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Review of School Programs for Black Boys’ School Success

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

In the United States, where school success is largely measured by standardized test scores and degree attainment, significant racial inequities exist such that children of color continue to under-perform relative to White children. Scholars have linked these inequities to lack quality educational opportunities (Aud et al., 2013; Lewis et al., 2010). This calls for schools, communities, and politicians to demand rigorous and nurturing schooling opportunities for all children (Dumas, 2016; Milner, 2013). Although efforts have been made to support schools serving populations of low-income students, less attention has been given to providing supportive programming for specific student groups. Black boys, in particular, have suffered from gaps in educational opportunities (Branch, 2014; Toldson, 2011) for reasons including biased disciplinary practices, overrepresentation in special education, and underrepresentation in gifted programs (NEA, 2011). A scant body of research has emerged focused on evaluating programs designed for improving Black boys’ school success. The present study examines research on programs for Black adolescent boys.

Research Questions: We review the literature on successful programs for improving Black boys’ (i.e. 12 to 18) school outcomes. Specifically, the purpose of this literature review is: 1) to review literature regarding programs for Black males and offer a summary model identifying critical factors for research; 2) to identify best practices by critically examining these programs and; 3) to identify themes from our review of empirically-tested supportive programming for Black boys.

Data Analysis and Results: The studies reviewed were accessed using a number of databases and scholarly journals including: JSTOR, ERIC, Google Scholar, Urban Education and the Journal of Negro Education. Articles were selected for review if they met the following criteria: (1) described a program to support academic and/or non-academic school outcomes and reported the results; (2) utilized a sample of Black boys; (3) discussed the ways in which the program was specifically designed for Black boys. After selecting articles, we searched for common themes among the studies that reported some success in improving Black boys’ school outcomes (see Table 1). Four themes that emerged from the studies we examined: 1) Programs were school-based or partnered with local school districts, 2) Programs utilized family and community resources, 3) Programs provided educational opportunities for Black boys, 4) Programs encouraged active engagement among Black boys through personal and cultural relevance to the boys’ lives.

Conclusion: While a number of studies have sought to intervene on behalf of Black boys to improve their school outcomes, there still remains a lack of empirically tested programs designed for Black adolescent boys. Much of the research we found utilized sample studies with less than one hundred participants. While the four themes we uncovered can inform future interventions, we also believe additional empirically tested programs for Black adolescent boys are needed. Still, we acknowledge the historical and structural inequities that perpetuate an opportunity gap in education and do not propose a solution to educational inequity. Instead, we suggest future programs utilizing these themes in their design hold promise to support Black boys’ school success.

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