The American education system can be described as predominantly white because the involvement of people of color is limited. Additionally, many students of color do not achieve the desired levels of success despite the removal of such barriers as racial discrimination in schools. However, schools record higher numbers of white students and teachers and a relatively lower number of African Americans, Latinos, and Hispanics, as well as other minority races. According to Banks and Dohy (2019), the racial composition of university professors and other faculty members is 45% white males, 35% white females, 3% black males, 3% black females, 3% Hispanic males, and 2% Hispanic females.
With these statistics, the racial atmosphere is increasingly favorable to white students. Many efforts have been made to address academic success among students of color. The main question addressed in this paper is how educators can continue to improve the academic success of this group of students. The argument is that a more favorable environment accompanied by enabling practices is mandatory for this goal to be achieved.
The first course of action for educators is to improve the racial climate of educational institutions. The term ‘campus racial climate’ has been described by McClain and Perry (2017) as the judgments, beliefs, and outlooks of a school setting regarding ethnicity, race, and diversity. From the statistics provided by Banks and Dohy (2019), it can be argued that the racial climate in most schools is disproportionately favorable towards whites at the expense of students of color. As evidenced by the low retention and graduation rates, such an environment is less likely to inspire students of color to make significant efforts toward their academic success. Even students who decide to go all the way may not have the proper motivation, especially when the disparities in faculties act as a reminder of the inequalities they expect to face. Additionally, it can be argued that having many teachers of color can motivate students to strive for success through the notion that success in academics will not be in vain.
Creating a supportive environment is a rather broad and vague concept, which means that more specific courses of action need to be outlined. However, this aspect remains a concern for most scholars who feel that supportive environments work better than blaming learners for their lack of integration into the educational environment (Choi et al., 2020). Such recommendations as involving friends and families in the student’s education have been proposed. The educator’s role is to ensure that the students of color have everything they need to keep them focused on their education. Families and friends can act as a support structure and a form of encouragement.
However, it can be argued that school visits and other forms of involvement might not be enough if the racial climate works against the students. For example, Banks and Dohy (2019) describe a case when a black American student was accused by a white professor of cheating because of scoring high on a test. As a result, the student was forced to retake the test while being monitored by a graduate assistant. The racial climate of educational facilities is a priority for educators.
From the example given above, building relationships between students of color and educators can also help improve their academic success. Such a position is taken by Luedke (2017), who believes that there should be a way for educators of color to authentically support students of color. The keywords in this statement are “educators of color” and “authentically” because they hold meaning for the entire argument. Firstly, the idea of authenticity emanates from the fact that matching staff and students of color could go against the idea of racial integration. However, educators of color are an embodiment of academic success and a source of encouragement because they share the same cultural values and challenges as students of color. As argued earlier, predominantly white institutions are inherently disadvantageous.
The argument is that cultural mismatches between learners and teachers can be a deterrent to academic success. Therefore, increasing the number of educators of color in schools is a means of both attracting and retaining students and ensuring their academic success.
Mentorship is another practice that can be adopted by educators through their relationships with students of color. The usefulness of mentoring programs has been discussed by McClain and Perry (2017), who also offer examples of such initiatives. For instance, The Black Man’s Think Tank, Project BEAM, and the Brigade were all targeted at black students on campuses. The focus of mentoring programs is largely to help students of color get acclimated to the college environment. Even though many of these programs were established and managed by white mentors, they significantly increased the likelihood of graduation among students of color.
Such an observation leads to the conclusion that mentoring works and supports Luedke’s (2017) idea of teachers of color helping students of color. The argument is that having people who share the same cultural values would yield even better results for the programs. It would be interesting to conduct an experiment that demonstrates the differences in the level of success between white-managed and black-managed mentoring programs. Until empirical results indicate otherwise, the position that black mentors would be more successful will be held.
Several recommendations that target the classroom setting have also been made for educators. According to Barhoum (2018), smaller class sizes, comprising 10 to 12 students, offer plenty of benefits. Firstly, teachers can have deeper contact with the students, which allows them to offer better assistance. Students of color face a scenario that may resemble institutional neglect. Therefore, deeper connections and the possibility of more personalized academic assistance will raise the levels of academic achievement.
The second benefit of small class sizes is that there is more time dedicated to individual attention and a comfortable atmosphere for both the learner and the educator to interact. A major concern with this approach is whether small class sizes would work in real life, considering the number of students large institutions have. Additionally, reducing class sizes may necessitate more teachers and more classrooms, which raises doubts about whether the education system would be ready to make large-scale changes. However, educators should make all the necessary efforts to ensure class sizes allow for greater contact and adequate time for individual attention.
Mandatory tutoring is another way for educators to improve academic success for students of color. Barhoum (2018) believes that tutoring has proven effective in offering supplemental instruction in schools. In this case, the assumption made is that the academic success of students of color is a cognitive issue that can be addressed through greater attention and more instruction. Previous courses of action have considered the environment and cultural issues as the main barriers where success is measured in terms of graduation and retention rates at colleges. In this case, mandatory tutoring targets grades as the key indicator of academic success. Individual and group tutoring can be conducted outside of class hours or through special programs that allow for specialized instruction for the students.
Corequisite support classes are also effective in improving academic success for students of color. Barhoum (2018) states that corequisite support classes require credit classes to be taught concurrently with noncredit classes. Such an approach allows students with special needs to get the support they need to improve their grades and other learning outcomes. Lastly, acceleration programs can help lower-level students to catch up with the higher-level ones in the semesters. Acceleration courses can be used as a tool to bridge the gaps between lower higher grades students. Overall, these alternatives allow educators to offer workable solutions for students facing challenges in their education.
In conclusion, it has been established that the racial climate across the country’s education system is disproportionately advantageous to white students as compared to students of color. Therefore, several propositions have been made regarding how staff and administrators can create a better learning environment as a means of helping students of color improve their success. Additionally, recommendations targeting the classroom settings have been offered, which assume cognitive challenges can be solved by more specialized assistance. Regardless of the success indicators, it has emerged that there are multiple alternatives that educators can use, most of which have been proven successful through scholarly research.
Banks, T., & Dohy, J. (2019). Mitigating barriers to persistence: A review f efforts to improve retention and graduation rates for students of color in higher education. Higher Education Studies, 9(1), 118-131. Web.
Barhoum, S. (2018). Increasing student success: Structural recommendations for community colleges. Journal of Developmental Education, 41(3), 18-25. Web.
Choi, Y., Traini, H., Velez, J., & Diebel, P. (2020). Exploration of factors impacting the departure decisions of students of color at a college of agricultural sciences. NACTA Journal, 65, 268-280. Web.
Luedke, C. (2017). A person first, student second: Staff and administrators of color supporting students of color authentically in higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 58(1), 37-52. Web.
McClain, K., & Perry, A. (2017). Where did they go: Retention rates for students of color at predominantly white institutions. College Student Affairs Leadership, 4(1), 1-9. Web.