Black students, white schools: The personal traits and organizational factors conducive to student success

Noah Tennant, University of Pennsylvania


The learning traits of black students and the difficulties they face have been connected to their identity and self image; to the manner in which educators facilitate learning and teach students; to schools' inabilities to create inclusive curricula; and to the interpersonal and intrapersonal dilemmas black students face as "others" in a white world---and indeed, all of these factors play a role in the development of black students. The forums for their learning have not been ideal, nor will they be for some time---yet I stand impressed every time I walk into my current school, the schools around me, and the college campuses nearby. I stand impressed because I see strong, intellectual, driven black students who possess leadership, character, and skill. They are black artisans, academics, philosophers and role-models who have achieved in spite of the world around them. They have traversed what can be a treacherous world of public education, subjected to the stares, to the emptiness, and to the isolation---and they successfully emerged even when odds were not in their favor. They went through school with little understanding of their place in the curriculum, or their families' places in the town, or their people's place in society---and they achieved anyway. This research further explores the experiences of black students in predominantly white, affluent, suburban school districts. Specifically, the research examines eight successful black students from Sunnydale High School in hopes of determining the traits which led to their success. Several methods of data collection were utilized to better understand these students, including observations, interviews, and focus groups. These methods were useful in identifying the obstacles that impeded the educational paths and marred the personal experiences of these students. Moreover, the information gleaned was useful in identifying the organizational factors and/or personal traits that allowed these black students to have successful educational experiences despite these impediments. Specifically, these students possessed a high degree of bi-cultural literacy; a positive black social identity; white ally models in whom they trusted and believed; and the ability to integrate themselves into the social dynamics of their school.

Subject Area

School administration|Educational psychology|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Tennant, Noah, "Black students, white schools: The personal traits and organizational factors conducive to student success" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3209984.