Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Risk, Protection, and Achievement Disparities among African American Males: Cross-Generation Theory, Research, and Comprehensive Intervention

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Risk, Protection, and Achievement Disparities among African American Males: Cross-Generation Theory, Research, and Comprehensive Intervention

Article excerpt

In this post-industrial global society, parental and student role strains may exacerbate social-ecological risks and academic difficulties of African American male students. Therefore, school-based interventions must ensure rigorous preparation, promote successful navigation of social-ecological risks, and mobilize cultural-ecological strengths to improve student achievement. To clarify these factors this study reviews literature supportive of a cross-generation role strain and adaptation model and presents exploratory analyses of data from a nationally representative sample. The study utilized the three-generation National Survey of Black American Families available from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. The sample consisted of 331 African American male and female students ages 14-24. Implications for policy and academic interventions to promote successful academic outcomes among African American males are presented.

INTRODUCTION

Researchers, policymakers, and educators increasingly acknowledge that low K- 12 academic performance, high school completion, and higher education participation levels for African American males represent a national crisis. National data reveal that African American male students are underperforming at alarming rates across the K-12 educational pipeline, as well as in their college attendance and completion rates (National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), 2003; Toldson, 2008). Moreover, educational policy experts and practitioners point to the low academic performance and college attendance levels of African American males as a growing national concern (National Urban League, 2007; Schott Foundation, 2008). While the overall high school graduation rates and college participation rates for African Americans in higher education have grown steadily over the last two decades, African American college enrollment continues to lag behind that of Whites and Asians, and the majority of the Black increase can be largely attributed to the enrollment of African American women. For example, in 2000 the percentage of 18-24 year old Black Non-Hispanic students enrolled in college was 31% versus 39% for NonHispanic Whites (American Council on Education (ACE), 2002; NCES, 2003). Of those African Americans enrolled in college, 67% were women and only 33% were men. Moreover, African American men ages 18-24 showed an overall decline in college participation rates from 25.1% in 1996 to 24.9% in 2000 while African American women showed an overall increase from 28.4% in 1996 to 35.1% in 2000. In similar fashion, the completion rate of African American men stood at 73.7% in 2000 while the rate for African American women was just under 80% (ACE, 2002; NCES, 2003).

The multiple reasons to be concerned about the K- 12 performance and higher education participation rates of African American men are increasingly the subject of debate within both research and public policy circles. These include the challenges that the growing race by gender achievement gap pose for restricted career options, family formation, and the overall stability of African American communities. Moreover, the need for amelioration becomes especially acute when these trends are coupled with the data on incarceration rates; state-level spending trends for higher education versus corrections, and the abysmal statistics on employment rates for African American adolescents and young adults. A growing body of research points to a wide range of factors to explain the alarming K- 12 and higher education achievement gaps experienced by African American males. Despite a popular tendency to focus on personal deficits of African American males themselves, research reveals a range of variables that are associated with their academic achievement including individual-level factors as well as family, neighborhood, school and macro-structural forces (Arum, 2000; Bronfenbrenner, 1986, 1996; Coleman, 1966; Hyman, 2006; Maton, Hrabowski & Greif, 1998; Lucas & Berends, 2007; Noguera, 2003). …

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