Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

James A. Tucker

Second Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Third Advisor

Elvin Gabriel



Black children are not achieving in public schools. What are the challenges of the schooling experience and contradictions of achievement for Black males, according to the students themselves? The answers to these questions are unclear, because they have not been given sufficient attention. Despite decades of research on achievement, few studies specifically address how students themselves define achievement, as well as what students do, feel, and think about in school.


This qualitative study used focus groups and pre-existing data from 1:1 semi- structured interviews as a means to inquire about the schooling experiences of Black males. Thirty-two Black males in Grades 9-12 from six high schools participated in the five focus groups and six 1:1 semi-structured interviews. Each focus group consisted of approximately six students. Participants were selected by school personnel and participation was voluntary.


Results of this study indicate that Black males share similar schooling experiences regardless of the school setting. However, some experiences appear to differ based on the context of the school setting. Differences were noted in the perceptions of the students regarding their school experience based upon whether they attend an urban high school with greater racial diversity or whether they are one of fewer Black students in a suburban high school with less racial diversity.

The students’ responses are categorized into four broad categories including (a) Black Student Identity, (b) The Importance of the Teacher-Student Relationship, (c) School Climate, and (d) The Importance of Involvement by Families and Other Positive Role Models.


Efforts to improve the academic performance of Black males must begin by understanding the attitudes that influence how they perceive schooling and academic pursuits. Because students “have been silenced all their lives,” they have singular and invaluable views on education from which both adults and students themselves can benefit. As long as we exclude student perspectives from our conversations about schooling and how it needs to change, our efforts at reform will be based on an incomplete picture of life in classrooms and schools and how that could be improved. When students are taken seriously and attended to as knowledgeable participants in important conversations, they feel empowered and motivated to participate constructively in their education. Student-based inquiry seeks not only to add to the literature by providing reliable and valid information on achievement but also to present an alternative way of doing school research.

Student-based inquiry research seeks to empower students in the research process. This qualitative approach attempts to generate data that capture students’ perspectives regarding achievement, while addressing the meanings they attach to life, given their position in the social system.

Subject Area

High school students, Black; Students, Black; Academic achievement


Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."