How Can the Success of African American Students be Achieved?
Research, past and present, always focuses on the shortcomings of African-American students. This leads to the question: How Can the Success of African American Students be Achieved? A current trend in all education studies is the influence of parental involvement and how they can help students get over these shortcomings.
These shortcomings include, but are not limited to, academic failure, behavioral problems, low aptitude, and teen pregnancy. African-American students are often times misdiagnosed by white teachers who do not understand the African-American culture. As a result, many African-Americans’, particularly males, are labeled and placed in special education classes, suspended at higher rates then their white counterparts, and end up in the correctional system where there are more African-American males in prison than in college. These outcomes are severe problems in the African-American culture.
Every student’s success is important to ensure a brighter future in order to ensure the best business and political leaders of diverse backgrounds of tomorrow. Through parental involvement teachers may be able to find ways to make better learning experiences for their children. Teachers are not mind readers and may need to establish a better understanding of what the student and parent needs. This is a two sided mirror, however, requiring parental involvement.
Williams (2004) reviews the correlation between the studies of W.E.B DuBois (1868-1963) and current educational needs of African American students. Williams looks at DuBois’s theory of family involvement in education. There is a focus on the structural social dimensions that justify a role for parents, students, teachers, and communities.
Through academic research from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, DuBois found parents provide direct and indirect support to their children in their education. The direct support provided includes the development of social skills and character needed to prepare them for interaction in formal education. The indirect support included supportiveness in their interests, reinforcement, and their attitude towards education.
In order to support parents influence on education, DuBois found a community network provided the supportive relationships needed to lead to a positive outcome. Due to the different backgrounds and situations of families, DuBois found positive reinforcement provided by teachers, other parents, church members, and other individuals with whom the parents and student may interact provided the social structure a young African American need in order to value and respect education.
Slavin and Madden (2004) compared the use of the Success for All (SFA) program with a regular school environment. Success for All was tested in inner-city schools to target the African American and Latino population. The purpose of success for all was to influence the success of minority students through curriculum, parental involvement, and assessments.
Successes for All students were first assessed in kindergarten or first grade along with regular students. They were then traced through their education as far as the study could follow. The Success for All students were found to have the knowledge and skills of a student half a grade above them in comparison with regular students as they progressed.
Success for All encompassed smaller class rooms, wider curriculum, tutors, eight week assessments, and family support teams within the school. The Success for All study found the greatest impacts to be the reduction of class size from 22 to 15 students due to the quality of the instruction increased and the strong parental involvement.
Thomas-Richmond (2004) reviews the research completed by Gail Thompson. The purpose of the research was to find ways to improve the education of African-American community by getting feedback from the students parents. Thompson identified the trend in educators stating more parental involvement was needed in education; therefore, a study of parents and review of classroom teaching habits was reviewed to identify what was needed.
There were 129 participants questioned in the study. The study asked the parents to provide feedback about their children’s educational experiences. These same parents were asked to contact their child’s school and review the educators’ behavior in the classroom.
The responses parents provided regarding educators varied depending upon their child’s like or dislike of school. Parents with children that enjoyed school believed the educators cared; however, parents with children that disliked school believed the educators did not care. Parents also believed the high level of suspension rates and discipline rates were contributing factors of poor grades and low opinions of teachers. The parents that engaged in classroom reviews found a common theme; African American students were not engaged by the teacher in classroom discussions, readings, and other activities.
Juhasz (2004) studied how teachers and parents form the future of African American family involvement in education. Juhasz began the study believing there were three traits the parents and teachers must exemplify: quality, respect, and inclusion for all stakeholders.
Juhasz reviewed the influence of the parent and child finding it is the most tangible since it influences a child’s learning wants. Juhasz also correlated the parent relationship with an educator’s leadership ability. Both relationships were then compared with a child’s need of belonging and self esteem.
Juhasz found that all parents and teachers are equal stakeholders. As parents and teachers, these stakeholders need to utilize three strategies to ensure the success of the children. The strategies include: Asking the children how they want the parent(s) to be involved in their education. Create a family environment engaging all students. Use a child and their family skills and strengths to create opportunity. Juhasz’s finding backed her theory of the three traits parents and teachers must exemplify.
Roach (2003) studied the relationship between parents of middle to high income African American students and why their children were not succeeding at the rate of their white counterparts. Roach chose to research this due to many middle to high income African American families were hiring outside sources to find out if there was a variance in education.
Roach interviewed students first and then parents before drawing conclusions.
Roach’s study found African American students felt they did not work as hard in school as white students. These students felt there were variances in the accepted appropriate behavior of white students compared to them.
When Roach studied the parents he found those that had hired outside sources to identify the problems with their child’s academic level were not attending parent teacher conferences or supervising homework. Roach found the parents did not realize the active role they needed to take with their children and instead they were pressuring only the teachers.
Parental involvement is a common factor in all of the articles, but William’s review of DuBois serves a very interesting purpose. DuBois had knowledge of the influence of parents in education before the current research findings. Like DuBois, Slavin and Madden’s SFA program, as well Juhasz’s study, establishes the need for a student to feel belonging through a network of relationships in not only school, but their community which is supportive of their education. For the SFA model it was through the parental forum in the schools. The belonging and esteem built through DuBois was the structure the community provides in establishing a place for everyone in that community. For Juhasz, the support was provided through the parent and teacher both providing a family style environment.
Thomas-Richmond reviews what parents think their children need in education with most parents indicating they are disappointed with the way their children are being treated in the classroom. This article conflicts with Roach’s conclusion of parents not being involved enough to promote their child’s education. The Thomas-Richmond review does, however, favor comparably to the SFA study which found the students with more individualized attention through smaller classrooms was a great benefit.
Although it is just one of many factors affecting education, parental involvement plays a very large role. In reviewing the research completed, parental involvement, teachers, and other members of the community can assist in influencing education. Although a parent cares whether their child received an ‘A’ or an ‘F’ grade, it is not enough. Parents must be active by involving themselves in school activities, their children’s assignments, as well as playing a one-on-one role with their child and educators. Active parents could be the key to greater achievements among African American students.
Juhasz, A. (2004, January). Conclusions: The Future of Family Involvement in Schools in African-American Communities. Negro Educational Review, 55, pp. 59-65. Retrieved May 17, 2007, from the Proquest Journal database
Roach, R. (2003, April 24,). Overcoming the Black-White Acheivment Gap. Black Issues in Higher Education, 20, pg. 34. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from the ProQuest database
Slavin, R., & Madden, N. (2006, Summer). Reducing the Gap: Success for All and the Achievement of African American Students. The Journal of Negro Education, 75, pg. 389. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from the Proquest Journal database
Thomas-Richmond, J. (2005, Spring). What African American Parents Want Educators to Know. The Journal of Negro Education, 74, pg. 90. Retrieved May 17, 2007, from the Proquest Journal database
Williams, R. (2004, January). W.E.B Du Bois amd the Socio-Political Structures of Education . Black Issues in Higher Education, 55, pp. 9-27. Retrieved May 17, 2007, from the Proquest Journal database