Dissertation: Francine Stevens

Cohort 2, published 2011

Title

Racial Identity, Religious Participation and Stereotype Threat: The Impact on Student Educational Outcomes

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between middle/high school students’ racial identity, religious participation, and perception of stereotype threat and the effect on student educational outcomes (student engagement, student achievement, academic identification, withdrawal, and dropout). The focus of this study was on African American students who participate in church-related religious activity on a regular basis. The Black community church has long provided the vehicle for the open expression of African American social, political, and educational discourse and organization needed to enact critically needed community change efforts. Environment assets such as the community Black church involvement for African American students may prove to hold resources for overcoming the achievement gap. When African Americans as a church community taught students who were denied access to public schools, the curriculum was culturally relevant and the teachers shared the same values, beliefs, traditions, and custom as the students they taught (Hooks, 1992). This contributed to students’ feeling of belonging and identity and provided critical social capital, which is significant for African American student learning and development as a marginalized ethnic group. The literature reviewed for this study provides a discussion of four themes. The first theme examines the theoretical frames informing this study. These include: racial identity theory, critical race theory, stereotype threat theory, community cultural wealth, and critical social capital. The second theme provides a clear cultural context for the understanding and interpretation of the social and political climate of the study. This theme reviews the concept of race, racial socialization, and institutional racism as a pretense of the sociopolitical institutions and agencies in society, particularly education. The third theme explores the importance of youth development and community-based organizations in building self-esteem, racial identity development, and ethnic efficacy of adolescents. This includes the significance of the Black church community for African Americans politically, socially, and spiritually in racial identity development and ethnic pride. The fourth theme reviews the educational implications and outcomes these social and cultural factors have for African American middle/high school students attending American public schools. The research design was mixed-method, quantitative and qualitative. Data was collected from a 36-question self-reported survey, focus group activity, and adult interviews, which were transcribed and analyzed for patterns and themes. The researcher utilized the linkages among the various data sources through coding, categories, and concepts to identify relevant findings related to the research questions. The researcher then triangulated the various data sources to build an understanding of student subjects’ experience of their world and the implication for educational outcomes. The findings indicated there were both statistically significant (p= .05 or less) and statistically suggestive (p=.10 or less) correlations between racial identity, religious participation, and stereotype threat and the impact on education outcomes such as grade point average, academic identity, academic engagement, social acceptance, future aspirations, as well as self-handicapping and academic disengagement. Students who experience stereotype threat without the buffer of resilience-making support, are more likely to participate in self handicapping and disengaging behavior over time. Steele (1994) suggested that these are the very students who eventually withdraw and/or drop out of school. The cost to the nation and states for students failing to complete high school is measured in billions of dollars. In addition, for students who drop out of school, the cost in human potential is priceless. The concluding chapter discusses the implications of the study including implications for transformational leadership, policy implications, and suggests future research studies with the final reflection of the researcher. It is imperative that researchers, educators, and policymakers explore the influencing factors and cultural assets of African Americans in their efforts to close the achievement gap, a persistent phenomenon that continues to undermine the national security and economic stability of the United States. The cost to the nation for students who do not complete high school or are unable to function and contribute as citizens is catastrophic. This study attempts to provide some possibilities for further knowledge and understanding research and reform efforts.

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