Culturally Responsive Mentoring Programs: Impacting Retention/Graduation Rates of African American Males Attending Predominately White Institutions

Culturally Responsive Mentoring Programs: Impacting Retention/Graduation Rates of African American Males Attending Predominately White Institutions

John E. Queener (The University of Akron, USA) and Bridgie A. Ford (The University of Akron, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5990-0.ch007

Abstract

Postsecondary education and training are deemed essential in today's and future job markets. Thus, the lower entry rates into and lower graduation rates from higher education by African American males place them in a long-term crisis economically and socially. Mentoring is strongly recommended as a significant component of comprehensive strategies to improve the retention and graduation rates of African American males. Research reveals that successful retention programs go beyond a one model fits all and are based on the unique characteristics and needs of students. The authors of this chapter assert that mentoring programs designed to improve retention and graduation rates of African American males must be scholarly based and authentically address the cultural needs of those students; therefore, the mentoring program must include culturally relevant constructs. This chapter discusses the design, implementation, and results of the pilot phase of a research-based culturally responsive mentoring program based on optimal psychology for African American males enrolled at a midwestern Predominately White Institution of higher education.
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Introduction

Despite educational reforms and gains made by African American students, the literature continues to document a persistent achievement - graduation gap for them at all educational levels, PreK-16 (The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2012). This serious disparity in educational advancement, retention and graduation rates is particularly evident for African American males. African Americans males face disproportionately high rates of suspension and expulsion from school, drop-out of high school at a higher rate, are over-represented in special education programs for students with cognitive and/or behavioral difficulties and are more exposed than their white peers to catastrophic conditions in schools (e.g., limited funding and resources, inexperienced or unqualified teachers, lower educational expectations (Ford, 2011; Lewis, Simon, Uzzel, Horwitz, & Casserly, 2010; NCES, 2012; Orfield & Lee, 2004). These gaps in educational opportunities and achievement do not improve for African Americans at institutions of higher learning. In 2010, a lower percentage of 18- to 24-year-old African American males were enrolled in either college or graduate school than Whites or Asians. In addition, the percentages of African American males (17 percent) who attained bachelor’s degrees were lower than the percentages of White males (35 percent), Asians (39 percent), and students of two or more races (27 percent) who attained bachelor’s degrees (NCES, 2012).

African Americans males are not only falling behind their White male and Asian counter parts, but they are also falling behind African American females as it relates to graduate rates and academic achievement. Cuyjet (2006) pointed out that African Americans females are attending college at a rate of 2 to 1 relative to the number of African Americans attending college. Further, he added that this gender gap is the largest among all racial groups. In terms of graduation, data (NCE, 2012) reveal that the six-year graduation from colleges and universities for White males was 69% from 2003-2009. For African American females for the same time, the graduate rate was 53% and the graduation rate for African American males was 46%. African American males enter college at lower rates and graduate at lower rates than their white male and African American female counter parts. Further compounding the problem is the delay in which African American high school graduates attend college. African American students overall are reported as less likely to go directly into college. For example, in 2009, Black males were less likely than White males to enroll in a two-year or four-year college after high school graduation. Three out of 10 Black males enrolled in a four-year institution, compared with four out of 10 White males (Lewis, Simon, Uzzel, Horwitz, & Casserly, 2010). This delay increases the difficulty of those students considering college after a few or several years of non-academic activity (Martin, 2011).

Collectively, for African American males, the above disparaging statistics lead to high under or unemployment rates and elevated probability of incarceration; the school to prison pipeline becomes a reality. In their analysis of the academic and non-academic factors impacting retention in higher education, Lotkowski, Robbins & Noeth (2004) emphasized that six out of every ten jobs require some postsecondary education and training. The lower entry rates into and lower graduation rates from higher education by African American males puts them at-risk economically and socially. The design and systematic implementation of best practices that effectively improve both the entry and graduation rates of African American males at the postsecondary level is crucial. Mentoring is strongly recommended as a significant component of comprehensive strategies to improve the graduation rate of African American males (Cuyjet, 2006; Glenn, 2004; Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004; Martin, 2011). This chapter discusses the importance of incorporating a scholarly-based culturally responsive mentoring framework customized to address the unique needs of African American males relative to retention and graduation.

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