All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Gary Peters

Advisory Committee Members

Loucrecia Collins

Keith Gurley

Tonya Perry

Alan Webb

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Education (EdD) School of Education


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the lived experiences of a dozen African American Students in a suburban predominately Caucasian high school located near a major southeastern city. After World War II, in part resulting from the Brown v. Board decision desegregating public schools, many Caucasians migrated from city confines to suburban communities surrounding cities. This migration left decaying cities, including school systems, populated primarily by less well to do minorities. With changing economic conditions, about two decades later, African Americans began to migrate to the same suburbs for a better quality of life including better educational opportunities for their children. Academic differences between Caucasian children in the suburbs and minority children in urban school systems were well documented. There was expectation that with the African American migration to the suburbs that the academic differences between minority, primarily African American, and Caucasian youth would diminish. However, this did not occur and significant achievement differentials remained between African American and Caucasian students. A number of theories and concepts were put forth to explain the persistence of this achievement gap. Critical Race Theory for example, posited that African Americans remained the target of both overt and covert racism and that this phenomenon handicapped these youth in relation to academic achievement. Other theorist and researchers argued that factors such as racial identity development, differential learning styles, cultural differences, and sense of belonging were factors which explained the persistence of the achievement gap. Studies examining all of these factors and others, have been carried out, and it appeared that each factor provided at least a partial explanation of the persistent achievement gap. Noteworthy, was that the majority of this research occurred in the northeast, mid-west, southwest, and far west areas of the United States; notably absent however, was any study in the American south. Thus, this qualitative lived experience examination was executed in a primarily Caucasian suburban high school located in a traditional southern state. This study consisted of the evaluation of student interviews and transcripts based on a fixed set of questions regarding their lived experiences in that school. The participants and their parents gave permission to participate in the study based upon guidelines established by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Institutional Review Board. The student responses to the provided questions were analyzed using in-vivo coding and four themes, each with several subthemes, emerged from their responses. The themes were: intolerance, racial disparities, self-identity, and sense of belonging. These four themes were congruent with the findings of research carried out in other geographic locations. Overall, these findings implied that though the African American and Caucasian students matriculated within the same school buildings, they functioned in separate and unequal environments. This study of the lived experiences of the dozen subjects may be helpful on several levels including individual schools, school systems, educational leadership training programs. As well, this study may be useful in assisting African American parents in their decision making regarding placement of their children in suburban schools. Finally, this study may act as a foundation for additional study of racial functioning in suburban high schools, parental decision making, and the development of intervention programs to reduce the discrepancies between African American and Caucasian students attending the same schools.

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