Positive Parenting Practices: Academic Motivation for African American Males in
Title 1 Elementary Schools

Description of Program: There is a persistent academic achievement gap between African American learners and their counterparts of other ethnicities. Research suggests there is no single cause, as many factors like low socioeconomic status (SES), limited parental and family involvement, and the like are contributors to this dilemma. As such, in order to successfully increase academic achievement, parents need to have a clearer understanding of this population’s risk and protective factors.

Parental and family involvement influence the academic performance of students, which in too many instances, is a missing piece in Title 1 schools. A strategic partnership between teachers and parents could potentially serve as a powerful motivator for African American males. Positive parenting, conveying the importance of education, and academic identity would benefit this population greatly.

There are parents who simply do not understand the importance of helping to build academic capacities in their children. Hence, the first six years of a child’s life is crucial for proper cognitive development and educational trajectory positioning. Parental and family involvement are central to students’ academic success, especially with African American boys. Parents’ involvement is a major contributing factor for students’ success in a number of areas, such as increases in academic achievement, less discipline problems, and improvement in attitude toward school, to name a few.

It is important for African American parents of Title 1 children to understand the gravity of the issue of early literacy for their children, which can lay the basic foundation for academic success. As a whole, African American parents tend not to create a home literacy environment such as an abundance of books, literacy games or engage in cognitive stimulation activities, such as singing and playing language games, parents reading, playing spelling games, and so forth with their children, compared to parents of other ethnicities. This may partly explain the trajectory of literacy development for African American boys. Literacy development is critical for academic success.

African American children in general, and African American boys in particular, tend to perform less well on assessments of early reading, writing, basic vocabulary, and decoding skills, when compared with their counterparts of other ethnicities. Children who develop literacy-related skills early do better in school academically. In African American boys, it has been well documented that they are at a pronounced risk early in their academic careers with difficulties in reading and writing skills. The home literacy environment influences children’s literacy development. Indeed, it has been well documented that SES, which involves parent education, family income, and occupation, influences student achievement, as Title 1 families direct less time toward literacy activities.

Additionally, poverty negatively impacts African American boys more than African American girls. When comparing reading attitudes in students in grades 1-6, attitudes toward reading appear to be more positive in grade 1. Additionally, low ability readers maintained a more negative, declining attitude toward recreational reading, which increases with age.

In the sessions, parents will explore suggestions, while pondering the following essential questions:
• What are some of the best practices in motivating my child academically?
• What is differential parenting and some of its effects on African American males?
• Why racial socialization can produce unintended consequences?
• What is mastery of experiences?
• Why is social modeling or vicarious experiences so powerful?
• Can social persuasions be used in a positive way to influence academic achievement?
• Why my child seemingly doesn’t care about the future?
• How can reading motivation be enhanced and sustained?

A rigorous, collaborative effort must take shape by educators and parents in helping students to develop the requisite self-perception and academic self-efficacy in order for them to function at optimal levels in academic settings and life. As such, an anticipated outcome of this session is to enable parents to become better able to build academic capacities in their children and to embrace positive, supportive parenting practices. Additionally, ways to improve cognitive skills in children from birth onward will be shared. Students must be taught at an early age how to master educational and sociocultural challenges and to see themselves as being academically and socially capable of navigating life events; this is a shared responsibility between school and home.

This presentation, fully supported by the latest research-based information, will provide parents with practical strategies for healthy mind stimulation and real-life insights on how best to prepare students for academic success. The information provided will be presented in a plain and practical manner that will be understood by parents.

It is recommended that parental and family involvement sessions are offered in series, with sessions ranging in duration from 30-60 minutes per session.

Motivating and Engaging African American Males in Title 1 Elementary Schools

Description of Workshop: We are all well aware of the academic achievement gap that exists between African American students and their counterpart of other ethnicities. The achievement gap does not happen all of a sudden; it starts before kindergarten and seems to widen as students progress from grade to grade. Of particular concern, is African American males, as they tend to have the worst grades, are more likely to drop out of school, are over-represented in special education classes, and are the least likely to attend college. Thus, this group’s lack of academic achievement overwhelmingly and disproportionally contributes to the academic achievement gap.

In this professional development workshop for educators, research-based information with practical applications will be shared. That is, a basic understanding of factors that impact motivation is essential for this population, as students’ mindset and their willingness to put forth their best efforts are critical for achieving at high levels academically. That is, in order to address the academic achievement gap, a robust knowledge base of the obstacles confronted by African American males is necessary. Just as importantly, a deeper understanding of the strengths, coping mechanisms, and other related factors that seem to instill hope and perseverance in this population, in spite of their obstacles, are also warranted. Insights related to what works for this population are needed, as the scant research in the literature that does exist is slanted toward a deficit model, focusing on limitations and/or environmental factors as reasons for underachievement. Research related to the academic motivation of African Americans is rare, in general, and with a focus on African American elementary-aged males in Title 1 schools, it is even more uncommon.

At present, some educators tend to view this population as less capable than other students. These views undoubtedly impact how these students are taught. The reality, then, is that these students are not expected to do as well academically as others; in turn, a self-fulfilling prophecy may occur. As teachers understand and employ theoretical and practical strategies in regard to student motivation, increased academic achievement is the likely end result.

In the sessions, educators will explore suggestions, while pondering the following essential questions:

• How praise can undermine student motivation?
• What’s the difference between self-esteem and academic self-efficacy?
• What are academic disidentification, oppositional identity, learned helplessness, and the like?
• What is Pygmalion effect?
• How to instill a growth mindset?
• When the goal is intrinsic motivation, why do most schools use extrinsic motivational strategies?
• Why is early literacy important and why images in books matter?

A deeper understanding of this population is warranted in an effort to address the academic achievement gap. These students could potentially have graduation rates similar to those of other ethnicities. As such, strategies from this workshop will be beneficial in the development of practices to improve teaching and learning for this population, thereby enhancing these students’ beliefs, behaviors, and academic performances.

In order to see improved academic achievements, intentional targeted strategies, coupled with novel information to increase academic motivation, must occur. Moreover, a major shift in attitudes and priorities is needed. Time is of the essence, as students’ value of schooling and its usefulness declines as they age.

This professional learning can be provided in a 1-hour presentation, a half-day, or a full-day workshop. It is recommended, however, that follow up sessions are provided in order to experience more sustainable results.