Title

Toward a Radical Praxis for Overage, Under-credited African American Students

Focused Area

Youth-At-Risk in Urban Settings

Relevance to Focused Area

Aligned with the function and form of typical alternative schools, transfer high schools in New York City are:

Small, academically rigorous high schools designed to re-engage students who have dropped out of high school or have fallen behind. These schools are designed to create a personalized learning environment and to provide students with connections to college. Each Transfer School determines criteria for admission individually. Students graduate with a high school diploma from the Transfer High School they attend. (New York City Department of Education, 2012, p. 4)

These schools serve a student population referred to as overage, under-credited (OA/UC). The OA/UC population is defined as high school students who are at least two years behind their peers in terms of age and credits earned toward a high school diploma (Cahill, Lynch & Hamilton, 2006). These students range in age from 16 to 21 years old, with all students in New York City being legally entitled to attend a high school until the end of the school year in which they turn 21 (New York City Department of Education, 2014a). Nearly half (48%) of all entering ninth grade students become OA/UC during their high school careers, and “there are 14% more African Americans and Hispanics in the OA/UC student population than in the general population of New York City high schools” (Advocates for Children of New York, 2007, p. 2).

While the purpose of transfer high schools is to improve educational outcomes for students and decrease the dropout rate, the reality is that many of the students who attend transfer high schools leave without a diploma (Bloom, Thompson, & Ivry, 2010; Dreyer, 1999). New York City’s Department of Education reports that an average of 56% of the OA/UC students in transfer high schools graduate, which means approximately 44% do not (Cahill, Lynch & Hamilton, 2006). Attempts to meet the needs of students in these schools are centered on enhancing students’ academic development in standardized and often rigid ways. For example, students earning a high school diploma from a transfer school in New York City attend full-day programs with schedules similar if not identical to other public high schools in the district. In order to earn a high school diploma, students must pass performance-based assessments (PBAs), the state’s Regents exams, or a combination of both demonstrating competency in English, history, math, and science. Despite efforts to provide a substantially different educational experience for students in transfer schools, the long established grammar of schooling (Tyack & Tobin, 1994) remains unaltered and unchallenged in these alternative spaces; the institutionalized, structural framework of public education that perpetuates racial inequalities and a dominant culture of schooling are inescapable in transfer high schools. School and classroom structures, placement procedures, curricula, and policies can result in discriminatory actions against African American students (Chambers, Huggins, & Scheurich, 2009; Yosso, 2002). Furthermore, when educational reform efforts lead to incremental changes in schooling experiences, for example creating smaller schools for transfer students that mirror traditional schools in form and function, improvements for African American students are sometimes slow in coming if they occur at all (DeCuir & Dixson, 2004). Thus, the students attending transfer high schools, many of whom are African American, are likely to experience similar barriers to their academic achievement as they would in other school settings.

This qualitative interpretive case study (Merriam, 2009) adds the experiences of six African American adult OA/UC high school students to conversations around school reform, addressing a lack of knowledge in the field regarding this population. Centering student voice in articulating both the problems and promise of educating adult learners in transfer high schools can benefit policymakers, practitioners, and researchers striving to create more effective school environments, curricula, and instruction in transfer schools in that, as a result of this study’s findings, stakeholders will be better able to identify and address fundamental elements of schooling for adult African American OA/UC students.

Primary Strand

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance to Primary Strand

The study asked six African American students attending a transfer high school to talk about their schooling experiences and how they believe school professionals (teachers, administrators, and counselors) could help improve the learning environment. Toward the end of the study, participants shared recommendations for changing curricula, practices, and aspects of the culture at their school. These recommendations were both practitioner and policy oriented and centered on three main topics: a desire for more learning opportunities that directly reflect student interests, a desire for more discipline and enforcement of school rules, and a desire for more effective teaching. Student recommendations are reflective of the ways they see race, gender and age influencing their education as well as practical steps they believe will increase academic achievement for future students. Their voice, if considered, can help school professionals create more effective learning opportunities and environments for "overage, under-credited" African American students.

Brief Program Description

Geared toward teachers, administrators, and counselors, this presentation explores practical recommendations for improving schooling experiences and educational outcomes for "overage, under-credited" students. Based on student voice, student recommendations inform a need for radical praxis which requires collaboration between those empowered to act and those in need of transformative action.

Summary

Set in New York City, this qualitative research study adds the experiences of six African American, “overage, under-credited” high school students to school reform efforts and uses their insights to define strategies for improving the educational outcomes of this student population. My analysis incorporates critical race theory, adult learning theory, and culturally relevant pedagogy as a comprehensive framework for examining participants’ recommendations. The specific research question explored in this study is: What recommendations, rooted in participants’ race, gender, and age, do they offer for improving the educational experiences of OA/UC students? The students in this study are positioned as experts of their own experiences, capable of articulating problems and potential solutions within the curricula and culture at their school. Their recommendations inform a need for radical praxis, defined as action that is engaged, responsive, and transformative for those on the subordinating side of group power; radical praxis requires collaboration between those empowered to act and those in need of transformative action. The paper serves as a call to action for teachers and administrators to incorporate the voice and insights of "overage, under-credited" students in school reform efforts. My presentation will focus on specific strategies and practical reform initiatives.

Evidence

The evidence of "field-tested" effectiveness rests in literature around incorporating student voice in school reform. I will briefly discuss this literature in the presentation. Furthermore, I will discuss the ways in which the findings from my study have been used at the school to guide curricula and programmatic change.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Iesha Jackson received her Ed.D. in Urban and Multicultural Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in May, 2015. She joined the faculty of Arizona State University as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Teacher Preparation Division of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in August, 2015. While pursuing her doctorate, Iesha received multiple fellowships and awards, co-authored three published manuscripts, taught graduate level courses in teacher education, and worked with K-12 students of color in and around the Harlem area. Her dissertation examines the schooling experiences of "over-age, under-credited" African American students at an alternative high school. Through her research, Dr. Jackson seeks to provide a nuanced understanding of best practices for educating under-performing students of color.

Start Date

10-23-2016 10:00 AM

End Date

10-23-2016 11:00 AM

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Oct 23rd, 10:00 AM Oct 23rd, 11:00 AM

Toward a Radical Praxis for Overage, Under-credited African American Students

Geared toward teachers, administrators, and counselors, this presentation explores practical recommendations for improving schooling experiences and educational outcomes for "overage, under-credited" students. Based on student voice, student recommendations inform a need for radical praxis which requires collaboration between those empowered to act and those in need of transformative action.