Middle Class and Middle School: Does Opportunity Knock for African American Students?
Mooney, Patricia 1960-
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Closing the achievement gap between African American and White students continues to challenge educators in both urban and suburban contexts. Teachers and administrators in America are overwhelmingly White, and have limited training, if any, in understanding cultural differences or developing culturally responsive practices and policies. More importantly, racism and deficit thinking impose invisible barriers that inhibit the success of African American students. This Problem of Practice explored the existing achievement gap between African American and White students at Keller Middle School, a Title I campus in southeast Texas. Using a qualitative research methodology, campus data, policies, and practices were examined through the lens of societal racism, institutional racism, and deficit thinking. Three fundamental themes were revealed in this study: 1) White teachers and administrators believed that African American students were not successful in school because they (or their families) had internal defects that impeded learning; 2) African American parent and student participants had deficit beliefs about other African Americans and used defensive othering as a coping strategy; and 3) African American students and parents perceived themselves as successful and attributed that success to a high motivation to achieve. Recommendations are given to address the gap in achievement for African American learners in middle school.