Could cultivating a positive self-image, exclusively around race and ethnicity, make a lasting difference in student performance and confidence? The answer, UW associate professor of education Janine Jones found, was promising.
For African-American students, data, alongside societal attitudes and stereotypes, often present a negative picture: a wide academic achievement gap separating them from their white peers. Higher rates of discipline and absenteeism. Discrimination by other students, teachers and the larger community. And just last summer, a study indicated that black girls, from an early age, are perceived as more aggressive and sexual – less innocent – than white girls.
But what if, a University of Washington education professor reasoned, black students were encouraged to explore and embrace their racial identity at school? Could cultivating a positive self-image, exclusively around race and ethnicity, make a lasting difference in student performance and confidence?
The answer, Janine Jones found, was promising. In a paper published this month in Psychology in the Schools, Jones describes her work last spring at a Seattle-area middle school where African-American girls participated in an after-school program designed to create community around and pride in black culture and identity. Those who did expressed greater confidence and reported, both on their own and through teachers, more connection to and involvement with school.
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