The Editor’s Corner
Marisha L. Humphries, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Chicago
Erika Taylor, Ph.D.
National Education Association
AAL Editors Column – Spring 2017 Issue
The challenges facing African-American students in school settings are well documented. Additionally, these impediments also serve as contributors to differences in academic performance—commonly known as the “achievement gap”—that have long-term, generational implications for socioeconomic upward mobility (Reardon, 2011). As findings from previous research suggest, antecedents to the achievement gap are multifaceted and very complex (Barton & Coley, 2009). Similarly, the components associated with providing quality educational experiences for students are complicated and multilayered. Therefore, the solutions to alleviate these issues are multifaceted as well.
While much of the focus (or blame) for academic success (or failure) is placed squarely upon the shoulders of classroom teachers, there are other educational professionals who can make marked contributions to overall achievement. Paraprofessionals, school counselors and administrators all play an important part in creating environments that are conducive to African-American students’ experiences in school and, by extension, their desire to engage in the learning process. However, few studies examine the overall impact of educators who are not based within the classroom.
The current issue of African American Learners touches on both the problems presented by the achievement gap and potential solutions to the overall differences in academic performance. In the first article, Marchant examines the link between measures of academic achievement and graduation rates for African American students. The findings from this study suggest that the link between performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and grade point average are less predictive of high school graduation for African-Americans, as compared to other race/ethnic groups. These findings suggest that there are other factors—outside of poor academic performance on standardized test—that compel African American students to leave high school prior to graduation.
Interestingly, two of the articles included in this issue focus more on the role of education professionals who are not classroom teachers (i.e., school counselors) in addressing the needs of African-American students. The article by Mason examines the utility of reality therapy and lead management principles in decreasing the achievement gap for African American students. Dye, Fuller, Burke and Hughey explore the use of the humanistic perspective as an approach for school counselors to transcend their traditional beliefs about the achievement gap and African-American students.
Taken together, these articles present an argument for further examining contextual factors that affect African-American students’ academic performance and engagement by exploring approaches that empower all educators, both inside and outside the classroom, to create hospitable environments in which African Americans students can flourish. We hope you enjoy and share.
Barton, P.E. & Coley, R.J. (2009, April). Parsing the Achievement Gap II. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Reardon, S.F. (2011) The Widening Academic Achievement Gap Between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations (pp112-119 )119). In G. J. Duncan & R. J. Murname ( Eds. ) Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.