African American Family Life: Ecological and Cultural Diversity

By Vonnie C. McLoyd; Nancy E. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Family Practices and School
Performance of African
American Children

Oscar A. Barbarin, Terry McCandies,
Cheri Coleman, and Nancy E. Hill

Knowledge is the power that gives us wings to soar.

—FREDERICK DOUGLASS

This simple but poetic declaration underscores the faith African Americans have long placed in education as a means of overcoming social inequities and economic disadvantage. This statement is more than a reminder of that faith; it is a call to action. It extols not only valuing knowledge but also pursuing excellence in education as a means of shaping the destinies of African American children. In many ways African Americans have heeded this call, nurtured high expectations of academic achievement, and retained education as a central value. Over the past 50 years, rates of high school and college graduation have steadily increased. Standardized academic test scores for African Americans rose steadily from the mid-1970s through the 1990s (Grissmer, Kirby, Berends, & Williamson, 1994). This rise is due in part to the increased levels of education attained by African American mothers. Grissmer and colleagues (1994) note, for example, that in 1970 only 7% of African American mothers of 15- to 18-year-olds had a college degree and 38% lacked a high school diploma. In 1990, 16% were college graduates and only 17% lacked a high school diploma. In 2000 the percentage of African Americans ages 25 and older who were high school graduates

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