Publication Date


DOI (Digital Object Identifier)



Leadership and Higher Education


Doctor of Education (Ed.D)

Dissertation Chair

Jose Lalas, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Phil Mirci, Ph.D.

Matthew A. Witenstein, Ph.D.


education; cultural capital; narrative inquiry; social capital; student engagement; student voice


Educational Leadership | Educational Sociology


African-American male students, at the national, state, and local level, have the lowest standardized test scores, the highest suspension rates and are overrepresented in Special Education (Act Research and Policy, 2012, NCES, 2015; California State Accountability Report Card, 2017; Matthews et al., 2010; Losen & Gillepsie, 2012). While the quantitative data tells educators and researchers what is happening in K-12 schools, an explanation as to why and how this is happening, is missing. Also missing are the voices of African-American male students explaining, through their perspective, why this phenomenon continues to exist. This study used narrative inquiry, as a qualitative methodological approach, through a Cultural Capital (Bourdieu, 1986) and Social Capital (Coleman, 1988) framework to answer the following questions: What is the influence of social and cultural capital on the engagement of high school African-American male students, What do high school African-American male authentic student voices reveal about the impact of social and cultural capital, race, pedagogy, and school expectations on the development of their identity, and What recommendations can be made to school leaders, and K-12 teachers, regarding African-American male student engagement? Four African-American male high school students were chosen, using convenient sampling, to participate in this study. Grade point averages ranged from 1.8 to a 3.8, and the participants had varying socio-economic status. Each participant was interviewed three times, ranging from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. The researcher used the interviews to create four distinct narratives of the experiences of the participants in school. African-American male students, navigating through a White-dominated school culture, found themselves often marginalized as their social and cultural capital can be perceived by the dominant culture as not having equal value, creating a gap (Strayhorn, 2010) that can lead to lower academic performance outcomes and higher suspension rates. Yet, their wealth of capital (Yosso, 2005), from family, peers, and community, as well as the role teachers play in creating a connected, student-centered classroom, focused on relationships and care, (Turner et al., 2014; Cooper, 2014), can help mitigate the negative consequences of the gap on student engagement.


© 2018 Carrie Thayer

All Rights Reserved

ISBN: 9780355892901