Characteristic profiles of low and high achieving African American males in selected North Carolina middle schools

Shanessa Fenner, Fayetteville State University


The purpose of this study was to examine the characteristic profiles of low and high achieving African American males in grades 6 through 8 in three selected North Carolina middle schools. The qualitative study analyzed interview data gathered in 3 face-to-face interviews with 30 African American males over a 3-month period during the 2008–2009 academic school year. All males were 11 to 14 years old. The interview protocol focused on achievement and academic engagement along with participant perceptions of self, family, and school. Several reoccurring themes were identified: (a) self-image, (b) peer interaction, (c) study skills, (d) life in the neighborhood, (e) career aspirations, (f) school experience, (g) student-teacher interaction, (h) academics, (i) parental involvement, and (j) life's challenges. High achieving students were found to be more academically focused, dedicated, and driven with high self-expectations, positive self-esteem, positive attitudes toward school, and future aspirations. They reported a supportive network of family and friends and involvement in extracurricular activities. Low achieving students were found to be spirited, playful, and sociable with a positive image of self. However, they were less academically focused and poorly motivated with higher rates of inappropriate or disciplinary behaviors and lower parental involvement. Academic and social implications of these findings were discussed. The results of this study suggest the following implications for change: (a) parent mentoring programs, (b) interventions that assist the African American male with the transition to adulthood, and (c) educating teachers about the most effective teaching strategies that address the learning styles of African American males. Recommendations for future research include (a) expansion to include parental interviews, (b) comparative studies on gender differences among high and low achieving students, (c) investigating African American males in other geographical areas of the United States, and (d) research of school leaders' perceptions of African American males and their academic engagement.

Subject Area

African American Studies|Educational leadership|Middle School education

Recommended Citation

Fenner, Shanessa, "Characteristic profiles of low and high achieving African American males in selected North Carolina middle schools" (2010). ETD Collection for Fayetteville State University. AAI3485208.