Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Kathryn M. Borman, Ph.D.

Keywords

High school students, Qualitative research, Standardized testing, Achievement gap, Critical Race Theory

Abstract

While there is ample research theorizing reasons for so-called "achievement gaps" between African American and White students on standardized tests, few studies explore African Americans' perceptions of the impact these tests have on overall education. Through interviews with six current students attending Hillsborough County public high schools, one recent graduate of a Hillsborough County high school, and two parents of students in Hillsborough County public schools, this research study probes participants' perceptions of the impact of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) on their high school experiences. All participants in the study identified as African American or Black. Through archival research and participant observation with the Tampa Bay Academy of Hope (TBAH), a non-profit organization dedicated to developing leadership, behavioral, and academic skills for inner-city middle and high school students, this study also investigates the role of community-based organizations in facilitating the successful navigation of academic and bureaucratic challenges for African American students and parents in the quest for academic success at and beyond the high school level in Hillsborough County. The consequences of standardized testing in the Hillsborough County schools participants have attended reach beyond individuals' successful graduation, affecting course options, academic tracking, school structure, and school climate. Here I argue that standardized testing is another method of academic tracking, and school-wide penalties and rewards associated with disaggregated standardized test scores impact student and parent perceptions of school climate and school-family relationship.

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