What Do Teachers Really Think About Black Male Students?

19 Aug

It seems that almost daily we are encountering a new research study or scholarly article affirming our premise that student motivation and engagement is THE critical contributor to academic success for students in general, and black students in particular. While there are certainly too many studies to share, we have to encourage you to CHECK THIS ONE OUT!

Dr. Marvin Lynn, professor of curriculum and instruction and director of elementary teacher education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, recently published a very intriguing article in Teachers College Record.

The article, Examining Teachers’ Beliefs About African American Male Students in a Low-Performing High School in an African American School District, reports on a study that examined teachers’ and administrators’ perspectives on why black male high school students in their school persistently failed in academics.

The study took place between 2003 and 2005 in a low-performing high school in Summerfield County, a Black suburban county in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States with a poverty rate below 8%, according to the 2000 United States census.  What did Dr. Lynn and his colleagues find?

  • Teachers had a crisis of faith in students.  In some cases, they couldn’t believe their African-American students could learn and mostly believed these student’s weren’t motivated to learn and didn’t care about school.
  • They blamed students for the lack of motivation.  They blamed parents for lack of support.  And, they blamed the students’ neighborhoods for promoting a negative mentality towards academic success.
  • The problem, as Lynn explains, is that literature shows teacher beliefs about students has a critical impact on ability to teach them.  So the more they believe they can’t have a positive impact on their students, the more likely they will not!

Watch this video in which Dr. Lynn explains the study in his own words.


And, click here to view an executive summary of the study’s findings.

While the results on teacher attitudes are discouraging, the fact that teachers see student motivation, parent support and community/neighborhood influence as the critical factors is, for us, affirming.  These are indeed the factors that we think determine whether African-American students will demonstrate academic ambition moving forward.

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