Positive Identity Reinforcement at School Improves Black Students Academic Performance

A new longitudinal study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh shows that African American youth who receive positive messages about their racial group in school achieved better school grades one to two years later.

The study initially assessed 961 sixth-, eighth- and tenth grade African American students enrolled in 17 public schools throughout the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States during the 2016-2017 academic school year, following them subsequently over three academic years.

Researchers used three waves of yearly longitudinal data to examine whether:

  • Adolescents’ perceptions of school cultural socialization (engagement in endorsing racial pride messages) predict identity exploration, identity commitment, and overall grade point averages over a three-year period, and
  • A longitudinal link exists between school cultural socialization and school grades conveyed through identity exploration and identity commitment.

“African American youth who received positive messages from educators and school personnel about their racial group had better grades up to 1-2 years later,” said Juan Del Toro, postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study. “Our results suggest that African American youth are more likely to be successful in school when they feel a positive sense of community and interdependence.”

Ming-Te Wang, professor at the University of Pittsburgh and co-author of the study, added that “by understanding that schools can act as agents of positive cultural socialization, we can better inform schools as to why and how they should engage in practices that promote African American pride, history, and heritage.”

The full study, “Child Development, School Cultural Socialization and Academic Performance: Examining Ethnic-Racial Identity Development as a Mediator Among African American Adolescents,” was published on the website of Child Development, a journal of the Society for Research in Child Development. It may be accessed here.


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  1. Michael says:

    Another meaningless so-called research study. These findings maybe “new information” to these researchers because they do not ethnically, racially, or culturally belong to the native born Black American community. Not to mention, “native born Black American” scholars have been literally saying this for DECADES. Further, I would venture in saying that similar claims can be made towards the Asian, Latino, and even White community. The only difference is that narrative is normally describe from a non-deficient narrative.

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