University of Illinois at Chicago
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Against All Odds: The Story of Four High-Achieving African-American Males (An Ethno-Case Study)

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posted on 2012-09-07, 00:00 authored by Tony C. Jr. Speed
African-American students, particularly males, achieve at levels below their White and Asian-American counterparts as measured on traditional academic indices (e.g., standardized test scores, high school completion rates, grade point averages, and college entrance and completion rates), which – naturally, impact their life outcomes. Yet, against all odds – including enrollment in one of the lowest performing high schools in one of the nation’s largest school districts – many African-American high school-level boys prove to be high achieving on these same traditional indices. This project is an attempt to capture the school and home-life stories of four such students, capturing that which promotes their high academic engagement and achievement as to contribute to the conversation about narrowing said academic achievement and life outcome disparities. The theories that the engagement of student narratives and voices is paramount to closing the aforesaid disparities and the working assumption that socio-political forces greatly influence the academic achievement and engagement of African-American male high school students serve as the theoretical framings of this project. Feminist and youth participatory action research traditions inform the research collection design, while ethno-case study is the employed methodology. Findings suggest that a couple of in-school dynamics (i.e., climate in school and peer relationships) greatly influence the students’ academic achievements, while extracurricular influence is minimal. With respect to out-of-school dynamics, only family has largely influenced said students’ academic achievements, while church and community influences are marginal. And, finally, a sense of self-efficacy, however nurtured, bears significant influence on the students’ academic achievements. Such findings can contribute to this ever-important conversation about improving the academic achievements of African-American males and, in doing so, improving their life outcomes.



Stovall, David O.


Educational Policy Studies

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Ayers, William McKay-Jackson, Cassandra Mayrowetz, David Tatum, Alfred

Publisher Statement

Dissertation Spring 2012


  • en_US

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