High School Leaders' Perceptions of Practices That Increase Graduation Rates of African American Males

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Jones, Linda Diane
Kivlighan, Dennis
ABSTRACT Title of Document: HIGH SCHOOL LEADERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF PRACTICES THAT INCREASE GRADUATION RATES FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES Linda Snyder Jones, Doctor of Education, 2015 Directed By: Dr. Dennis Kivlighan Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education Research indicates there are significant differences in the academic performance of minorities and whites, particularly at the high school level. On average, Latino and African American high school students read and perform math on the same level as 13-year-old white students and trail their white peers by an average of 20 test points on math and reading assessments (Wiltz, 2012; Education Week, 2011; Education Trust, 2003). White and Asian students are still twice as likely as Black and Hispanic students to take classes that are considered academically challenging. Fewer than 10% of African American students participated in rigorous courses in 2009 (Education Week, 2011; NCES, 2009). Moreover, data show 54% of African Americans graduate from high school, compared with more than 75% of white and Asian students. Educational disparities are especially apparent between African American males and other groups regarding graduation rates. A report by the U.S. Department of Education (2013) shows that graduation rates are at their highest with 76.8% graduation rate in 1973 compared to 81% graduation rate in 2012(NCES, 2009, NCES, 2013). Despite this increase, one million students failed to graduate in 2013 most of whom were minorities (Richmond, 2013). The Schott Foundation for Public Education (2012) documented that in public education, of all ethnic/racial or gender groups, African American males have been least likely to secure a diploma four years after beginning high school. The major research questions guiding this study were: (1) What practices do school-based leaders use to improve the high school graduation rates of African American males? (A) Are there other strategies school-based leaders might consider implementing to continue raising the graduation rates for African American males? Using qualitative methods and an ethnographic case study design, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six high school-based leaders-- two principals, two assistant principals, one guidance counselor and one alternative-1 teacher. Findings revealed seven major themes and three minor themes. Major themes included: student/teacher relationship, mentoring programs, academic support, making school connections, data monitoring/assessment, teacher expectations and teacher professional development. Minor themes were comprised of: student self-esteem, parent involvement and funding for programs.