Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Juan Battle

Subject Categories

Education Policy | Liberal Studies | Other Education


Achievement Gap, African American Students, Black Students, Bricolage, NELS:88, Sociocultural Theory


Well-known social scientist William Wilson notes the Black underclass is particularly at risk of developing behaviors and attitudes that promote educational and social isolation. This situation has become characteristic of America's inner cities (Wilson 1996). Education as the great arbiter of social mobility seems to be less true for America's most vulnerable Black students. Low-income Black students graduate high school at a much lower rate than their middle- to upper-income counterparts. This statistic prompts the examination of low-income (vulnerable) students and their high school educational outcomes.

The educational (under)achievement of Black students has been well documented and researched. Far too much scholarship, however, treats these students' experiences monolithically, with little consideration of the unique experiences of economically disadvantaged Black students. By analyzing two waves (cohorts) from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) (1988 and 1992), this study seeks to add to the discourse on educational achievement by examining the impact of individual student characteristics (locus of control), students' educational outlook (educational aspirations), school environment (urbanicity), and students' premature adult life events (pregnant or parenting) on the educational outcomes of vulnerable Black students.

The theoretical framework will include sociocultural theory (Rogoff), oppositional theory (Ogbu), and possible selves theory (Oyserman).

The findings from this study will help inform efforts to improve the educational outcomes of low-income Black students.