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Why Is There a Lack of African Americans Enrolled in Higher Level Classes & Academically Gifted Programs?

Autor:   •  February 5, 2019  •  1,557 Words (7 Pages)  •  101 Views

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Americans and AP class enrollment, many being perceptional. A specific example of this is the direct correlation between the underrepresentation of blacks in higher level classes and academically gifted programs and the socialization of high school aspects such as experiences with their peers like who they eat lunch with, date, and spend their free time with outside of school(Havis). Social reasons that could be the cause of black students not enrolling into AP classes and AG programs include being labeled as “acting white” by their other black peers, fear of being the only African American student in the class, and the social issues of historical underachievement in advanced classes. For example, being labeled as “acting white” is a small reason as to why blacks do not enroll into higher level classes on a much broader scale of reasons preventing blacks from enrolling. The notion of “acting white” refers to situations where students mock their peers for taking part in behaviors that are perceived to be characteristics of Caucasians. Things that are considered to be apart of this category is talking in standard English(“talking white”) instead of talking in AAVE(African American Vernacular English), making good grades and owning item, such as clothing,that go outside the stereotypical things that black people should own. This concept causes blacks to suppress their intelligence in fear of falling into this category and having their “blackness” being called into question. Thus, leading to African American students not putting the necessary effort in their academics in order to maintain black social acceptance.

Just as the peers of students have a major influence on enrollment in higher level classes, teachers have just as much of an influence in the decisions of students, possibly even more. A vital factor that aid in the decision of African Americans to enroll in higher level classes are the expectations that the teachers have for their black students. Often times black students feel unsupported by their teachers in class(Rowley, Ross, Lozada, Williams, Gale, & Kurtz-Costes). This leads to black students feeling discouraged and not even attempting to take academically challenging courses. According to a study done by Duffett and Farkas teachers reported that African American students are “more likely to come from families with lower levels or income and education....and are also more likely to be focused on the importance of college”. The same national study also showed that these teachers proposed no solutions to underrepresentation of black students in higher level classes and also took no ownership of the problem. Teachers should recognize their role in the promotion and retention of gifted African American students because not being able to retain gifted African American students contributes to their underrepresentation in academically challenging classes and programs. In addition to not feeling supported by teachers, black students also felt like teachers viewed them as smart “black” students opposed to being viewed as just smart students. This perception limits their intelligence by tying it to their race, therefore setting the standards of African American students low for themselves because of the standards their teachers set for them.

To conclude, there are multiple factors that help to explain the lack of African Americans in higher level classes such as AP and academically gifted programs, some of those factors explained above. Unfair disciplinary policies that are enacted in public school systems and the psychological components that prevent or discourage students from enrolling in these classes are ultimately part of the explanation as to why African Americans are so underrepresented in these higher level classes and academically gifted programs. With maximum effort from both public school educators and the African American community, great progress could be made that would greatly increase the number of black students in these classes and programs, providing more representation of the gifted black students for generations to come.


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