"We Learn Through Our Struggles": Nuancing Notions of Urban Black Male Academic Preparation for Postsecondary Success
by Chezare A. Warren - 2016
Background/Context: Scholars agree that students’ academic preparation for college begins as early as middle school. This preparation includes both instructional and social supports. The present study draws much-needed attention to how Black males articulate the role and function of their Chicago high school for helping them negotiate the challenges of urban living to both earn admittance to, and graduate from, a four-year college or university.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Not enough is known about the specific supports most useful for improving urban Black males’ academic preparation to earn a baccalaureate degree from a four-year college or university. A single-sex public high school in Chicago (Nabur) rose to national prominence in 2010 for helping each of its 100% Black male graduates earn admission to college. This study investigates how members of this school’s inaugural graduating class on track to graduate from college within 6 years of initial enrollment describe their high school academic experiences, and the impact of these experiences for shaping their college persistence. Exploring the contours of academic preparation through Black male students’ perspectives can be instructive for improving urban school reform efforts aimed at better preparing them for multiple postsecondary options.
Population/Participants/Subjects: Eighteen Black males—members of Nabur’s inaugural graduating class who began at Nabur High School in 2006 and graduated in 2010—were participants in the study. Each of the young men, with the exception of one, attended Nabur all four years of their high school career. The young men self selected participation in the study. Each participant was on track to graduate from college within six years of their initial enrollment at the time of data collection.
Research Design: The young men participated in one in-depth one-on-one interview. Instructional and social supports—dimensions of academic preparation explored in this study—help to frame analysis and presentation of the findings.
Findings/Results: Students described teacher availability and academic expectations (instructional supports), as well as community building, social networking, and personal affirmation (social supports) as important aspects of their academic preparation for postsecondary success. Practitioners’ beliefs about Black males’ resilience as a framework for design and implementation of instructional and social supports emerges as most significant to their academic preparation for college.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Implications and recommendations for repurposing “struggle” as a site of resilience in efforts to better meet the unique needs of urban Black males in preparation for college are discussed.
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