In the last decade, the general issue affecting the learning environment is the alarming rate of failure in mathematics amongst African-Americans and low-income students. This issue is of concern to both educators and researchers who view the subject as an avenue of achieving a very high economic status. The rationale behind the project is that there have been continuous decline in the performances of AYP (Adequate Yearly Performance) tests.
It was found that African-American preferred a social learning environment to achieve academic success. The literature review on preferred learning style amongst the risk groups was guided by questions such as: Do African American students have a distinguished learning preference?; When considering African American students, does cultural learning style determine academic success?; Does NCLB improve the academic success of African American students?
Findings of the literature review were that, the preference for African Americans was an environment that was flexible, and included social activities such as cooperative learning groups. The review also concluded that culture learning style determined the academic success in the context of African-Americans, who succeed more when with people, or in a social context as they were field dependent. The review on NCLB was found that the act was not beneficial to the academic success of African Americans as it centred on addressing the achievement and not what the achievement gap between African-Americans and their peers represented.
The recommendation in solving the issue at hand is to tailor mathematic teaching and learning such that it takes account of different culture upbringing, experiences, and socialization. Furthermore, there is also a need to review NCLB to adopt a more holistic approach that would cater for African-American students’ cultural, social, and economic diversity. It is therefore beneficial to the society and the economy in general if African-American would perform similarly in Mathematics with their peers. There would be increased literacy rates, and higher economic status of the risk group which would make learning environments high achieving.
Strength and Limitations of the Project
There are various strengths and limitations of using preferred learning styles and NCBL to address the issue of failure of mathematics amongst African-Americans. There is the strength of the project properly understanding the learning preferences of a particular student that is dependent on culture, socialization, and economic level of the student. Amongst the risk group, each one of them is field dependent and therefore each one requires a learning style that is tailor made to reach individual students not as group learners. The limitation of this approach is that in addressing the issue through using preferred learning styles that is culture based, there is a risk of creating an image of racism overtones. The limit of racism overtones come about where preferential treatment on learning styles of a certain group might have hidden motives which are not clear.
There is also strength of motivating individual students through making them think that they do not have to measure their academic success through competing with other students but by achieving certain individual goals. The limitation here is that there is a possibility of erosion of high achieving and competitive spirits amongst the risk group who will be contend with what they can achieve despite the fact that it might not be good enough.
If implemented in the right way, NCLB used in addressing the issue has the strength of closing the AYP performance gap that exists between African-Americans and their peers. The focus on the gap would ultimately result in improvement of performance of schools in general. The strategy has also the strength of having a strong benchmark where there is a law that stipulates for changing of the learning system when the performance of schools does not improve after a certain period, which is five years. However, the limitation of NCBL is that it facilitates the abandonment of important subjects in a curriculum such critical thinking, history, and other subjects that require democracy in the society. There is also the limitation that it facilitates teacher dependency, where learners find it hard to work on their own hence require teacher assistance most of the times.
From the project it is learned that scholarship amongst African-Americans is dependent on the cultural upbringing of individual students. It has been noted that they performed poorly in mathematics as a subject because of a learning environment that does not suit them. The current learning environment is analytic in nature and extremely field-independent which is against what the risk group requires. The project has proven that the risk group is rational in nature and that they are people oriented, intuitive thinkers remembering materials in a social context. Therefore, for them to better their scholarship, then there is preference for a social context of learning environment.
Considering the crucial nature of mathematics in the risk group, a project should be developed that would provide a strategy of improving the performance. It was learned that the project of solving the issue be developed through considering aspects of cognition and meta-cognition. Cognition is the ability of a student to organise the various sequences of a mathematical problem while metacognition is the ability of students to predict, monitor, and evaluate problems. The project insists that the two aspects be prioritized if a student is to perform well.
The project also highlights that students can strategize and evaluate their plan of action in improving mathematical performance through: identifying the problem; seeking workable solutions as soon as possible through working in groups, alone, or help from teachers; and gauging themselves. In the future when they come across a similar problem they would be in a better position to tackle it. The other steps in solving mathematical problems would come about simultaneously after the basic ones are learned. Therefore, it is learned that through project development and evaluation, the average African-American will be more intelligent and perform outstandingly in mathematics.
On leadership and change it is learned that the NCLB act set up by President George Bush Jr., was set up to close the gap between academic achievement of African-Americans and their peers. NCLB closes the gap through mandating that all schools that receive funding from the state must develop a skill assessment test to be given to children at all grades. However, it is learned that the act needs adjustments so as to incorporate a holistic approach to the individual learner. NCLB has the weakness of neglecting other fields such as history, art and other subjects in the curriculum that required a democratic society.
The project was important in the sense that issues affecting the academic performance of African-Americans and low income groups were highlighted. Through the project facts were found to show that mathematics was the subject that was poorly performed in the risk group and that it contributed to the increasing failure in AYP tests since 2003. The project has suggested the academic achievement gap between African-Americans and their peers can be narrowed through introduction of standard based instructions, No child Left Behind, benchmarks, and other accountability measures. Specifically, the project has insisted that in order for academic achievement in the risk group to be attained, culture based preference learning styles should be implemented.
It was also evident that the risk groups did not perform well in mathematics in comparison to their peers because of external factors such as: need to understand learning preferences; discontinuity of learning preferences; and structure of schools. The internal factor that affected the risk group was due to their dependence on field learning. Therefore it was learned that the risk group required group cooperation and learning with a social context for them to obtain academic success.
It can also be learned that cultural environment also determined the students learning style. Therefore because of that rationale, cultural style of learning began to substitute the deficit-model of thinking where the culture ways of different groups were characterized respectfully, trying not to judge them on value in turn creating hierarchies in cultural practices. The project also teaches that while the NCLB act has increased performance in schools, it affects the learning environment in a way that in subjects such as English and Math students have increased contact time with educators but with other subjects there is less contact time. This has proven that in schools that are failing there is an extra incentive of reducing the curriculum in the favour of the two.
From the project it can be recommended that further research needs to be done in the issue of poor performance in mathematics amongst African-American and low income minority groups. The suggestions for future study include:
- A study on performance in mathematics amongst high economic status African-Americans
- A comparative study on performance in mathematics between African-American males and females
- A study on influence of family members and home environment on learning environments amongst African-Americans
- A study on the disproportionality of African-American students with disabilities across educational environments
- A study on gender engagement of African-Americans to educational environments and impact to achievements
- Study on the enrolment rate to college of African-Americans who utilised preference style of learning in their environment.