Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Belonging, Educational Aspirations, and Academic Self-Efficacy among African American Male High School Students: Implications for School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Belonging, Educational Aspirations, and Academic Self-Efficacy among African American Male High School Students: Implications for School Counselors

Article excerpt

While academic self-efficacy is widely considered an individual cognitive variable, it may be influenced by a sense of belonging and connection to others in the school community. Using a correlation and multiple regression design, the study in this article examined the relationship between perceptions of school belonging, educational aspirations, and academic self-efficacy among 40 African American male high school students. Results indicated that feeling encouraged to participate and educational aspirations were significant, positive predictors of academic self-efficacy. Other components of perceptions of school belonging were not significant in predicting academic self-efficacy. Recommendations for future research and practical suggestions for school counselors are discussed.

A considerable amount of research in the past 20 years has focused on the "achievement gap" that exists between affluent and White students and their less affluent and minority counterparts, with particular attention being given to the achievement gap between African American students and White students. Although African American students made some initial strides in narrowing the gap, research indicates that the gap has actually widened in the past 10 years, with African American students still accounting for 14.7% of all dropouts-nearly twice the rate of White students (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Research shows that lowerincome and minority students often attend underfunded and dilapidated schools with limited course offerings, are served by underqualified and inexperienced teachers, and are less likely to have access to rigorous courses (Education Trust, 2007). These deficits of access and resources, described as the opportunity gap, are suggested to be major contributors to the disparity in achievement (Holzman, 2006).

School performance of African American males in particular has been an area of concern in both educational and public arenas (Education Trust, 2003; Holzman, 2006). Recent studies and national media have highlighted evidence that shows great disparity in school outcomes between African American males and other student populations. National statistics continue to show significant differences in high school graduation rates, college attendance, and completion rates between African American male and White students, none of which favor African American males (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). Moreover, African American males are still more likely to be in the lowest academic track, to be disciplined more often, and to be negatively stereotyped by teachers than White students (Holzman). Perhaps the most telling statistic is that the graduation rate for African American male students was just 45% in 2004, compared to 70% for White males (U.S. Department of Education).

In addition to disparities in achievement levels between African American male students and White male students, disaggregated data reveal African American males also are achieving at much lower levels than African American females (Holzman, 2006). This within-racial group gender gap is the widest gender gap of any student demographic group. The gender gap is evident in a number of achievement variables including the college graduation rate. Of all African American males enrolled in college, only 34.2% graduated as compared to 44.7% of African American females (Education Trust, 2007). In fact, the college graduation rate of African American males is the lowest of any group. The consequences of failing to properly educate African American males are grave. Not only are African American males less likely to attend and complete college, but they are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed, and they are incarcerated more than any other gender-race group.

Multiple hypotheses have been suggested to explain the lower performance of African American students generally and African American male students specifically compared to their White counterparts. …

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