Challenges to Success in Higher Education: An Examination of Educational Challenges from the Voices of College-Bound Black Males

By Scott, Jameel A.; Taylor, Kenneth J. et al. | The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Challenges to Success in Higher Education: An Examination of Educational Challenges from the Voices of College-Bound Black Males


Scott, Jameel A., Taylor, Kenneth J., Palmer, Robert T., The Journal of Negro Education


In recent years, researchers have devoted much discussion to finding ways to increase the academic success of Black males in K-12 and higher education. Despite this emphasis, Black male enrollment in higher education stands at 4.5%, which is the same as it was in 1976. One factor noted by researchers for the stagnation among Black male college enrollment is their disproportionate departure from high school. Therefore, this qualitative study of college-bound high school seniors discusses four critical factors that contribute to Black males premature departure from high school. Implications for practice andfuture research are discussed.

Keywords: education, college access, retention

There is a great deal of evidence to demonstrate that all children are not valued equally, that some children are clearly valued more than other children, and finally that, African-American male children are valued least of all. It is not likely that schools, as they are currently structured, will ever look on the majority of children they serve as having unlimited potential-Governor's Commission on Black Males. (Maryland State Department of Education, 2007)

INTRODUCTION

As the quote posits, the educational plight of the Black male is often associated with underachievement and underrepresentation (Carter, 2005, Scott, 2012). Although negative in context, the association offers a profound need to understand and address why such is the case. Researchers discussed the lack of scholarship on Black males who overcame their environmental obstacles, and became successful in graduating from high school and college (Harper, 2005; Palmer, Davis & Hilton, 2009; Parson & Kritsonis, 2006). Therefore, identifying challenges that Black males face could serve as a catalyst for developing support structures that deter high school departure (dropouts) and encourage college attendance.

Much of the research on Black male achievement presents troublesome statistics and often negative stories about their chances of academic success. The plethora of negative findings is alarming and often neglects the insight of students themselves and potential solutions for these obstacles. For example, Tatum (2006) highlighted self-concept and identity as two major internalized factors that influence the academic success for Black students. His findings posit that Black male students sometimes respond by disassociating themselves from school and acting-out in negative ways as coping mechanisms-for a lack of self-concept and identity. Additionally, several scholars discussed external factors that impede Black male student achievement. In some cases, these male students are disproportionately placed in special education classes (Nickson, Kritsonis, & Herrington, 2006), where they are provided with instruction that fails to prepare them for higher education (Bailey & Moore, 2004; Hopkins, 1997). Moreover, Anthony, Kritsonis, and Herrington (2007) emphasized that a high percentage of Black males are taught by White females. Suggesting that in most educational settings, the Black male presence is custodial staff or sports instructors. Furthermore, Black adolescent males are constantly bombarded with stereotypical depictions of older Blacks as incompetent or lazy (Irving & Hudley, 2008).

Verj' few positive depictions are highlighted in the literature about Black males. Research from Irving and Hudley (2008) indicated a relationship between cultural mistrust and academic achievement, noting that an increase in mistrust facilitates negative academic outcome among Black males. Therefore, Brown (2009) and others (e.g., Bailey & Moore, 2004; Hopkins, 1997) urge the need for Black male role models in and outside of the classroom. However, it should be clear that a model that employs a "one-size-fits-aH" approach contradicts the very essence of the issue (Brown, 2009). This study seeks to take into consideration the voices of high school graduates on this topic, in order to proffer potential solutions to augment the challenges that are faced by Black male students. …

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