In the past 50 years, the Black-White test score gap narrowed, then stalled, then narrowed again. In the era where the call for more accountability created the federal legislation known as No Child Left Behind, there still exists a gap between the percentages of Black and White males who are considered top students. There are several explanations for the persistence of this gap from a variety of social scientists. However, the perspectives of high-achieving Black males offer a unique insight to this persistent phenomenon.
This dissertation sought to develop descriptive models from the perceptions of high-achieving Black male students. These models described the reasons for their achievement despite the presence of factors that caused other Black males not to achieve at the highest academic levels, their perceptions of the causes for the Black-White test score gap, and their explanations on why other Black males who attended their middle school did not achieve to their high level.
Using a modified analytic induction methodology, three descriptive models were created through the case studies on four high-achieving Black males and their parents. These students attended a diverse middle school on Long Island, a suburb of New York City. The interview protocol consisted of five sections: family and parent factors, sociopsychological factors, school related factors, socioeconomic factors, and youth developmental assets. Five themes emerged as descriptions of the causes for the academic success of these high-achieving Black males: school engagement, academic achievement motivation, parental practices, self-identity, and elementary level achievement. Four themes emerged as causes for the Black-White test score gap: unsafe neighborhoods, ineffective schools, negative peer pressure, and inadequate parental support. Six themes emerged as explanations for Black male underachievement in this diverse Long Island middle school: relationship with teachers, academic achievement motivation, effort toward academics, parenting practices, enrollment in honors courses, and negative peer pressure.
A fourth descriptive model for the improvement of Black male achievement was offered. Recommendations for board of education members, professional educators, parents, students, and social scientists were included.