Five participants were undergraduate students and one was a graduate student. The class standing of the participants ranged from sophomore to doctoral students. The students were a minoritized population within the context of their university and within the broader STEM community. Data Collection and Analysis. Utilizing a social constructivist approach, interview questions were open-ended to allow for active listening in what participants say and do in their everyday life settings Creswell, Each interview was audio-recorded, transcribed and coded for analysis Creswell, ; Wilcott, b.
Notes taken during the interview were used to clarify statements or ask follow up questions. The participant Andrew was also observed during a non-participant observation in an undergraduate mechanical engineering course and a course syllabus was obtained for document analysis. Findings and Discussion. Math was something you had to do, you had to learn. There was a [White] kid in our class and I remember how annoying it was how much the teacher complimented him on his math skills. Homeschooling offered a unique experience for Andrew as it provided an opportunity to develop his math identity through intrinsic motivation:.
You have to get it. The work must be done and you must understand it. If that means going to the library looking at textbooks, using the Internet and Google searching how to do a quadratic equation, if that means talking to your parents, you must understand it. Teaching math to yourself is hard. These skills would prove to be useful as Andrew re-entered the traditional school environment. Andrew returned to a private high school in 9 th grade but attributes the evolution of his math identity to the homeschooling experience which strengthened his confidence and success in math.
When I went back to high school with other students and started geometry, at that point I realized I was good at math. I was so used to staring at textbooks to figure out how to solve equations that it felt natural to me. In fact, incorrect advice from a teacher caused Andrew to enroll in an advanced placement physics course that he was unprepared for:. Everyone else in the class was a senior who had taken physics before. Physics was rough; it was not pleasant. Feeling a lot of times unsupported and looking up [content] on the Internet can only get you so far.
Andrew recalled his first experience as an undergraduate mechanical engineering student:. In my incoming freshman class, I was one of two Black mechanical engineering students. The other person who started with me switched to math and graduated early. This is one of the reasons why I tutor [Black] kids so frequently.
Even though Andrew is faced with another oppressive learning environment, he remains committed to his major through agency and parental support and inspiring other Black youth to pursue STEM majors. The complexity of his experience reveals systematic and structural racism within STEM majors, which explains why African American students may not participate and also explains the strong sense of self needed to continue to persist. Andrew attributes color-blind policies as the reason for the lack of Black students in his courses and at the university at large which has a major impact on college experiences for not only him, but all races of people.
There is no full-time Black engineering faculty member. Andrew explains his perseverance in postsecondary education as a STEM major is because of his intrinsic motivation, parental support, peers and a campus minority-engineering program. S, which subscribes to the collective narrative that African Americans are not mathematicians or scientists Ladson-Billings, In reshaping the culture of math and science education in the U. In developing his math and science identity, Andrew relied on a combination of intrinsic motivation and parental support. If the culture of math and science education in the U.
In transitioning Andrew to homeschooling, his parents were seeking to eliminate the injustice faced through an unsupportive environment and lack of academic rigor in math — which is common in urban schools Fisher ; Huseman, The implication of this research suggest that policy makers and educators must address the culture of math and science in K institutions that impact math and science identities for African Americans. K educational policy must include an institutional reframing of collective identities in math and science within teaching and learning that benefits all students.
In reframing the collective identity in math and science in K institutions, Andrew would not have to prove anybody right because his academic and disciplinary success would be supported, encouraged and welcomed. Appiah, K. The ethics of identity. Aschbacher, P. Is science me? High school students' identities, participation and aspirations in science, engineering, and medicine.
Journal of Research in Science Teaching , 47 5 , Counter narratives: Examining the mathematics and racial identities of black boys who are successful with school mathematics. Journal of African American Males in Education, 2 1 , Bonilla-Silva, E. Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States.
Boykin, A. Creswell, J. Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Darling-Hammond, L. Educational Researcher , 36 6 , Delgado, R. Critical race theory: An introduction 2 nd ed. Emdin, C. Droppin' science and dropping science: African American males and urban science education. Fisher, E. Educating the urban race: The evolution of an American high school.
Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Guiton, G. Opportunity to learn and conceptions of educational equality. Huseman, J. The Atlantic.
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Jett, C. Journal of Black Studies , 42 7 , Kumasi, K.
Today, the lack of knowledge about and appreciation for Black culture creates social distance between African Americans and White Americans and is a deterrent to change. The African American culture transmitted from generation to generation needs to be understood as rich and noteworthy, and needs to be used as the entry to new skills and knowledge. While culture carries with it the past, it also constantly adapts to new conditions, new challenges. As people adapt, they integrate the old with the new, often using the old to help transition to the new. The traditional African American interest in music has led to innovations, such as jazz and rap, and to newer music forms; the traditional physicality in the African American community has led to high performance in athletics; the interest in language is reflected in the contributions Black people have made to the imaginative use of words slang, for example.
Many of the rules and concepts of school overlap with much of what children already know—but often children need teachers and school system leaders to help them see the overlap. For example, many Black children have strong interests in and knowledge about sports and entertainment. They need supportive teachers to help them see how academics are related to these interests and will enhance what they already know.
Building on strengths, achievement can soar. Exposure to poverty and prejudice are not uniform across the African American population; not all African Americans are poor or failing in school. Yet disproportionately their achievement and life circumstances are constrained by race and class. The systemic challenges of the Black experience continue today for parents and children W. The ultimate solution to the education gap is the elimination of race and class prejudice and oppression. This means providing supports for families and education for children, and promoting understanding among teachers and administrators.
If most African American families typically provide the experiences necessary for healthy growth and development, why do so many African American children have trouble learning in school? One reason is the differing expectations for children between home and school. Home cultures do not prevent African American children from learning in school, but some home practices are not similar to or synchronous with school culture.
Returning to language, children who learn Black English at home, as opposed to learning Standard English, have a steeper learning curve for school reading and writing because Standard English is very similar to academic English. For Black children, particularly those from low-income families in highly segregated communities, there is more likely to be a poor fit between their language experiences and what schools require. This misalignment becomes a barrier to school learning unless it is addressed early.
Like other children, African American children—even those from low-income families—have information about their immediate environment and learn through their experiences. However, they may not have the same knowledge base as children from other communities, particularly children from more economically advantaged ones. They may not have the academic and social knowledge that teachers expect.
They know the names of things, ideas, people, and places that are meaningful to them, but they may not know letter names or how to hold a book or what a farm is or how to count to Because of this, they are often viewed as developmentally delayed or having limited potential to learn.
Thus, even though they have achieved developmental milestones, they may begin to fail in school. African American children who go to school without a sound foundation of school-type information are at a profound disadvantage, making the achievement gap inevitable at school entry—but not insurmountable. This disadvantages African American children, since a larger proportion of them are poorer than White children. While a smaller vocabulary may not be a linguistic problem the children have a language, just not Standard English , it does mean a child is likely to have trouble with listening comprehension in the early grades, especially when teachers read aloud complex texts that use Standard and academic English vocabulary.
What starts out as simply a disparity in vocabulary escalates over the elementary grades to difficulty with reading comprehension, on which all later learning depends. Therefore, it is essential to address the vocabulary difference before it morphs into school failure.
Another problem for many African American children is the lack of continuity between the preschool years and the primary grades Takanishi Research and school experience have shown the importance of long-term consistency in expectations, high-quality instruction, and social supports if children from low-income homes are to master the challenges of school. In the first several years of their lives, many African American children remain at home or are in child care arrangements in which school prerequisites e.
Children may require additional social and academic supports the first four or five years in school if they are to reach their potential. They need meaningful relationships with teachers who believe they can learn, whom they want to please. They need carefully structured curricula that build across grade levels so that children have the prior knowledge necessary to succeed.
They also need teachers who coach them in how to get their needs met in school, how to ask for help, and how to accept it. Essential to narrowing the achievement gap is the education of early childhood educators. Teachers and administrators need preservice preparation and ongoing professional development that enable them to understand that most African American children are not underdeveloped or developmentally delayed. When teachers use effective engagement methods, African American children can achieve the same academic and social development in school as other children.
Preparatory institutions and professional development programs must prepare educators to understand the manner in which child development and academic learning are inextricably linked and how they can facilitate learning for children from different backgrounds. Certainly some children have developmental issues that may require different teaching strategies because of biological differences such as having Down syndrome or because of life experiences such as living with toxic stress or both.
They need teachers with special skills to recognize and meet their needs. Other children—the vast majority—are typically developing and need a genuine opportunity to learn the foundational skills and knowledge expected by schools. During the preschool years, children need to be assessed for biological and social difficulties, with interventions provided as needed.
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Teachers also need a better understanding of cultural differences and similarities. When African American children demonstrate adaptive behaviors such as passivity or aggression that have been successful in the past, teachers and administrators usually spend little time trying to understand the etiology of these behaviors or the systems that cause them. Underfunded schools that provide little support or professional guidance for inexperienced teachers and administrators compound the problem.
In the past, informal networks of families and neighbors provided the supports many African American children and families needed. Today, because of increased pressures in homes and neighborhoods, formal organizations social, educational, political, economic, philanthropic, and community often must step in. To be more effective, these organizations must rethink how they deliver their services. Depersonalized, rule-governed relationships must give way to intentional connections and meaningful collaboration. The most effective way to bring about and sustain such relationships is through local action in which Black families are meaningfully engaged.
Schools in particular play an important role in defusing racism, educating staff, providing social networks activities , and welcoming parents. If the achievement gap is to be closed, schools need to continue their commitment to children from before birth into young adulthood, with regular updates to meet changing social needs.
Acting on research and intervention findings, some of which are presented here, will require embracing new understanding and accepting the discomfort of change. Established economic, political, social, and even structural interests are involved in the status quo. Long-term change will only happen when these systems reflect a culturally appropriate, asset-based understanding of the children and families they serve.
It will require educators, administrators, and policy makers who. Adair, J. Migration Policy Institute. Alter, C.
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Dobbins, M. McGuinn, J. Stanford CEPA, n.