Running Head: Rite of Passage Programs as Strength-Based Interventions to Increase Mathematics and Science Achievement Among Low-Income, African American Youth

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An astounding number of students, especially at the middle and high school levels are alienated by mathematics and science disciplines despite the fact that these two subjects play an increasingly significant role in contemporary life, both at a personal and societal level. Although in the last few decades African Americans have made strides in mathematics and science, only a small percentage of these students actually become scientists, mathematicians, or engineers (Atwater, 2000). This paper presents the role a rite of passage (ROP) program can have in advancing mathematics and science achievement among African American students in the elementary grade years. Using the lens of positionality, ROP programs intervene at the school, family, and individual levels (Harvey & Hill, 2004; West-Olatunji, Baker & Brooks, 2006). Using positive and appropriate images of African Americans, a key benefit is the guidance that African American youths receive in their transition to adulthood. Rooted in feminist scholarship, the concept of positionality explains how social perception of social location formulates one's worldview (Cooks, 2003; Harley, Jolivette, McCormic & Tice, 2002). In the classroom, teachers’ positionalities inform their expectations about students’ mathematics and science learning abilities and thus inform teaching practices that have outcomes for students’ learning experiences (Maher & Tetreault, 2001). The authors provide a review of the literature on mathematics and science education and African American student achievement and provide exemplars of effective ROP programs that demonstrate positive outcomes for African American students. Recommendations for practice and future research are provided.


Keywords: Rite of Passage, Mathematics Achievement, Science Achievement, Culturally Diverse Youth, Culturally Appropriate Pedagogy
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Running Head


Dr. Cirecie West-Olatunji

Assistant Professor, Counselor Education, University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida, USA

Cirecie A. West-Olatunji, Ph.D. currently serves as Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at the University of Florida. Dr. West-Olatunji is also president of CCMA, an educational consulting firm dedicated to the development of programs that focus on cultural identity and awareness. As a nationally recognized speaker, trainer, and author in the area of culture-centered, theory, research, and practice, she has provided consultation and training in Osaka, Hiroshima, Tottori, and Fukuoka cities in Japan in the area of culturally relevant anti-bias education for young children. Cirecie West-Olatunji has also provided educational consultation to a PBS children's television show on diversity through KCET-TV in Los Angeles, CA ("Puzzle Place"). Dr. West-Olatunji is a graduate of Dartmouth College and attended Teachers College of Columbia University where she pursued graduate studies in the area of Multicultural Counseling Psychology. Cirecie West-Olatunji is president-elect of the Association for Multicultural Counseling & Development.

Lauren Shure

doctoral student, Counselor Education, University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, USA

Lauren Shure is a fourth year doctoral student in the counselor education department at the University of Florida. Her research concentrates on the relationship between counselor positionality, cultural competence, and academic achievement among culturally diverse student populations.

Dr. Rose Pringle

Associate Professor, Teaching and Learning, University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, USA

Dr. Pringle is an associate professor of science education. Her research interests include sciene teachers' subject knowledge and science specific pedagogy.

Dr. Thomasenia Adams

Associate Professor, Teaching and Learning, University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, USA

Dr. Adams is an associate professor in the School of Teaching and Learning. Her research interests include teachers' mathematics content knowledge, multicultural mathematics, and mathematics as a language.

Adriana Baratelli

Doctoral Student, Counselor Education, University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, USA

Adriana Baratelli is a fifth year doctoral candidate in the department of Counselor Education. Her research interests include body image and self-concept among South American women.

Ref: L08P0409