Psychosocial Issues Affecting African-American Student in NYC Public Schools Research Paper

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African-American STUDENTS

"They never want to hear what I have to say…it doesn't matter who started a fight, or what a teacher said to you that made you mad.

You might have something heavy going on at home but no one asks.

They're not interested. They just want you out of the school."

17-year-old 11th grade African-American female student, NYC

(Sullivan, 2007, p. iii).

In New York City, one of the two largest urban public school districts in the United States (U.S.), as well as throughout the U.S. An educational crisis exists; particularly relating to African-American students, that links to a number of factors. According to Sullivan (2007) in the published study, Deprived of Dignity. Degrading treatment and abusive discipline in New York City & Los Angeles public schools, 58% of African-American fourth grade students attending school in the U.S. during 2005 scored below the basic reading level for fourth graders, compared to 36% of students overall.

Even though African-American children in the U.S. repeatedly demonstrate low performance rates on standardized academic tests and exhibit high dropout rates in high school, Johnson (2011) stresses in the study, "No home for Blacks and Latinos at top NY high schools," that not enough is being done enough to remedy this malady. During the paper, the writer discusses numerous developmental factors that affect African-American children in school, with particular emphasis on the global self-concept of African-American youth in academia and how it contributes to poor performance within school. Other considerations relating to psychosocial issues affecting African-American students in NYC public schools include the use of "special education" label on African-American students in these schools.

In the study, "School belonging and the African-American adolescent: What do we know and where should we go?," Booker asserts (2006) that the student's sense of belonging and association proves critical in an educational setting? Students need a sense of community or bond to others to maximize their abilities to learn and engage in academic ventures. Sullivan (2007) also expresses concern that many black students in New York City (NYC) public schools are routinely labeled as troublemakers and also that some of those labeled as special needs students or placed in special education classes are sometimes deliberately "expelled, transferred, or counseled out by staff" (Sullivan, p. iii). Some teachers acknowledge that a number of schools expel students to reduce overcrowding and avoid helping students with special academic and/or behavioral needs. In some instances, students who experience repeated suspensions and removals do not receive supportive services. Over time, this frequently contributes over time to the student also experiencing more alienation. He or she may in turn demonstrate more and misbehaviours which also lead to dropping out of school Students being expelled contribute to a four-year graduation rate of 38% in New York City. Sullivan (2007) reports that recently in NYC:

Students and parents reported that some students who are labeled as troublemakers and/or are struggling academically are intentionally pushed out by being expelled, transferred, or counseled out by staff. Teachers acknowledged that some schools openly push students out as a strategy to reduce overcrowding and avoid the burden of helping students with special academic or behavioral needs. In other cases, schools subject students to repeated suspensions and removals without supportive services, contributing over time to alienation and misbehavior which can lead to pushout. These pushouts contribute to a low four-year graduation rate of 38% in New York City (Sullivan, 2007, p. iii).

Factors Affecting Academia

"Research shows, for African-American adolescents,

issues of school belonging, identification, and engagement are critical to academic performance and successful completion of high school" (Booker, 2008, p.1).

A 2011 report obtained Student Safety Coalition through Freedom of Information requests and analyzed by the New York Civil Liberties Union relates that New York City's public schools currently suspend more students and for longer periods of time than the schools did a decade ago. In the publication, "City schools are suspending more students, and for longer," Phillips (2011) presents the following graph documenting school suspension growth from 1999 -- 2000 in NYC schools.

In response to the fact Black students are suspended in disproportionate numbers with a third of suspensions occurring during months students sit for extended periods of time while they complete state exams, Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director, stated: "Education is a child's right, not a reward for good behavior. . .. Sadly, the growing reliance on suspensions in New York City schools all too often denies children - often the most vulnerable and in need of support - their right to an education" (Phillips, 2011). Excessively harsh approaches to discipline, conjoined with aggressive policing in schools frequently transitions youth from the classroom into the criminal justice system.

The report also found:

Students with disabilities are four times more likely to be suspended than students without disabilities.

Black students, who compose 33% of the student body, served 53% of suspensions over the past 10 years. Black students with disabilities represent more than

50% of suspended students with disabilities.

Black students served longer suspensions on average and were more likely to be suspended for subjective misconduct, like profanity and insubordination.

Thirty percent of suspensions occur in March and May of each school year when students often are taking exams. " (Phillips, 2011; Analysis finds dramatic spike in NYC suspensions: Black children and students with special needs most affected, 2011).).

Among its recommendations, the report stresses the need for NYC schools to provide support services to address students' emotional and psychological needs. Schools also need to invest in school aides, guidance counselors, and social workers trained in conflict resolution and restorative justice methods to address and help resolve disciplinary infractions. Schools should also collaborate with community-based organizations as well as medical, mental health and social service providers to deal with and help students better address non-academic developmental needs (Phillips, 2011).

In the study, "Closing the gap: A group counselingapproach to improve test performance of African-American students," Bruce, Getch, and Ziomek-Daigle (2009) report that historically, as in contemporary society, education proves to be of critical value as well as a and an indispensable prerequisite for an individual to succeed and experience a minimum of a moderately high quality of life as an adult. African-Americans, albeit, comprise a major portion of the most at-risk populations for underachieving in school and society.

Black men are more highly represented in the prison system than in higher education, and only 15.5% of Black Americans have graduated from college compared to 27.7% of White Americans and 42.4% of Asian-Americans. Regardless of race, opportunities for youth without a high school diploma are scarce and individuals without a high school diploma are approximately four times more likely to be unemployed than college graduates. . .. Additionally, the poverty rate among African-Americans is approximately three times that of White Americans. (Bruce, Getch & Ziomek-Daigle, 2009, Literature Review Section, para 2). (Bruce, Getch, & Ziomek-Daigle, 2009, Literature Review Section, ¶ 2)

Data from Bruce, Getch, and Ziomek-Daigle (2009) and other credible sources confirm that addressing contemporary challenges relating to African-American youth proves critical to determining the future these youth. Increases educational achievement, attainment, and employment need to be implemented to help bridge the existing educational gap in the United States. A number of psychosocial issues may contribute to African-American students internalizing negative stereotypes about their intellectual abilities or academic performances. Consequently, due to fear of embarrassment, failure, and/or risk of confirming the stereotype, the African-Americans may generally experience diminishing effects on their achievement levels due. Such stereotype threat, Bruce, Getch, and Ziomek-Daigle, assert, comprises "a construct rooted in the social and cultural contexts of racism and oppression" (Bruce, Getch & Ziomek-Daigle, 2009, Literature Review Section, ¶ 4). When the perceived significance and weight of negative stereotypes decrease, African-American students reportedly perform significantly better in school. This indicates stereotype threat potentially impacts the achievement levels of African-American students in their education.

In the book, Psychology made simple, Thomas-Cottingham (2004), clinical psychologist and an assistant professor at Rider University, explains that Erik Erikson emphasized that cultural as well as society significantly influence a person's development. A person will resolve each stage of his or her development, characterized by a crisis, with either adaptive or maladaptive coping. In the following table, the title for each stage Erikson defined, illustrate this point. For example in the stage, trust vs. mistrust, a responsive caregiver instills a sense of trust in the baby. An unresponsive caregiver, however, who does not respond to cries, for instance, instills a sense of mistrust in the child. The theory of psychosocial development by Erikson identifies the adolescent stage as identity vs. identity diffusion. As the adolescent struggles to develop a sense of self during this time, teens typically "try on" or experiment with becoming various identities. As teens transition from childhood to adulthood, this time provides the opportunity for teens to contemplate who they are at this time and who they will ultimately become. Definitions of self include ethnic identify,…

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