Using Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Influence Literacy Achievement for Middle School Black Male Students



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Background: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2009 Grade Eight Reading scores (Schott Report, 2010) show that from 1992-2009 significant achievement gaps of 20-35% persisted between Black and White students in over 32 states. More specifically, in 2009, Black students scored an average reading level of 246, while White students scored an average of 273. Additionally, Black male students disproportionately represent students that receive special services in K-8 schools and are disproportionately categorized as At-Risk youth and low-achievers across America in comparison to other races (Ladson-Billings, 2009; Tatum, 2003). As Tatum (2003) pointed out, "Black males are the only group to hold the distinction of having more of their number in prison than in college" (p.823). Although many studies examine the impact of culturally relevant pedagogy on the education of African American students, a limited number of studies address the disparities in literacy education for Black male students that attend a single-gendered middle school. Purpose: The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to examine the influence of culturally responsive teaching (CRT) on the academic growth and achievement of middle school, Black male students classified as At-Risk youth as based on their low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds. CRT is an instructional practice aimed at promoting students' academics through a culturally competent curriculum which provides a sociopolitical consciousness in literacy instruction (Ladson-Billings, 2009). The following research question guided this study: How is the literacy achievement of middle school low SES Black male students in single- gendered classrooms influenced when culturally responsive teaching is implemented?

Methods: This study employs concurrent transformative mixed methods. Quantitative data consisted of archival pre- and posttest reading scores from the computer adaptive interim assessments, Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) of 17 Black male middle school students in the researcher's classroom throughout the 2017-2018 academic school year. Multiple data points from the quarterly campus-distributed reading assessments were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to determine these students' overall middle school literacy achievement across the 2017- 2018 school year. Qualitative data included the researcher's personal teaching journal consisting of descriptive and reflective field notes. These were holistically hand-coded using the seven Salda֘na (2008) first cycle coding types to capture broad themes that emerged during the 2017-2018 school year. Findings were debriefed with a critical friend to check for accuracy and researcher bias. Results: Results revealed that the use of Hollie’s CRT framework (2017) facilitated the structuring of my lessons that (a) engaged students with culturally and linguistically authentic texts, (b) employed read-alouds in the oral tradition of cultural storytelling, and (c) purposefully used effective literacy strategies responsively using Hollie’s VABB model. The VABB model consists of validation, affirmation, building, and bridging between culture and content during instruction. Results also revealed that direct interactions and teacher mindset embedded in CRT were additional influencers to students’ literacy achievement. Confounding variables such as student maturation and teacher’s teaching and learning principles were possible influencers as well. The positive impact of CRT was shown in the students’ pre- and posttest MAP results where reading ability was measured in Rasch Units (RIT) scores. A paired-samples t-test was conducted to compare the students’ pretest MAP RIT scores to their posttest MAP RIT scores. There was a significant difference in the scores for pretest (M=220.76, SD=14.75) and posttest (M=235.47, SD=13.70) RIT scores; t (16) = -7.10, p < .001. According to the 2015 Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) report, students are expected to grow, on average, two to three MAP RIT scores during a given year from the Fall to the Spring semester. In contrast, my students performed higher than the 2015 NWEA expected average. These results suggest that when implemented with fidelity, culturally responsive teaching positively influenced literacy achievement for middle school Black male students. Conclusion: The findings supported that pedagogy that is empowering and mirrors the student’s cultural values, traditions, beliefs, and lifestyle is an instructional intervention proved to be successful at influencing the literacy achievement of vulnerable populations of students.



Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Literacy