Revisiting Brown Versus Board of Education: Differences in School Context and the influence of Racial Attitudes on Academic Attainment and Civic Engagement among Black Americans across the Lifespan

Kristen Bell, Mikerobert Joseph, Rune Simeonson, Ph. D, Jonathan N Livingston, Maia Crumbie, Amani Wise


Since Brown versus the Board of Education 60 years ago, educators and social and behavioral scientists have tried to identify factors related to better achievement for Black Americans. Since the desegregation of schools in the U.S., Black American students have reported lower grade point averages, standardized test scores, and graduation rates (Allen, 1992). Previous research has investigated school context and climate as well as the influence of racial attitudes on academic achievement. Findings suggest that positive student perceptions of school climate and context (e.g., pride, social support, relationships with a teacher, access to resources) were related to better academic outcomes (Hurley & Lustbader, 1997). However, the research on the influence of racial attitudes have been inconclusive (Chavous et al., 2003; Fordham & Ogbu 1986). Thus, the purpose of this study is two-fold. First, to explore whether racial attitudes were related to academic attainment and civic engagement, and second, to examine whether there are differences in perceptions in school pride and school climate for students in historically black high schools and historically white high schools. To assess the aforementioned research questions, thirty-three Black American high school graduates from a historically white high school and eighty-two Black Americans from historically black high schools were sampled. Spearman Rho correlations and Independent sample T-tests were run to assess the relationship between the following. 1) Racial attitudes, educational attainment, and civic engagement. 2) Differences in perceptions of school climate for Blacks at historically White and Black high schools. Findings reveal statistically significant associations between racial attitudes and educational attainment as well as civic engagement. Moreover, differences were also found in perceptions of climate across school types. Given these results, further research is needed to explore the influence of students’ perception of their school experience and racial attitudes upon educational and life outcomes.

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