Threatened and Placed at Risk: High Achieving African American Males in Urban High Schools

Abstract

This study investigated the risk and protective factors of 11 high-achieving African American males attending 4 urban charter high schools in a Midwestern city to determine what factors account for their resilience and success in mathematics courses, and in high school more generally. This research was guided by a Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory, which assisted in extrapolating how these young Black males make sense of their experiences despite the many challenges they face growing up in urban Black America. Results indicate that although students were under multiple forms of academic and physical threat within and beyond school walls, there was a keen presence of academic agency and an ability to manage potentially threatening situations to cleverly protect themselves from complex systems of risk.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The descriptor urban for schools is not simply a descriptor of the population density of the surrounding community. Among other things, urban describes schools with many students of color, schools for which many contemporary policies are designed and usually gives reference to certain unspoken and thus undesirable qualities of the student and community who belong in that space. However, the author operationalizes urban schools for this study as non-selective schools within neighborhoods that are predominately Black and citizens are of lower socio-economic status.

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Correspondence to Ebony O. McGee.

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The terms African American and Black are used interchangeably throughout this article to describe an individual of African descent who self-identifies the cultural and/or racial identity in the United States.

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McGee, E.O. Threatened and Placed at Risk: High Achieving African American Males in Urban High Schools. Urban Rev 45, 448–471 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-013-0265-2

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Keywords

  • Black males
  • High school
  • Urban schooling
  • Mathematics education
  • High achievement