AGAINST ALL ODDS: ACCESS AND ACHIEVEMENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ADOLESCENT MALES IN ADVANCED SECONDARY MATHEMATICS
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Adopting a critical race theory stance, this study examined the intersectionality of race, class, and gender and their influence on the educational outcomes of six African American males, who against the odds, have demonstrated success in advance secondary mathematics. Consistent with critical race theory, the purpose of the study was to create counter narratives that push back against dominant narratives about the academic abilities of African American males, specifically in mathematics. This study explored the ways in which this historically marginalized student group self-identify and communicate their social, cultural, emotional, and academic experiences and the development of strategies to navigate environments in which they are underrepresented.
At the broadest level, the African American male participants individually and consistently addressed the following four themes in their semi structured interviews: (1) inequitable [institutional] practices rationalized by the dominant narrative, (2) caring and influential relationships, (3) early access to enriched and accelerated mathematics curricula, and (4) intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for success. First, the participants collectively spoke of a range of racialized and sometimes gendered barriers (e.g., teachers and peers who doubted the abilities of Black learners) that they faced as African American male learners of mathematics. Second, and in response to these racialized-gendered barriers, they each reported drawing on relationships and positive interactions with their parents, teachers, peers, and African American male role models. Third, all six participants communicated the value added of exposure to high quality schooling experiences to include early identification as strong mathematics students, enrollment in specialized schools and programs, early exposure to rigorous mathematics content, and active participation in extra/co-curricular opportunities. Fourth, and mediated by their relationships and early exposure to advanced mathematics, they all reported developing intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that sustained their success. In terms of the last point, and in their own ways, they were motivated, in part, to push back on dominant, racist narratives regarding the academic abilities of African American males as they navigated implicit racial bias from their teachers, peers, institutional practices, and the larger society.