The Mathematics Education of African Americans in North Carolina: From the Brown Decision to No Child Left Behind

By Snipes, Vincent T.; Waters, Roderick D. | Negro Educational Review, July 2005 | Go to article overview

The Mathematics Education of African Americans in North Carolina: From the Brown Decision to No Child Left Behind


Snipes, Vincent T., Waters, Roderick D., Negro Educational Review


ABSTRACT: For several years now, an achievement gap has been in existence between African American students and white students in mathematics. The purpose of this study is to (1) report on an in-depth case study of a former state mathematics consultant to describe his experiences of the mathematics education of African Americans in public high schools in North Carolina from 1950-1980 and (2) to examine North Carolina African American students' progress in mathematics from the Brown vs. the Board of Education Decision to the No Child Left Behind Act Era. The data for this study are analyzed utilizing the critical race theory of education perspective.

Introduction

In recent years, there has been considerable discussion in the American public about the achievement gap that exists between minority students and White students in the public schools. As a response to this concern, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed in 2002 by the federal government to address this achievement gap. However, it may take years to determine whether the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has positively impacted the achievement gap.

During the late 1970's, researchers began to examine the status of African Americans and other minorities in the mathematical sciences (Johnson, 1984). Researchers discovered dismal results that indicate there is underrepresentation of African Americans in upper level mathematics courses and mathematics related careers (Quality Education for Minorities in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Network (MSE Network), 1992; National Science Foundation (NSF), 1993). Only within recent years have there been research studies focusing exclusively on African American mathematics students (Moses-Snipes, 2004; Lattimore, 1996; Chappell, 1991; Cousins, 1995; Strutchens, 1993; Thomas, 1993).

In the United States, remedial mathematics classrooms contain large numbers of African American students; however, advanced mathematics classes mainly serve White students (Matthews, 1984; Johnson, 1984; Oakes, 1986b; Oakes, 1990). The students in low-level mathematics courses are mainly African Americans and other non-Asian minority students. Of the total American population, 12%-13% of the people are African American; however, of the population of practicing Ph.D. mathematicians, less than 1% are African American (NSF, 1999; Cooper, 2000). From 1983-2002, just 176 out of 10,486 (1.7%) Ph.D's in mathematics were awarded to African Americans (Nelson, 2002).

When students have low test scores on standardized mathematics exams and low grades in the mathematics classroom, it is often referred to as "underachievement". African American students have demonstrated poor mathematics performance on numerous standardized tests (National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 2003; Anick, Carpenter, & Smith, 1981; National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1992; Reyes & Stanic, 1988). For many years African Americans have not performed as well as their White counterparts on standardized mathematics exams such as the SAT and NAEP exams (Matthews, 1984; Bridglall & Gordon, 2004).

There is a relationship between underachievement and underrepresentation. When a student has low test scores, he or she will rarely be placed into upper level mathematics courses. If a student has low grades in the mathematics classes, the student will not usually go on to take many more upper level mathematics classes. If you do not take upper level mathematics courses, you have limited your scientific career options, where opportunities to enter into a mathematical field are drastically decreased.

The purpose of this study is to (1) report on an in-depth case study of a former state mathematics consultant who described his experiences of the mathematics education of African Americans in public high schools in North Carolina from 1950-1980 and (2) to examine North Carolina African American students' progress in mathematics from the Brown vs. …

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