hence, they improved in their concentration. The improved concentration led to the improved levels of cognitive understanding hence the improved grades since they felt like they didn’t have to insist in demanding that their needs be provided for hence they developed a sense of confidence in the instructor’s dependability in satisfying their academic and emotional needs.
They formed an internal working model of attachment that informed them of their self-worth and dependability if their instructors in providing the required attention and care (Bretherton & Munholland, 2008). The attachment henceforth realized lays the basis for the problem-solving and autonomous exploration (Bretherton, 2007) and makes the students be more accepting to the assistance provided by the instructor.
Moreover, during and after the research study, the participants felt the concern of other people towards their academic life. Normally, students brought up by single parents; whether male or female, express the fact that no one is particularly concerned with their academic life. So long as you go to school and do not get into trouble, you are a good son or daughter. They do not really; look into the performance reports and seek to find out why they reflect what they reflect.
This therefore does not give the student a challenge in terms of being scolded for failing a test or being encouraged to improve. The lack of encouragement and concern make the student lack the basis for comparison in terms of whether they are doing well or just average. With the study being carried out, the students felt the concern the researcher, who was also the instructor during the case study, presented and directed towards their academics. They therefore had a bearing in terms of where they were supposed to be headed.
Looking into the second hypothesis of “Male Single Parents” that suggested that students with illiterate male single parents will improve in their academic performance if given more attention and guidance through the art of scaffolding, the observation was seen to be true as suggested by the results. In the category of the excelling students, the students improved their grade from 54% to 64%. This level of improvement was remarkable considering the fact that the time frame was too small for noticeable changes to occur.
The same thing was observed in the category of underperformers where the average mark rose from 26% to 58%. These changes are very surprising considering the time frame through which the changes occurred. This is an indicator that the students had a lot of untapped potential and they only needed the special care, attention and the feeling of being wanted or belonging somewhere for them to be interested in the academic life.
The students under this category are said to be poorly performing because they are not given any attention from home. It is a proven psychological fact that men are not very emotional especially towards other men. The general case here is that most of the participants expressed the fact that their illiterate fathers do not value education and they prefer their children working in their homestead garage or something if that sort. They therefore do not provide most of the required resources for the optimum performance of their children like course books and other academic materials. The child, being raised majorly by a female figure does not know how to relate to the father and this affects how they interpret instructions given to them. In very intense cases, the students were seen to respond better to the instructions given by a commanding voice as opposed to humble requests.
This was thought to result from the fact that most of the students raised by a single male parent who is illiterate were used to the commands being given to them by their fathers when they came home drunk and ordered them instead of requesting them. The participants also made it known that the male parents sometimes, out of frustration, physically abuse them and make them do humiliating things in a way that seems to be like they are being punished for being in school. The constant mocking and commanding makes the students perceive school as a bad idea and they only attend school as a formality and not because they are hopeful of the impact education gas in their lives.
Psychologists say that some of the reasons as to why fathers behave in such a way are because they are full of regret and they have low self-image towards themselves. They appear as scared beings that feel threatened by the fact that they lack education and their sons are getting it hence they are scared of the time that their sons might become mightier than they are in the society and they will appear as failures. For this reason, they subconsciously try the best they can to jeopardize the lives of their sons so that they do not end up any better than they themselves do.
The events that take place in the students’ lives are very “heavy” (Creswell, 2012) and they are forced to spend more time contemplating about what happened at home in the previous night and try and anticipate for what might happen that night and the night after that. In most cases, the students think of themselves as a problem hence they have a low self-image too. They are normally very quiet as they are constantly thinking of ways to handle the things that happen at home. The result of this is that they end up bringing a lot of emotions and thoughts to school and this affect the way they interpret the instructions issued to them. The vitality of the instructions is the fact that it determines the interpretation and cognitive description of something hence they end up being underperformers in the academic scene even if they have the potential of becoming peak students.
It was observed from the results of the study that these students had a remarkable improvement of performance after the study. This can be attributed to the fact that they finally felt the importance of education in their lives since someone was constantly offering them help and advice in terms of thinking about their future goals in life. The concern therefore created a feeling in them that triggered their interest in the classroom work and since it is normal for them to express gratitude for good deeds done to them since they know how it feels when one is not appreciated; they strive to perform better to fulfill their promises to the instructor.
They initially do it for the instructor then get confidence in themselves through constant mentorship hence they start doing it for themselves; they strive to make their lives better. Moreover, they will perceive school as the place where they feel loved and they are not constantly commanded and shouted at. This will therefore make them love schools and their reason for attending school will transform from just a formality in attendance to a yearning to learn, socialize and make a life.
The hypothesis on “Social Pressure” assumed that African American male students get pressure from their peers and relatives who are not in school and the situations in their neighborhood. More guidance was thought to have the ability to change their performance in class for the better. When looking at the data obtained from the study, the schools that were visited were not below the national standards in term of resources since the government recently donated funds to boost the conditions of the schools that were thought to perform below the expected levels due to the lack of resources. Schools in Georgia, especially those in Metro Atlanta were the ones that suffered most in terms of performance fluctuations.
They were however allocated funds to ensure this situation is changed. The most underlying factors that affected the performance of the participants were not the resources rather the Socio-economic Status (SES). The schools in Georgia are surrounded by many middle-class neighborhoods. The poverty levels of the state were also very alarming. This resulted to the rise in gang crimes and drug cartel formation as a means of survival through the economic hardships. This was seen to play a part in some of the poor results obtained by the students in the area. The survey carried out during the study assisted me in identifying some of the ways through which the socio-economic status of the participants in relation to the social pressure they received from their friends was connected to the performance is school.
As mentioned earlier, the level of understanding instructions greatly affects the academic performance of the students. The relationship between the social pressure and academic performance comes along in the sense that the participants since they are not sure what is happening at home and they do not have the ability to live with the fact that something might have happened to their families while they were in school. Their minds are therefore pre-occupied during the learning experience since they are in constant thoughts and worry for the security of their siblings and family at large. They also live in a lot of fear since their drop out friends and neighbors constantly intimidate them with the fact that they are in school instead of protecting the “hood.”
They are therefore ashamed of being in school and in critical cases, they do not want to perform in school so that they do not get the spotlight and word comes out that they are doing great in school since this attracts a lot of jealousy from the “hood members” and jealousy among these people means injury or death of someone close to them in the verge of them proving a point; that they are more powerful even if they are not educated. They are also seen to sleep in school since they are always up through most of the night just in case anything happens. The performance of the participants is however observed to have been improving since they improved from 52% to 72% in the category of the students viewed as excelling and 40% to 60% in the students under the categories of underperformers.
The performance improvement can be attributed to the fact the researcher who was the instructor introduced a rather personal model of teaching; guided by the framework of zone of proximity. The instructor introduced a mood into the classroom that made it more of a comfortable learning zone and not just an academic experience. The participants were engaged in a personal way; they were asked questions about their lives and what they have planned for the future. This gave them a lot of emotional support since they were distracted from the world outside the four walls of the classroom and hence they were able to pay attention to the instructions of the instructor.
The improved level of focus ensured that they grasped the most information they possibly could and hence they improved in their cognitive adoption of information into their systems the participants in this category also had a lot of faith in monetary power. The instructor used the ideologies of the participants to create a means through which they can be encouraged; for such they were made to believe in the truth of studying hard enough to get a good job then become prominent hence have a lot of the money they wished to be in possession of.
They were urged to strive and go to college where they will be safer and they will have a better position to protect their families in terms of having a say in the society since knowledge is power and as you gain this knowledge, you get a better chance of getting monetary stability hence become a double-edged sword.
The hypothesis on “Origin and Social life” predicted that the origin and social events in the lives of African American male students is not related in any way to their academic performance and experience in high school. This definitely very wrong since all the issues we have discussed above have adverse effects on the results and performances of the participants. All these issues are social are socially oriented. The disapproval of the hypothesis can be explained when we look at the social cognitive theory.
This theory sets a lot of emphasis on the process through which a person acquires social behaviors and how this process affects the functioning of the brain. It lays emphasis on the fact that learning occurs in a setting with a lot of social influence and the basis of the process is the art of observation. This theory is widely applicable in the different stages and scopes of a student’s life like the choice of a career, group dynamic patterns and the health state of the mind and the body. The most relevant application of this theory is in the field of motivating students through the learning process (Pajares, 2008). The theory, like any other theory, is based on several assumptions like the assumptions that factors like behavior, personality and the environment or surrounding have a bidirectional influence on each other.
For example, in a learning environment like a classroom, the consumption of information during learning is shaped by the factors that fall under the academic environment with reinforcement of such factors as dictated by the individual. Simultaneously, the learning process is affected by the thought system, beliefs, and interpretation of the context themselves. The theory suggests that we have the capability to influence the patterns our behaviors will take through intent and goal setting.
It continues to emphasize on the fact that the environment should not be ignore since it plays a huge role in the development of our cognitive abilities but the ability of an individual to exert influence on the results they receive from a particular outcome through the art of self-reflection, self-regulation and meditation should be given superiority (Bandura, 2008). The fact that the changes in the social relations between the instructor and the participants were seen to affect the results obtained in the second test greatly shows that the level of cognitive comprehension is largely affected by social factors.
The hypothesis on the “Effect of Scaffolding” predicted that scaffolding does not have any potential to change the academic performance of the African American male students. This was seen to be false. This is because the act of scaffolding that dominated most of the study was seen to facilitate the improvement of grades in all the scenarios provided. All the grades of the participants were taken from a minimum of 26% to that of a minimum of 58%. This was a 40% overall improvement average grades in the schools.
Considering the short period of time the study took, the potential effect of the art of scaffolding in the teaching practice cannot be ignored. This therefore illustrates the importance of this practice in the enhancement of improvement of grades. When the technique is applied, the mentor or instructor gives the students tasks that give the learners the ability to build on the knowledge they had previously and incorporate new ideas into them to make a rather more comprehensive storage of information.
The instructor gave the participants activities that were seen to be just a notch higher than the current level of the participants. This was aimed at making the transition of the participants as smooth as possible when they are moving through what is referred to as the zone of proximal development. The participants were being introduced into a new world of new reading strategies and techniques and slowly by slowly, the supporting hand was meant to be weakened until the participants were strong enough to be responsible for their own growth. The researcher, also the instructor in the study, ensured that the students were used to the culture of applying what they learnt to their everyday life.
If it is a new vocabulary, they were supposed to start using it as soon as the instructor outlined what it meant. They were also taught on the different methods of verbal and non-verbal communication tactics that were meant to ensure they master the art of understanding the instructions that are given to them in terms of tonal variation, mood, and context of language, body language and main points from the verbal communication. This would ensure their abilities to grasp information as fast as possible was enhanced and geared towards the improvement of the grades and scores.
This was also a learning process for the instructor who discovered several means through which the teachers in different schools can improve the differentiation of the instruction they give to their students with particular concern to the struggling students. All these created an improved attitude towards learning and eventually led to improvement of the grades of the students as it was hoped for.
Limitations of the Study
The removal of a small group instruction from the district level limited the data collection process for African American males excelling in high school. The district level is too small as compared to the fact that the results were aimed at improving the education standards of the whole state. Moreover, the smaller district scope had to be zoomed in when just a small number of students and just eight teachers were involved in the study in terms of the case study, the questionnaire and other data collection methods used.
Another limitation was the fact that most African American male students do not enroll for the higher level courses hence they create a limiting factor in terms of the level of participation in the study. On top of the number of enrollees being small, the study had to use a small sample out of the already small number available. This created a lot of risks since the participants were open to leave anytime they felt their privacy was infringed, their grades were in jeopardy or they just did not want be part of the study any more.
The study was also very specific in terms of the race, origin, and sex of the participants. This also created similar risk as the ones mentioned above, risking having no participants if they quit.
The researcher was also the instructor of the participants during the case study. This created the risk for bias since the researcher had history similar to those in the study group as dictated by her past. This also meant that extra resources’ had to be used in the involvement of a third party auditor meant to ensure the issue of bias is well avoided I the data collected.
The study put its focus specifically on the English course. This therefore, meant that any more information will be needed in future study trips. The adoption of more subjects to the case would have greatly changed things since there would be a wider scope.
The limitation of time also created a problem since the study would have been carried out with a specific study group from their freshman year to their senior year for the report to be comprehensive enough since the data would have been more detailed hence a detailed and well-informed policy should be laid down.
Measures Taken for Protection of Participants
Permission was 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 were 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 schools were 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.
Data was collected from a school generated list and codes she 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 literature review conducted before carrying out the research provided an insight into the disparities that exist between African American and white American male students. Most reviews highlighted cultural aspects as major causes of the failure to transit from regular English courses to Advanced English courses among African American males. Therefore, there are high chances that the researcher may influence by this perception and believe that they must be present during this study.
Scope and Delimitations
The area of study was very expansive and may be covered and go within the time frame provided of the participant’s final year of high school. Triangulation method will be one of many used to gather data, observations, and interviews for validity, as well as clarification of researcher role and participatory modes of research. There may be the need to interview as many people as possible to collect different views. However, the sample population will be used to represent a small portion of region.
Reflections and Conclusions
Data for hypothesis
This study’s basis was two questions; How can African American males be encouraged to enroll in higher-level English courses? Are honors and advanced courses in school approached differently by people from different race, ethnicity, and/or backgrounds? Educators should create an environment conducive to establishing success for these students. This study has shown that positive family involvement in the education of African American male students helps promote a since of accomplishment and pride for the students, thus allowing them to feel confident in enrolling in higher-level English courses. The survey conducted in these southern families gave a glimpse of the challenges that both families and students experience in their daily lives.
Therefore, this had a general impact on the whole community and not just on the white families. It becomes important to understand the background for these learners as well as factors that influence performance of African American males academically.
Analysis of Self as Practitioner
I grew up a military child, living most of my life before primary school on military bases. When I reached the age of 7 years old, my father retired from the military and I began my academic career as one of two African American children in my class between the ages of 7 years old to 12 years old. As the only female student of color, I experienced racism and at times isolation in the classroom. My background allowed me to empathize with the participants in this study but also reflect on the strategies I employed to overcoming obstacles and endured hardships.
The role I undertook professionally is that of both the researcher and English instructor for the participants in the study. The relationship I build with my students was one of trust and respect. The learning environment is conducive to positive interactions and exchanges of ideas. No one person is wrong nor right, there are opinions shared and expressed among one another. The expectations from the English instructor are those of the utmost disciplined; failure is not acceptable, hard work and dedication is fostered, as well as help when needed.
The relations the researcher shared with the participants did not interfere with the data collection process. The safety of the participants was my number one priority in this study. If a participant felt as though:
- his grade was in jeopardy,
- he did not feel his privacy is being respected or,
- he no longer wished to participate, the student was at liberty to stop participating in the study, but he continued to receive the best possible education.
However, I feared that my experience would bias the qualitative phase of the study due to the ability to emphasize with the participants. I have experienced being called racial slurs, placed in “average” reading and writing courses, and not being thought of as a candidate for enrollment in advanced courses. To eliminate all possible bias l used an external auditor to review qualitative data from observations and interviews.
Completing this study is my contribution towards the improvement of academic performance of African American Male students in Clayton County Public Schools, where the achievement gap is still large between white and black students, as evidenced by state, national and international assessment results. The study will help students, parents, practitioner’s connection between academic performance and socialized instruction of African American males in high school English courses. As evident from primary and secondary data and information put together in the paper, 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. It is my humble submission in this study that change is required if these students are to succeed.
Through curriculum development with a focus on differentiated instruction, this study will guide educators on strategies to increase enrollment of African American males in advanced English courses. 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.
This project, as well as similar research provides 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 can be used to develop strategies aimed at promoting higher education among African American population. The expectation in this study is that these effective strategies will help make young people of color understand the importance of higher education. These strategies can be used to 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 in future. Of course, this does not mean that the developed techniques will be effective for Asian, Native or Caucasian male or female 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 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.
Several strategies, for example, can be employed to improve the performance of black male students. Differentiated instruction is one strategy that may be used throughout the school system when it comes to teaching various learning styles. Develop, in the curriculum, might be affective activities that can 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 will most likely allow 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 may affect society in two various ways. First, the use of differentiated instruction may 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. Possible outcomes may include improved comprehension, increased grades, and higher self-esteem. The effect of these outcomes will help African American males become globally competitive and empowered to reach higher academic and personal goals.
Proposals for Improving High School Attainment
Key to any strategy or approach aimed at achieving higher graduation rates in Georgia is gaining a better understanding of the dropout problem in each of the communities and the Georgia district as a whole.
It is necessary to note that, it is not only the family circumstances and the school environment, but also the neighborhood conditions that affect a child’s development. Psychological and developmental scholars consistently contend that, adult supervision and support during after-school hours are critical in shaping the behavior and attitude of children towards education. In most low-income neighborhoods, the socialization behaviors foster youth engagement in high-risk behaviors, particularly during after-school hours.
A 2009 survey conducted by the Afterschool Alliance indicated that, the inadequate number of afterschool programs put states at a bad position academically. Further, the barriers to participation in the limited after-school programs in the state included poor access to transportation, poverty and unwillingness by a majority of students to attend such programs (Messacara and Oreopoulos, 2013).
Poverty and family also play a critical role in shaping the capacity of young people to complete high school and pursue professional development in adulthood. The low-income neighborhoods contribute to the large numbers of impoverished families, fragile living situations, and the constant educational and community-based challenges experienced by male Africa-American youth. The social and economic consequences of residential segregation in the metropolitan areas not only contribute to the lower earnings, high single-parenthood rates, but also to the lower high school graduation rates in highly segregated areas in the district (Brooks, Donaghy & Knaap, 2012). Most findings revealed that, children from poor backgrounds are likely to develop a learning disability, and combined with the lack of access to relevant learning resources, such children are unlikely to graduate from high school.
Based on a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, published in the Annual Youth Behavioral Risk Survey Report, high school going youth in Georgia reported averagely high rates of risky behavior, fear of violence, psychological, economic, and social-emotional problems than youth in the state or the nation at large. The report indicated that, the harsh neighborhood conditions contributed to the high insecurity and safety rates in the neighborhoods and school premises. Of notable concern, is the high likelihood of African American male students failing to attend classes to indulge in risky behavior, and exhibiting risky behaviors.
The resulting problem of child abuse and homelessness contributes to the high dropout rate among African American male students. Mistreated children may experience long-term effects including stress, reduced self-esteem, aggression, withdrawal, inappropriate behavior and other socio-economic hardships. In 2009, more than 30, 300 cases of child abuse and neglect were recorded in Georgia, a rate of 14.2 per 1,000 children up to the age of 17. During the same year, at least 5.3% of Detroit children were placed in and out of foster care—indicating a rate of 12 per 1,000 children (Messacar & Oreopoulos, 2013).
Over the years, Georgia has recorded high violent crime rates. The constant threat of violence in low-income communities remains one of the contributing factors to the low enrollment and attendance levels among Georgia high school black youths. A report on Georgia crime rates in 2006 indicated that, more than 21,300 violent crimes were reported in Georgia (Perna, 2013). More information indicates that, Georgia has an averagely high rate of youth homicide incidences, with 30 percent of homicide victims being youth aged 24 and under, a further 85 percent were African-Americans, mostly males—a factor consistent with their considerable proportion in the overall Georgia’s population.
Therefore, with the struggle to contain the violence, the educational and educational success of young people in Georgia remains highly challenged. The perceived generation poverty cycle in most Georgia families, primarily results from a large percent of heads of households without a high school diplomas. Current figures indicate that more than 20% of family heads in Georgia are without a high school certificates and, therefore, not capable of gaining meaningful employment to support the academic achievement of their children.
The disconnection between state interest and federal demands on standards of education has often resulted into lack of efficient legislative actions to achievement gap problem in most Georgia schools. There is a need for increased state involvement to educate the population on the significance of high school graduation and encourage implementation of relevant legislative action to increase the legal minimum age at which youths can drop out of high school from 16 to 18 years (Rath, Rock & Ashley, 2013).
Schools in Georgia metropolitan area must adopt mandatory schooling laws to address the dropout problem among other benefits, such as reduced crime and lower rates of juvenile incarcerations in the low-income communities. Compulsory schooling in Georgia is also likely to contribute to the good emotional and health well-being of those students potentially at risk of dropping out since, the creation of a supportive school environment that can help to fight drug use and engagement in other impulsive behaviors including cigarette smoking, gang fights, and alcohol drinking (Messacar & Oreopoulos, 2013).
Compulsory education through lifting the school-leaving age can also lead to an increase in school enrolment by 1.7%. Information gathered during the study suggests that those African American students encouraged to stay and complete high school are more likely to proceed to a post-secondary education level. It is necessary to note that, while enforcing legislation to support compulsory education in Georgia, present opportunities to improve graduation rates, inadequate partnerships between the affected students, parents, teachers, caseworkers and principals present substantial challenges to implementation of compulsory schooling laws (Rath, Rock & Ashley, 2013).
State vs. Federal Role
The state is responsible for the legislation and implementation of compulsory schooling laws and education in general. On the other hand, the federal government is primarily concerned with encouraging states to develop and disseminate best practices and beneficial policies to enhance the quality of education based on a cost-benefit perspective.
Policies and programs implemented by the states and schools must focus on addressing the problem of school disengagement to help at-risk students from falling behind in their studies through practices, such as absenteeism, economic and social challenges at home and in school environments. Parents must also be encouraged to support their children and to provide motivation and procedures to guide their child’s level of engagement in education activities, school attendance and completion of homework (Ballard, 2010).
“In addition, the state and local governments should also invest more resources to improve enforcement of existing and new laws governing school enrolment and attendance” (Ballard, 2010). Introduction of punitive measures can also prove helpful to mitigate habitual absenteeism, delinquent behaviors through fines and sanctions to act as corrective measures. Conversely, such laws should be designed to encourage college attendance and to improve academic performance and career outcomes of black students in Georgia schools (Center for Child and Family Policy, 2012).
Cost and Benefits
Efforts to implement compulsory schooling through an increase in the minimum school-living age present both financial and non-financial benefits to individuals and to their communities. Although, it may prove difficult to quantify the actual benefits of compulsory schooling in Detroit, increasing the minimum age for dropouts can contribute to reduced cases of teenage pregnancy, reduced dependence on public-support programs, reduced crime rates, employment opportunities and increased economic and political involvement. Cost of this plan ranges from the cost of employing more caseworkers, teachers and truant officers to help the at-risk students.
Other additional cost would include the cost of attending class and student accommodation. It is noted that, a pupil in the United States on average spends about $12,300 per year (Messacar & Oreopoulos, 2013). There are also other indirect costs such as hiring of new teachers, developing new facilities and the challenges resulting from enrolling unhappy and disengaged teenagers in schools. Such intervention must be designed to enhance school attendance, academic participation and providing a strong educational foundation for students at risk of dropping out of school.
Special Needs Education
Autistic children present unique learning challenges due to their social withdrawal, especially because they lack the need for social approval, which makes it difficult to reinforce positive behaviour with social cues (Jewell, Grippi, Hupp, & Krohn, 2007). Additionally, their abnormal language development, leads to a general breakdown of communication between autistic children and their teachers as well as their peers. As such, techniques to educate autistic children should consider their abnormal reaction to stimuli.
In addition to this, due consideration should be accorded to the fact that autistic children have a preponderance towards similarity. The environmental setting adopted in educating autistic children is significantly different from that used in educating normal children. Alteration may be made to the instructional approach as well as well as to the aesthetic layout of the room. Changes in the layout of the room do not simply regard the physical room, but they also extend to participants (Jewell, Grippi, Hupp, & Krohn, 2007).
Jewell et al., (2007) recommend that autistic children be set within an environment that is not too highly stimulating. This can be achieved for example by avoiding a great variance in colours. For example, in one study, the researchers modified the learning environment to make it less stimulating. To do this, they removed decorations from the room, covered the furniture with covers of the same colour, whereas the teacher was instructed to wear a dress matching the covers. The result was a reduced self-stimulatory behaviour, with a corresponding increase in the on-task behaviour (Jewell, Grippi, Hupp, & Krohn, 2007). While teaching autistic children, teachers should minimize changes in the layout of the room and the position of objects. This is because autistic children prefer sameness.
Similarly, it is important to have a large enough room. If working within a small room, then it is advisable to reduce the clutter. The room should be divided into areas designated for a particular purpose. Autistic children normally have difficulties filtering out distracting visual and auditory stimuli (Ernsperger, 2002). Consequently, it is important for teachers to ensure the separation and distinction of visual cues when dealing with autistic children.
According to Jewell, Grippi, Hupp, & Krohn, Making changes too often or too quickly can result in tantrums or aggressive behavior (2007). The authors point to the fact that autistic pupils normally have difficulties adapting their behaviour at home and at school. Similarly, they experience difficulties switching from one teacher to another. Maintaining a regular schedule may extend to as far as having the same teacher teach the same student in the same discipline at the same location at the same time of the day (Jewell, Grippi, Hupp, & Krohn, 2007). “The consistency thereof reduces the child’s anxiety and eliminates the child’s urge to perform rituals” (Ernsperger, 2002).
Changes are a necessary part of the education process. Changes will occur for example when moving to the next item on the schedule. Changes may also occur on a larger magnitude when the student is graduating to the next grade or to the next level. To help autistic pupils cope with change, teachers can employ a variety of techniques. An important tactic to employ is the use of visual cues (Ernsperger, 2002). For example, the teacher might show a child an object or a picture that is related to the upcoming activity. Other techniques can include telling the child a social story.
Developing social skills
Autistic children often do not feel a need for social interaction. Their use of communication is normally limited to gaining objects or a desired activity (Chin & Bernard-Opitz, 2000). In some cases, the desire to fit in is present but the individual lacks knowledge on how to go about doing so. This is often the case in individuals with Asperger’s syndrome. Such students require explicit teaching methods to enable them to gain such skills and to assist them to understand social situations. One of these techniques is to use social stories. These stories have a variety of uses, some of which have been outlined. Effective social stories apply to the specific student’s perspective.
In addition, they are addressed from the student’s perspective. They should direct the student towards the desired behaviour. Teachers may develop these stories, or the parent may develop them. It is important to ensure that the language used in the story is a descriptive language. Cognitive picture rehearsals represent another technique that may be used to develop social skills. Picture rehearsals represent the information in a visual format, using either pictures or pictographs, and an accompanying script (Pierangelo & Giuliani, 2012). Guidance is achieved through a repetitive sequence of the desired behaviours.
Another disorder that teachers normally have to contend with during the teaching process is ADHD, also referred to as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders amongst children. Mayes, Bagwell & Erkulwater (2009) indicate that on average, 50% of the reported cases of psychiatric disorders are cases of ADHD. According to Sandler (2010), the three major symptoms associated with ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Inattention or attention-deficiency refers to the inadequacy of a child to maintain extensive spans of attention; hyperactivity is a characteristic of being overly active while impulsivity can be defined, in the simplest terms, as a difficulty in controlling behavior.
According to Mayes, Bagwell, & Erkulwater (2009), ADHD causes its subjects to behave intrusively by yelling and running around at inappropriate times. The effect is that they interrupt and interfere with the ongoing play interactions and consequently, they are “…overwhelmingly disliked by their peers” (Mayes, Bagwell & Erkulwater 2009, p. 24). Such disruptive behavior, when it spews over into the classroom, may make it difficult for teachers to deal with the students.
One of the reasons why it is sometimes difficult to deal with ADHD is its similarity to numerous other illnesses and conditions. According to Haber, (2003) there are many problems illnesses and disorders, which have their symptoms similar to those of ADHD. Some situations/conditions, which make it difficult for ADHD to articulate itself as a distinct mental disorder hearing and visual abnormalities, neurological illnesses, autism disorders as well as family alterations. Haber (2003) also indicates that in some instances, learning disabilities tend to be mistaken for ADHD, while in other cases; gifted children tend to be the victims of misdiagnosis.
This is because for learning disabled children, there slow learning pace makes it difficult for them to keep up with other students and this leads to inattention. Additionally, they may also exhibit irritability due to their failure to understand the content, and this may cause impulsive outbursts. As for gifted children, they portray inattention but this is simply because they have already understood the content being taught (Haber 2003). These are just two of the areas in which special needs education is most required.
From the data acquired during the study and the analysis that was done there henceforth, several factors were seen very crucial to the level of cognitive performance of the participants. The necessity of the art of scaffolding and the smooth transition at the zone of proximal development was seen to yield exemplary results in the academic arena. Several things are expected from the instructor for the results if the students to improve to the expected standards.
For instance, the instructors ought to engage the students to a personal level; they should strive to be mentors and nurturers people instead of just instructors who are doing their job to get paid. The study proved that an extra emotional touch from the instructor has booming results on the performance of the students. Once the students are engaged personally and emotionally, it will be second to nature that the instructor will know the interest of their students in a particular topic. This will assist in making them interested in the subject of the class hence improve concentration level were seen to be directly proportional to the level of performance of the students.
The instructors are also being advised to seek simpler ways of expressing their instructions and always seek to find out if the students are at par with the instructor in terms of understanding the subject matter. They should break the tasks down into smaller sections to enhance the in and out understanding of the topic at hand. They should also ensure they give the students the objectives and the goals of the topic before the topic in studied in detail. This will assist in making the students focus on the subject matter and to know exactly what is expected of them.
The fact that they know what is expected of them will largely contribute to the class participation since they will ask questions where they feel the expectations from the course are not at the same level with what is being taught; they know what needs to go where and when it does not, they will raise an alarm by asking a question. This makes the class sessions interesting since participation enhances concentration.
The instructor should also seek to eliminate any form of frustration from the students by anticipating for the most likely problems to be encountered in the course of the course work. Constant assessments should be done to make sure the expectations are clarified after every major milestone is overcome; the use of tools like rubrics and random assessment tests can be adopted to keep the students on toes all the time. The instructors should also ensure they are time-conscious in their classes so that all the goals of the course are met to satisfying levels and none of them is given any preference.
For the instructors to be able to differentiate the instructions they give to their students, they can allocate several group activities to the class. This will increase the group dynamism of the individuals in the class and at the same time create a shared goal for several students hence they will back each other up in the journey of attaining it. This will ensure a substantial amount of the goals of the course is achieved since some students struggle when working alone.
Other strategies that can be applied to ensure peak performance of the students include the provision of feedback that is clear to enable the students give themselves a personal assessment; an example is in the comments made in the cat papers when revisions are being assigned to the students. This will help the student to clearly understand where they went wrong and exactly how to correct it. They should also create an environment in which the students feel challenged to take a risk without being afraid of failing. They should encourage failure if it will make them learn something new; this will enhance their creativity, which is a very crucial in the academic scene.
Responsibilities also improve the level of involvement in class. Students should be allocated tasks and responsibilities like being a group leader to make them active in the class. This will also enable them exercise their social skills and talents that are not necessarily academic.
Education is basic tool to transmission of knowledge, societal values and skills. It is an area of prime importance at an individual, family, societal and national level. Voluntary agencies in the U.S. and other nations continue to commit many resources and time to achieve success in the educational enterprise. A book by Great Britain National Audit Office (2011) argues that the greatest investment a nation can make is in her people. The author further explains that education forms the basis of every other investment a nation could make such as good healthcare, which requires good doctors.
The greatness of any nation is further influenced by the people’s ability to gather, understand and utilize intelligent information on various aspects of the social, economic and political lives. A nation cannot afford to be ignorant if it has to progress. Moreover, in the same way a nation requires this, so do communities and people from different backgrounds.
There are numerous background variables, which have been identified to affect student performance. According to (Brookhart 1998), these variables pertain to different theories such as the theory of occupational choice, under career decision making and also under more general theories concerned with the effects of class and opportunity. Some researchers have found background characteristics such as gender and ability, though gender has been contested due to a lack of adequate scientific research verifying its effect. On the other hand, ability obviously determines effort and school-achievement, but it also generates interest owing to the call for schools to provide all students with equal opportunities for excellence (Brookhart 1998).
With a deep understanding of these factors, 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. Observantly, 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 are. (Gregory & Weinstein, 2008). Consequently, effective instruction and learning must ensue in the classroom.
There are five specific design principles for the focus of this study on improving the quality of education for African American males to excel. One is the fact that students are able to see themselves as competent and effective learners, or academic efficacy. Students must also set and work toward self-selected learning goals, or academic self-determination. The other important principle is a caring and authentic relationship between teachers and the students. In addition, students must have ongoing and rewarding friendships with their classmates and finally, families must know about and strengthen the learning that occurs in the classroom (Martins & Wilson, 2011).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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).
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. After identifying factors contributing to the achievement gap, it then becomes possible to offer solutions to not only closing the gap, but also 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. “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” (Mahrt-Washington, 2008,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 a student’s embrace to education, and it is also important to note that every student brings a unique culture to the classroom. In addition, students are not only influenced by their culture and they vary in the degree to which they identify and embrace them. Therefore, educators are required and expected to be knowledgeable about each of their students’ unique cultural backgrounds so they can translate that knowledge into how they drive their instructions and implement the 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:
- To review the nature of the problem of Black Male Development,
- To discuss ideas and evidence for the efficacy of interventions that might deliver better outcomes for this particular population,
- 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 one key in understanding how and why they learn in a particular fashion. Four recommendations were written and may be effective if the entire learning community buys in to the system. Mentoring, academic support with higher teacher expectations, Theory/evidence based practice that considers race, gender and class, and a multi-tier approach are recommended (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 essential 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.
There is an argument that African American male students lack proper role models in their lives, especially academic or intellectual role models. Most of them come from neighborhoods that experience an overabundance of negative perceptions and images of black people. 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. 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. The author also contends that because good values lack in inner neighborhoods, education programs have to eradicate the fear and notion of acting white when a black student performs well, which hinders academic success. Educators must combat this perception with positive role models in the African American community, as well as involving the family as part of the learning community.
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. 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.
Many researchers and a big part of research conducted in the past supports the need for family involvement in the middle and high school years to help students perform well. In addition, there is sufficient evidence that family involvement can be improved with positive results for youth and their school success. “Good results can only be achieved when there is a match among youth’s developmental needs, parents’ attitudes and practices, and schools’ expectations and support of family involvement” (Spence, 2009).
The author further explains involvement processes, as a way of developing a match. “These processes include; parenting system based on a positive attitudes, values, and proper behavioral practices of parents in raising young adult students” (Spence, 2009). It is also important to note that home–school relationships are what connect families and secondary school both casually, formally and traditionally. A parental responsibility to encourage good performance involves encouraging those activities that promote youth’s social and academic growth, by fostering disciple in school and in a community level.
“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” (Spence, 2009). However, it is important for every stakeholder to embrace change, since these processes evolve with time. In addition, every strategy must consider students’ need for independence, expand their social networks, as well as widen their cognitive capabilities. This in applicable in all strategies, including home-school relationships that add value to a student’s academics, parenting, and fostering a responsibility to ensure commendable learning outcomes.
Other background factors that have also been investigated include socio-economic factors and grades. Socioeconomic status is known to affect achievement in general. These socio-economic factors are especially those of parents. They include the academic and professional qualifications of parents, revenue and occupational affiliation. The statistical trend is that the student’s performance is positively correlated to the parent’s socio-economic status.
As such, students with a strong socio-economic background tend to perform better than students with a weaker social economic background. It is however hard to ascertain whether it is the good social economic background that independently results in better performance. Ali, et al. note that parents who are strong socio-economically provide a conducive psychological and emotional environment that generates the confidence and skills improvement required for success (2013).
When it comes to English achievement, a commonly considered variable is the number of books that are to be found back at home. Under the LSAY data set, a more elaborate set of home science resources is explored. These resources are such as atlases, calculators and computers. The findings are that just like the number of books present affects English, the presence of scientific tools affects performance in science subjects. When it comes to social factors, family size has been found to have a negligible effect on performance.
The main purpose of my study, which took a quasi-experimental path, was to tests the validity of the theories of triarchic view and the concept of the zone of proximal development. The main focus was placed on how these theories and concepts relate to the socialized instruction and how they influence the poor performance of the students in terms of the cognitive consumption of instructions and how the information received is digested to produce anticipated results.
The study also sought to find out why there is very poor enrollment in the advanced English courses as observed from the perspective of the African American male students in high school. The socialized instructions may give an overview of the attitude and the participation, the independent variable- through the social relations with peers, tutorials and differentiated instructions. The dependent variable being the measure of the level of academic performance and how they improved after the art of scaffolding was applied.
Ideally, a multivariate approach to analysis of the gathered information was very critical in application during the project. Factors like the 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, 2008).
Generally, the observation is 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’ decision on education. The scholars have largely doubted the validity of such studies that the cognitive and non-cognitive factors may manipulate the factors surrounding the academic decisions of the African American male students in high school. Recent studies indicate 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). Based on these assumptions, the mixed-method approach for data analysis allowed for a rationale, as presented previously, to provide the foundation for this project.
Expectations and aspirations pertain to what either the student, their parent or teacher, or any other relevant individual expects of the student. When it comes to educational attainment, expectations are particularly significant in affecting the outcome of science achievement (Brookhart 1998). Furthermore, students’ expectations have been indicated to have an effect on student participation in learning, either in the classroom or at a personal level.
Another factor that has been speculated to affect performance is performance standards. In their evaluation of performance standards, Natriello and McDille (1986), quoted in (Brookhart 1998), projected that standards held by parents, teachers and peers would significantly affect student performance. Peer and teacher standards did not have a particular correlative effect on performance. On the other hand, parent standards were found to be negatively correlated to student performance. However, the authors also speculated that the reverse was the case, whereby parents of children with weaker performance felt a need to set standards for their children. Another attempt towards conceptualizing the effect of performance standards on student performance is that they serve as motivational factors in the learning process.
Another perspective is that student’s performance is also affected by their learning preferences. Different students learn in different ways, others learn faster and yet others learn slower. Learning preference refers to how an individual naturally and habitually prefers to synthesize new information (Mlambo 2011).
Where a good match is established between the teacher’s instruction style and the student’s learning method, this leads to better performance. In order to achieve the best out of this approach to teaching, scholars propagating the theory concur that it is necessary to first establish a learner’s preferred style, then tailoring the instructorship program to suit this method. Mlambo (2011) goes on to outline four types of learners. These are verbal learners, who prefer to acquire their information when it presented through words. The author also explains that is of visual aids such as pictures helps visual learners learn better.
The third type is the audio/oral learner, who prefers to sit back and listen. Finally, there is the kinesthetic/tactile learner who is very active and cannot hold still for a long time. Then there are those students who are multimodal. Moreover, some of these modes tend to be more appropriate for certain disciplines with alternate ones serving better in enhancing the learning process in other different disciplines. The effect of learning preferences is that within a class setting, which employs a single mode of instruction, it is likely that there are several students who will not benefit from the process, and this can likely affect their learning process.
Yet another factor that affects the student’s learning process is class attendance. Up until 1993, there was scanty if any research into student attendance and their exam performance. Worldwide, there has been a noted decline in class attendance amongst college students. “Some of the most commonly cited reasons for lack of attendance include poor lecture delivery, work commitments and timing of lectures” (Mlambo, 2011). The author also explains that, students in the contemporary setting increasingly face financial constraints that make it necessary for them to seek jobs on the side. This is also the reason why there has been a sharp increase in the number of part-time students.
Further complicating the scenario is the advances in technology, which have made it possible for students to access class materials online, thus eliminating the need for presence in the physical classrooms. This combination of factors is what has led to an increased apathy towards class attendance. It is interesting to understand the consequence of this trend on student performance. Findings indicate that students who miss classes tend to produce poorer results than their counterparts who attend their lectures.
Mlambo (2011) indicates that the utility of these findings is however constrained by their inability to isolate attendance from factors such as motivation, intelligence and prior learning experiences. Findings by Durden and Ellis (1995), which included a control for background, ability and motivation, indicated a nonlinear effect between absenteeism and learning, whereby a little absenteeism does not affect grades but excessive absenteeism does.
It has been indicated above that past student performance is a correlative cohort for current student performance. As such, entry qualifications and prerequisites also affect performance. The theory underlying this assertion is that since learning is a cumulative process, students who have higher scores upon recruitment posses a significant advantage in comparison to those admitted with lower grades (Mlambo 2011). Thus, educators can assess their students to determine how well or how ill prepared the students are based on their entry qualifications and prerequisites.
The Coleman report, released in 1960, made some important revelations on how racial interactions affect student performance. According to the report, the performance of students from ethnic minorities is more likely to be affected by school facilities than the performance of white students. Overall, school facilities are not found to have a major effect on the performance of students. The report indicates that some of the facilities, which actually have a correlative effect with performance, include science labs. It also finds that these facilities are inadequate in schools characterized by ethnic minorities. However, teacher quality significantly affects the performance of high school students, with the magnitude of this effect being positively correlated with the learner’s grade. Just like in the case of facilities, minority students are affected more by teacher quality than majority students.
Several factors affect how different students perform in school. Finding of the Coleman report is that the educational background and aspirations of fellow students affects the performance of students. Again, the effect was more pronounced in ethnic minority students than in ethnic majority. An example outlined is that if a white student from a well-off background, which values education, is placed within an environment where fellow learners do not hold similar values, and then their performance will not be significantly affected. On the contrary, a black student from a not so well to do family, which does not value education is placed within a setting where fellow learners have a high degree of regard for education, then the students’ performance is likely to improve significantly.
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