Academic orientations of African-American adolescents in Miami-Dade County

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Alex Stepick III

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Hugh Gladwin

Third Advisor's Name

Walter Gillis Peacock

Date of Defense



The purpose of this research was to answer the following research questions: a) how high-achieving African-Americans maintain a "racefull" Black identity; b) how African- American identity affects academic orientation and achievement; c) how the school's ethnic composition affects African-American students' identity; and d) how family structure, specifically living in female single-parent households, affects academic orientation and achievement.

The data were gathered in an inner-city high school in Miami, Florida. Participants were African-American adolescents, males and females, who started their first-year of high school in the fall of 1995 until their graduation in June 1999. The number of students in the sample varied from 27 students at the beginning of the project to 24 students at the time of graduation.

Data were gathered through intensive ethnographic field work, which involved direct participant observation of students in natural contexts; in-depth interviewing of students, peers, teachers, and families; open-ended classroom discussions on matters about the research; and focus groups. Data on demographics, levels of self-esteem and depression, hours spent doing homework, family help with school work, aspirations, and other factors were gained through a survey.

African-Americans in this high school developed a racefull persona and still embraced education. They did not need to be raceless to succeed. The ethnic composition of the school where these students were a minority within a minority school resulted in their developing reactive ethnicity formation. Family structure did not affect academic orientation. What made a difference in these students lives were parental support and family ties, which affected their academic orientation.



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