Time Perspective and School Membership as Correlates to Academic Achievement among African American Adolescents

Article excerpt

The number of studies that examine African American adolescents has grown steadily over the past two decades. Educators and researchers are slowly moving from cross-ethnic comparative studies of African American adolescents to studies that enhance our understanding of how gender, style of living (urban, rural, suburban) and socioeconomic status shape African American adolescents within the context of ethnicity (Brown & Jones, 2004; Davis, 1994; Rouse & Austin, 2002; Scott-Jones & Clark, 1986). At the heart of these studies is growing concern among educators to address gender differences in academic achievement among African American adolescents (Ferguson, 2003; Hubbard, 2005; Oyserman, Bybee, & Terry, 2003; Roderick, 2003; Rouse & Austin, 2002; Saunders, Davis, Williams, & Williams, 2004). Studies show that African American males, when compared to African American females, are disproportionately represented on negative indices of academic achievement (Frederick Patterson Research Institute, 1997; Hubbard, 2005; Roderick, 2003; Saunders, Davis, Williams, & Williams, 2004; Williams, Davis, Cribbs, Saunders, & Williams, 2002). African American males are less likely to graduate high school and tend to report fewer academic aspirations than do African American females. Discrepancies in academic achievement among African American adolescents suggest a need to further study what some researchers speculate is a gendered racial culture among these youths (Hubbard, 2005; Oyserman, Bybee, & Terry, 2003; Scott-Jones & Clark, 1986). Researchers suggest that African American adolescents function in a climate of expectation predicated on gender where teachers view African American females more favorably than males, perhaps contributing to the gap in their achievement (Holland, 1991; Kesner, 2002; Ross & Jackson, 1991). The current study examines the relationship of academic achievement to time perspective (present, future) and school membership (belonging, acceptance, rejection) among low-income urban African American adolescents.

Time Perspective and Academic Achievement

Future time perspective (FTP), defined by the extent to which an individual thinks about and plans for the future, motivates academic achievement (Nurmi 1991; 2004). Critical to an internal motivation to achieve academically, according to Nurmi (1991), is the ability to connect current academic performance to future goals and aspirations. An optimistic and extended FTP encourages adolescents to set goals and to develop strategies that would enable them to reach their goals. A present time perspective has been found to negatively relate to academic achievement (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999). Oyserman, Terry, and Bybee (2002), as part of a study of African American middle school students, developed an after-school program to study connections between current academic performance and images of self in the future. Over the course of nine weeks, 62 middle school students were encouraged to imagine themselves as successful adults. The study found that students who were encouraged to image themselves as successful adults were more concerned about their academic achievement and worked harder to develop strategies that would enable them to become successful adults than were students in the control group.

Studies examining gender differences in the connection between time perspective and academic achievement have produced mixed results (Greene & DeBacker, 2004). Earlier studies found that females tend to set fewer long-term goals and to be more pessimistic about reaching their goals than males (Nurmi, 1989; Greene & Wheatley, 1992; Trommsdorff, 1986). Contributing to the pessimistic view of the future among females was the expectation of negotiating more life transitions than males and of having to place on hold their future academic and career goals for marriage and family. Females anticipated a more hurried life trajectory than males, marked by a rush to complete their education and move into a career before starting a family (Greene & Wheatley, 1992). …