Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems? High-Achieving Black High School Students' Experiences with Resources, Racial Climate, and Resilience

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems? High-Achieving Black High School Students' Experiences with Resources, Racial Climate, and Resilience

Article excerpt

The lower rates of college enrollment for Black students make it important to understand both how different high school environments affect college preparation and matriculation and how some students are able to succeed despite the environmental barriers faced in school. This multi-site case study explores the college preparatory processes of nine Black high achievers attending a well-resourced, suburban high school and eight academically successful Black students attending a low-resourced urban school. Findings indicate students at both schools encounter barriers (i.e., racial climate and a lack of resources) that inhibit their college preparation. Despite these obstacles, participants demonstrated resiliency, which kept them focused on their educational goals and desire to attend college.

I don't know. . .sometimes it's hard when you're in honors or AP classes and there are not very many minorities in it. 'Cause it, psychologically, it's like you can't afford to be wrong. 'Cause then everybody's like, he don't know what he's talking about. He's another, you know.

Black Male, Twin Oaks High School

Some of the counselors they kind of like learn right along with us. And our counselor in particular she tries really hard to make sure that we have the information that is needed to us, but sometimes, you know, she may not have all the information.

Black Female, Bennett High School

The disparity between the matriculation rates of Black students and their peers is a nationwide concern; however, the gap in access to higher education, especially at public colleges and universities, is particularly wide in California. Black students make up 8% of the California student population, yet only 3% of Californian public school students enrolled at institutions in the prestigious University of California system are African American (California Postsecondary Education Commission, 2005). Much of this under representation is rooted in the disparities between Black students and their peers in college preparation and eligibility. A third of California high school students met all eligibility requirements for the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems in the 2003-2004 academic year; however, only 25% of Black students fulfilled the UC/CSU eligibility criteria while 56% of Asian students and 40% of White students were UC/CSU eligible (Education Data Partnership, 2005).

This study is a contribution to the wider effort to leam more about and to address the sources of this gap in college preparation and attendance by examining the experiences of Black high school students across different educational contexts. Factors such as cultural differences, peer influences, and socioeconomic status (SES) have been cited as having a negative influence on Black students' college attendance rates (Hossler, Braxton, & Coopersmith, 1998; McDonough, 1998; Ogbu, 1994). However, in addition to acknowledging the importance of these factors, it is imperative that the role school environments and resources play in shaping Black students' college preparation processes are explored. As an attempt is made to determine environmental factors that contribute to the achievement gap between Black students and their peers, it is also important to gain a greater understanding of how talented minority students have managed to translate their struggles and limited access to opportunities into academic success. The experiences of high achievers, especially those who are African American, have received limited attention from researchers; most of the research done on gifted students has reflected the experiences of middle-class, White students (Ford, Harris, Tyson, & Trotman, 2002). Recent research has begun to address how social and educational environments influence the performance of high-achieving Black students (Datnow & Cooper, 1998; Harmon, 2002; Hébert, 1998; Hemmings, 1996; Lee, Winfield, & Wilson, 1991). …

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