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Sedrick Smith, Afra A. Herso, Ph.D.

A New Talented Tenth? Factors influencing African American males in Advanced Academic Courses

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In an effort to better prepare students for the rigors of college and the requirements of common core standards, Schools across the country have increasingly offered Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs in order to better prepare students. While these programs seek to benefit all student groups, historically African-American males have been less successful in these academic programs as compared to other groups. The goal of this study was to examine this disparity. Despite more and more black males entering the IB program, very few were achieving the ultimate goal of getting the diploma. This study explores the experiences of six African American male high school students enrolled in an IB program in an urban school. The study was framed by the following research question: What factors influence the academic engagement of African American male students enrolled in advanced academic (IB & AP) high school courses?
Drawing on qualitative data, six participants were followed for six weeks. In addition, parents of the student participants completed surveys about their perceptions of the IB program. Data was analyzed in a variety of ways. Student class participation was observed in two different classroom settings over the six-week period. In addition, student homework and essay samples were analyzed for both completion and quality. Student participants completed a survey about their after school obligations and tasks and kept a week long journal of their after school activities. Finally, students were interviewed about their perceptions of and attitudes toward the IB program.

Preliminary findings suggest parents and students viewed the IB program as successful in regards to challenging students academically, particularly as they apply to colleges. However, the parents and students believe the program-lacked flexibility in terms of course offerings. In addition to their rigorous IB courses, students were actively involved in either sports team or clubs at least two days per week and stay up until near midnight each night doing schoolwork. Within the classroom, student participation levels are relatively low despite being given many opportunities to participate in their classes. As the study is ongoing, more data will be analyzed and additional findings will be developed. In this presentation, I discuss the findings to date and offer strategies and recommendations for supporting African American students in advance placement courses.

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