Preparing and Supporting Black Students to Enroll and Achieve in Advanced Mathematics Classes in Middle School: A Case Study

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Virginia Tech


The literature on minority student achievement indicates that Black students are underrepresented in advanced mathematics courses. Advanced mathematics courses offer students the opportunity to engage with challenging curricula, experience rigorous instruction, and interact with quality teachers. The middle school years are particularly significant for mathematics education since the courses students pursue during those years affect later access to rigorous mathematics coursework at the high school level as well as college and career readiness. This case study examined factors that affected Black student achievement in advanced mathematics classes at one middle school. Data included interviews of school personnel, on-site observations, and school-related document analysis. Six major themes that affected student achievement in advanced mathematics classes emerged from the data: (a) mathematics placement innovations, (b) cultural shift towards increased rigor, (c) culture of high expectations, (d) culture of continuous learning, (e) data sharing, and (f) perceived barriers to enrollment. The conceptual framework of Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, and Easton (2010) was used to identify and explain the relationships among these categories. This case study highlighted key district and school individuals who initiated and implemented the wave of changes regarding mathematics placement and teaching that occurred over a four-year period. The study also identified barriers that seemed to impede Black student enrollment in such classes. The findings illustrated how concerted efforts provided students with a challenging curriculum, thus, increasing access to advanced mathematics classes for all students. Policies and practices that lifted all students had a positive effect for Black students.



factors, mathematics, middle school, minorities, underrepresentation, barriers, Black students, enrollment