Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Urban Public Schools for African American Students: Critical Issues for Educational Stakeholders

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Urban Public Schools for African American Students: Critical Issues for Educational Stakeholders

Article excerpt

In recent years, much attention in popular and scholarly literature has been given to urban education (Cartledge & Lo, 2006; Chambers, 2006; Kozol, 1991, 2005). A critical review of this literature, alarmingly, illustrates a gloomy depiction of American urban school systems. Low test scores, high dropout rates, run-down facilities, high teacher turnover, and excessive crime are some of the many characteristics used to describe urban school districts across the United States (Gale, McNally, & Pack, 2003; Kozol, 1991; Landsman & Lewis, 2006). Some of the nation's most vulnerable student populations are the individuals who frequently find themselves in these school environments (Cartledge & Lo, 2006). The demographic profile of urban schools is commonly Black, Brown, and poor, whereas the suburban school systems are predominately White and middle class (Cartledge & Lo, 2006). Nevertheless, a high-quality education, too often, seems unattainable for these individuals who attend inner-city school systems.

Because of the apparent decline in urban schools, many Whites and affluent families have fled to the suburbs and/or opted to transfer their children to private schools (Gale et al., 2003). Consequently, numerous urban students are unable to access social and economic resources that Whites and middle class families traditionally bring to urban school settings (Darling-Hammond, 1997). Stated differently, schools of urban students are left segregated, due to White and middle class flight from urban communities (Kozol, 2005). Urban students are also unable to access important educational resources, such as small class sizes, high qualified teachers, advanced technologies, and accelerated/gifted courses afforded to suburban school systems (Darling-Hammond, 1997), due to limited economic resources caused by the reduction of tax bases (Gale et al., 2003).

Many stakeholders, both internal and external of urban school systems, believe that urban youth are more at-risk than students living in other places in America (Kozol, 2005; Obiakor & Beachum, 2006). Even with the odds against them, there are many success stories in public urban schools (Corwin, 2000; Reid, 2007; Suskind, 1998), but they are rarely heard or chronicled. Instead, the public has focused much of its attention on the failures rather than successes. To this end, the word urban has become synonymous with the terms poor or at-risk (Howard, 2007). Aligned with this thinking, Obiakor and Beachum (2006) asserted that urban schools reflect the apparent inequities in society, as well as their communities where they reside. It is clear that inadequate resources and support of urban schools corresponds with the racial and economic inequalities found throughout American society. It is also evident that America remains deeply divided (Chambers, 2006; Kozol, 1991, 2005; Noguera, 1996).

Over the last couple of decades, research has focused more on African American students in PreK-12 urban educational environments. Much of this research has been produced in the form of books, monographs, articles, conference papers, and policy briefs. Such research has frequently provided in-depth details on the experiences of African American students in these kinds of educational settings (Flowers, Yang, Moore, & Flowers, 2004; Ford & Moore, 2004; Grantham & Ford, 2003; Lewis & Moore, 2004; Moore, 2006; Moore, Ford, & Milner, 2005, 2006; Thompson, 2004). However, very little, if any, of this research has provided answers to guide the practices of educational professionals (e.g., teachers, school counselors, principals, etc.) and other stakeholders (e.g., parents) in PreK-12 urban educational settings. As a result, this special theme issue of The Journal of Educational Foundations seeks to present comprehensive research that focuses on pertinent, but often under- researched, topics in urban education. To this end, the overall intent of this special issue is to: (a) contribute to the scant and limited body of research that focuses on educational professionals in urban educational settings; (b) present findings of different studies that focus on the role educational professionals play in improving school outcomes for African American students in PreK-12 urban educational settings; and (c) provide specific recommendations to educational professionals and other stakeholders for improving the school outlook for urban African American students. …

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