School Mentoring Program for Afro-American Males

Introduction

The problem that is being addressed in this paper is that a program of mentoring has been conducted in the Xyz school for the African American male students of Grades 1 to 5 for one and a half years and yet no attempt has been made to evaluate the success of this program. This dissertation is intended to deliver the various issues associated with this highly ambitious program of mentoring and the reasons behind the lack of initiative to assess the outcomes. The decline of the numbers of African American males attending academic institutions has been highlighted as a major social issue in the United States. The establishment of a mentoring program with all good intentions for studying the reasons behind the males of this minority group shying away from education has remained incomplete. The program has not been monitored or evaluated with the purpose of assessing success of the program. This probably speaks for many programs which have been left unfinished. The collection of data is as important as the institution of a program and the outcomes concluded. This study intends to discover the reasons for this neglect and this concept paper is providing an idea of the issue. The mentoring program at XYZ School does not have any data to determine whether the program is successful. The direct impact that the services offered has not been assessed. The significance of the issue of declining numbers of African American students in academic institutions shows the importance of the completion of this program in Xyz school. The data collection and analysis is a very crucial part of the program.

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Discussion

A number of environmental risk factors influence the African American male students in school (Thomas, 2003, p. 217). Exposure to an abundance of community crimes, violence and victimization increase the challenges of school life. Poor conduct at school and low academic performance are the results. Low income in an urban environment leads to the use of aggressive and maladaptive strategies to cope with the stress and pressures of school life (Banks et al, 1996). Fear of peer victimization may cause them to approve mentally these “rough and tough” attitudes. They may believe in gaining social status with these tactics (Guerra et al, 1995). Hoping to promote self worth and self protection, many children resort to the violence. These children get low grades and have a tendency to drop out, thereby gaining less education (Witherspoon et al, 1997). School life may become unsatisfactory for the children who come from poor socioeconomic surroundings and who have no educated adult models who understand and encourage their children to study well (Brewster, 1994). The worsening quality of life in Black communities is considered the main reason. Poverty has reacted to produce poor results in class. Health problems and the inability to get appropriate treatment and the tendency to juvenile crime are other underlying reasons. The students coming from such harsh realities of life falter when they face an educational environment of practices which are the norms of the American academic setting (Bobb, 2006, p. 29). The initiatives that have been taken for the benefit of the African American male students have not seen any achievement and probably worsened the segregation. The conservative political climate could be blamed for the poor success of initiatives. Tinto’s model indicates that the student’s background, characteristics, goals, commitment, the educational institution, the degree of academic and social involvement are the predictors of their retention (Moore III, 2005, p. 53). Discriminatory behaviours of teachers may do further harm to these children (Richman et al, 1997). Neighbourhood peers may encourage the children to fail at school and join them in aggressive activities outside. School adjustment problems are related to a negative concept of self.

The resilience of the African American male students may be strengthened by protective factors providing a sense of identity and self esteem (Townsend and Belgrave, 2000). African American children have an ability to fight against environmental stressors when they identify with members of their racial group. The children who are oriented by parents towards “self –pride and positive racial attitudes” reach higher academic achievement than those who do not receive such advice (Bowman and Howard, 1985). African American students who adhere to their Afri-centric beliefs and values had lesser psychological distress (Montgomery et al, 1990). A sense of belonging to the school allowed most students to reach academic excellence (Booker, 2007, p. 302). A stronger connection to the school community where they see few differences between themselves and others help them belong. These students believed that a sense of belonging is associated with tolerance and comfort. These are unimportant where academic performance is concerned. A study in two schools where African American students of different socio-economic statuses were involved showed a high achieving culture in the prestigious school (Booker, 2007, p. 303). The students of the other school faced more conflict in achieving high academic standards. Many of them felt that in order to be fully accepted as a member of their ethnic group, they had to de-emphasise their academic performance.

Background and significance

This study will take place at XYZ school. XYZ Elementary School is located in the Metro Atlanta, Georgia area. It has been in operation for about ten years. The student population is approximately 750 students with a predominately African American student population. Only approximately 5% are of other ethnicities. Approximately 46% of the student population is African American males, the other 49% of the student school population being African American females. XYZ Elementary School district has implemented a mentoring program that has been operating for one and a half years.

The mentoring program targets African American males that the school staff i.e. counselors and teachers recommend. These students are at risk of academic failure or they have chronic discipline behaviors. The mentoring program use teachers, counselors and paraprofessionals to provide counseling, help with academics and they also provide strategies to the students on behavior, social and character skills and traits. The doctoral student is a Special Education Teacher at XYZ elementary school. The doctoral student is also a participant in XYZ School’s mentoring program.

Statement of the Problem and Purpose

The mentoring program has been implemented in the school for 18 months. But data for its efficacy has not been collected for grades one to five. It is not known whether mentoring will be more effective if students receive it from a young age, from grade one onwards. This can only be understood by taking a survey concerning the students of those classes. Why this survey has not been done yet poses a significant problem. This study understands the problem of non-completion of a costly program in terms of importance of the social issue involved and efforts behind the program. The fruitfulness should be seen as increasing numbers of African American males joining the institution and finishing school years and leaving with the intention of continuing higher studies.

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Literature Review

Same race mentoring may produce the best results but this may not be the case always (Dolan, 2007, p. 26). There is a suggestion that many mentors both cross-race and otherwise are good for African American students. Each will have different perspectives for providing support. One may be good at providing information on study material and research. Another may provide information on career making or how to overcome psychological stressors. Mentoring helps one feel wanted. Seeking help from the mentors can be made a healthy habit (Dolan, 2007, p. 27).

The most pressing challenge of modern schooling is to provide the best education possible to African American males (Matthews, 2007, p. 187). The quality of education provided to an African American male is taken as the “critical barometer” for indicating the quality of a school (Holzman, 2006). A host of variables play significant roles in the academic achievement of these students above the institutional and societal barriers. Assessing and engineering effective experiences in school for the academic success of the African American male would uncover useful hints which could be adopted for all children. One study revealed that nurturing and intelligent teachers, strong administrative leadership and strong bonds between students, parents and community were the techniques that could possibly produce the greatest impact on the education of the African American male (Sullivan, 2002). Mentoring programs have been shown to positively increase the academic achievement of Black men (Matthews, 2007, p. 188). Failure to provide this quality education to the minority group of African American males have given rise to new euphemisms for the schools involved.

PROJECT 2000 was a program designed to prevent the catastrophe of early school failure and the development of negative attitude towards academic achievement.

The African American male students who were in the program had higher GPAs and test scores than the students who were not in the program (Holland, 1996). School-based initiatives could provide the much needed support to these males. However outcomes include more learning disabilities reported, low graduation rates, higher and prolonged suspension periods and lower achievement levels (Matthews, 2007, p.189)

Mentoring is a valuable approach to increase learning for mentors and outcomes for the mentored (Whiting, 2007, p. 197). The African American students have a tendency to look towards faculty of their colour for support and guidance. Many a time they are disappointed with the interaction (Wright and McCreary, 1997, p. 56). The faculty had used a model which required keeping a distance from the students and allowing autonomy. Students were actually looking for support which resembled that provided by their parents. They wanted a more direct approach. The strong support person was what they were looking for, someone who would help them stand on their feet and cope with the new tensions. Unavailability of the staff and rejection were both interpreted as personal rejections. These factors put off these students who felt hopeless. The students felt let down by their own kind (Wright and McCreary, 1997, p. 56).

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Mentoring can be done for various purposes. Various crimes can be prevented.

Violence prevention programmes can be mentored. Self confidence, leadership and respect skills could be measured (Alpsach, 2005). Mentoring is usually done for at-risk children and when two or more of the following reasons are existing together: poverty, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, truancy, illiteracy, to prevent school dropouts (Whiting, 2007, p. 198). A pathway of change is expected by influencing academic adjustment. Mentoring activity is rarely possible in the school environment as time hardly permits it.

School mentoring projects can succeed only with the cooperation and collaboration of project staff, teachers, staff and school administrators (Whiting, 2007, p. 207).

The importance of analysis in a study

The study by Wright and McCreary in 1997 revealed many insights into the minds and thoughts of graduating Black male students who had worked together in groups. The Brother to Brother Group participation had allowed them to realise their own behavior pattern in group discussions (Wright and McCreary, 1997, p. 60). They became more mature and responsible for their own actions. Issues were discussed and handled with restraint and help from peer figures. Each student was given the idea that they should be contributing to the university activities. The leader was looked upon as a “cool, smart and caring person”. Survival on the campus and the city were commonly discussed and tackled. Coping strategies for academic success were thereby common to all. The members of the group were serious about their group discussions and believed it to be a safe place for doing so (Wright and McCreary, 1997, p. 60). 90% of these students graduated well though they started off as academically at-risk students.

African American male faculty form the best mentors for African American male students. Interventions should never be prescribed for Black male students without consulting them. They should not be seen as myths or supermen or second rate imitative students (Moore III, 2005, p.61). Offering support groups bolsters the success of African American male students. Failures cannot always be blamed on lack of talent or ability. The cumulative effect of being prepared to take risks, being well motivated and combining appropriate strategies increase the possibility of successful achievement. Simply having a group is insufficient. Good leadership, mutual support, learning to take risks and new methods of achievement with wide interaction are necessary (Moore III, 2005, p. 62). Racially similar peer support and mentoring improve retention rates of the Black male students. “Culturally meaningful and relevant support” enhanced student retention among them. The negative thoughts of racism were now behind them. It was no more an issue discussed in secrecy. They realized the significance of race in their lives, not with a view of conflict with the white but as a group with different values and beliefs. Due respect was to be afforded for both the black and the white.

Academic persistence requires commitment and fortitude (Moore III, 2005, p. 52). African American black males face social, cultural and psychological barriers which hinder their remaining in school. Negative peer pressures may be a solid reason for their having a disrupted academic life. Racism could be another factor. Peer support, faculty-student relationships, and extra-curricular activities are methods to support the Black male students. The Black student may find difficulty to adjust at any stage in his academic life as culturally diverse groups are known to have difficulty in dissociating themselves from their native cultural group. Incorporation or integration would be successful only if they abandon their old values and beliefs. Academic success would therefore be accompanied by stress, identity conflicts and loss of old friendships (Moore III, 2005, p. 55).

Sedlacek’s persistence model has also been much helpful in providing solutions to the student retention problem (Moore III, 2005, p. 54). The variables which predict persistence more effectively than performance and achievement are “confidence, realistic self appraisal, ability to deal with racism, preference for long range goals, support of others for academic plans, successful leadership experience, demonstrated community service and knowledge acquired in a field” (Moore III, p. 54).

Research Questions

The search through literature has helped me derive three research questions which are relevant to the study. They are given below.

  1. How much has the mentoring program at Xyz School improved the behavior of African American males?
  2. How well have the mentoring program improved the academic progress of African American males at Xyz School?
  3. How well has the self esteem of the African American males at Xyz School improved while enrolled in the mentoring program?

Research Hypotheses

African American male students enrolled into the Xyz School mentoring program have made more progress in behavior, academics, and self esteem in comparison to those that are not.

Research methodology

The study is a quantitative research using the questionnaire design. The questionnaires would be distributed to the teachers and counselors who participated in the mentoring program. The setting is the Xyz school premises itself. The target population includes 15 African American male students who had participated in the mentoring program. 15 African American students who had not participated in the mentoring program would be the control group. Random selection would be made. The questionnaires would be addressing the mentoring projects which include academic performance, social aptitude and self esteem. One limitation in the study would be the delay following the mentoring program for collection of data and analysis The questionnaires would be analysed for comparison between the two groups of children. The children who underwent the mentoring program are expected to show better academic achievement, be more sociable and show a high level of confidence and self esteem than the other group which did not have the benefit of mentoring. This study would prove the uses of mentoring in retention of Black African American males in schools and the problems of mentoring that could be mended for future benefit. The study would indicate a number of conclusions that would be useful to educators, policymakers, education administrators committed to increasing the retention of African American males in academic institutions and improving their academic excellence through the process of mentoring.

References

  1. Alpsach, K. (2005). “ Students find ally, friend in mentors”
  2. Banks, R., Hogue, A., Liddle H.,&Timberlake, T. (1996).An Afrocentric approach to group social skills training with inner-city African American adolescents. Journal of Negro Education, 65(4), 414–423.
  3. Bobb, Kamau. (2006). “The paradox of Black male initiatives”. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Vol. 23, No. 3,  2006, ProQuest Education Journals.
  4. Booker, K.C. (2008). “Likeness, Comfort, and Tolerance: Examining African American Adolescents’ Sense of School Belonging”. The Urban Review, Vol. 39, No. 3, 2007 DOI: 10.1007/s11256-007-0053-y
  5. Bowman, P., & Howard, C. (1985). “Race-related socialization, motivation, and academic achievement: A study of Black youths in three-generation families”. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 24(2), 134–141.
  6. Brewster, K. (1994). “Neighborhood context and the transition to sexual activity among young black women. Demography, 31,603–614.
  7. Dolan, T.G. (2007). “Is cross race mentoring a negative”. Hispanic Outlook in Higher education , Vol. 17. Published at Paramus, New Jersey
  8. Esters, L.L. and Mosby, D.C. (2007). “Disappearing Acts: The Vanishing Black male on Community College campuses”. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Vol.24, No.14, 2007, ProQuest Education Journals.
  9. Guerra,N.,Tolan,P., Huesmann, L.,&Van Acker,R. (1995). “Stressful events and individual beliefs as correlates of economic disadvantage and aggression among urban children”. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 63(4), 518–528.
  10. Holland, S.H. (1996), PROJECT 2000, “An educational mentoring and academic support model for inner-city African American boys”, The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 65, Pgs 315-321
  11. Holzman, M. (2006). “Public education and Black male students:The 2006 State Report card, Cambridge, MA:The Schott Foundation for Public education
  12. Matthews, L.E. and Williams, B.A. (2007). “Beyond commentaries of despair: Re-engineering pathways to design in the schooling of Black Men”. Negro Educational Review, Vol. 53. ¾, 2007, ProQuest Educational Journals
  13. Montgomery, D., Fine, M., & James-Myers, L. (1990). “The development and validation of an instrument to assess an optimal Afrocentric worldview. Journal of Black Psychology, 17, 37–54.
  14. Moore III, J.L., Ford, D.Y. and Milner, H.R. (2005). “Recruitment is not enough: Retaining African American students in Gifted Education”, The Gifted Child Quarterly, Vol. 49,  No. 1, 2005, ProQuest Education Journals
  15. Richman, C., Bovelsky, S., Kroovand, N., Vacca, J., & West, T. (1997). “Racism 102: The classroom”. Journal of Black Psychology, 23(4), 378–387.
  16. Sullivan, M.L.D. (2002). “ A study of African American males focusing on indicators motivating their academic success in a predominantly Black inner city High school (Doctoral dissertation, Ohio University, 2002). Dissertation Abstracts International, 63, AAT 3062169
  17. Thomas, D.E. et al. (2003). “The Influence of Cultural and Racial Identification on the Psychosocial Adjustment of Inner-City African American Children in School”. American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 32, Nos. 3/4, 2003, Plenum Publishing Corporation
  18. Townsend,T.,&Belgrave,F. (2000).”The impact of personal identity and racial identity on drug outcomes among African American children”. Journal of Black Psychology, 26(4), 421–436.
  19. Witherspoon, K., Speight, S., & Thomas, A. (1997). “Racial identity attitudes, school achievement, and academic self-efficacy among African American high school students”. Journal of Black Psychology, 23(4), 344–357.
  20. Whiting, S.M.A. (2007). “A longitudinal study to determine the effects of mentoring on middle school youngsters by nursing and other college students”. Journal of Child and Adolescent psychiatric Nursing, Vol. 20, No. 4, ProQuest Educational Journals
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