Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Mentoring Urban Black Middle School Male Students: Implications for Academic Achievement

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Mentoring Urban Black Middle School Male Students: Implications for Academic Achievement

Article excerpt

Researchers have called for innovative and culturally responsive intervention programs to enhance male, Black middle school students' academic achievement. Mentoring has received considerable attention as a novel remedy. Although anecdotal evidence supports the positive role of mentoring on academic achievement, these results are not consistent. The Benjamin E. Mays Institute (BEMI) builds on the ideals of mentoring to counter the effects of academic underachievement among adolescent Black males by building a model that is Afrocentric; uses prosocial modeling; and emphasizes cultural strengths and pride, and single-sex instruction in a dual-sex educational environment. From a sample of sixty-one middle school Black males, results revealed that students in the BEMI program had significantly greater academic attachment scores and academic success than their non-mentored peers. Additionally, racial identity attitudes of immersion/emersion and internalization and identification with academics were also significantly associated with standardized achievement tests and GPA. Policy and practice implications are discussed.

Myriad studies have documented how institutional, environmental, and individual factors contribute to the achievement gap between Black and White students (Stinson, 2006). While education is the institution used in America to distribute social status and economic power, and facilitate how society functions, it has not accepted or provided equal opportunity to all members of this society (Ogbu, 1997, 2003). Understanding how education is used to distribute the resources of society requires careful attention to the factors that preclude and those that promote equal opportunity and academic success for Black youth, and specifically boys (Stinson, 2006). Many of the studies that examine academic differences have been deficit-focused with emphasis on lower standardized test scores compared to White students, the experience of cultural deprivation and structural discrimination, an "anti-intellectual" attitude, and less socialization to education achievement (Cokley, 2003; Griffin & Allen, 2006; Ogbu, 2003; Stinson, 2006). A burgeoning amount of investigations have begun to examine the factors that foster the academic success and achievement of Black students, including mentoring, racial identity, and identification with academics (Awad, 2007; Datnow & Cooper, 1998; Harris, 1999; Osborne, 1999; Witherspoon, Speight, & Thomas, 1997).

Building interventions that understand the factors that preclude and include Black students in the academic environment is crucial to lessening their adverse experiences. Little research has examined the effectiveness of culturally informed mentoring strategies on academic achievement for early adolescent Black middle school boys. This study seeks to build this work by examining the impact of an Afrocentric mentoring intervention on the academic success of Black middle school boys. The study also examines the effects of racial identity and identification with academics on statewide standardized tests, and eighth-grade grade point average (GPA). The value of this approach rests on Awad's (2007) observations that few studies have explored the relationship between cultural factors and standardized achievement tests.

IDENTIFICATION WITH ACADEMICS AND ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT

Several scholars hypothesize that students' identification with academics is an important component of academic success (A wad, 2007; Osborne, 1999). Operationally, academic identification is "the extent to which academic pursuits and outcomes form the basis for global self-evaluation" (Osborne 1999, p. 59). Osborne asserts that students who have high identification with academics will be more motivated to perform academically since their self-esteem is tied to then academic success. However, if a student has low identification with academics, they are more likely to detach from academic tasks, and thus are more likely to perform poorly academically. …

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