by Claire Miller
Jerome Morris is well versed on African Americans’ storied history in the South, starting from their arrival in the U.S. in the 1600s, through the “Great Migration” of the 20th century, when black families began leaving the South for cities like New York, Chicago and Cleveland.
Morris, professor in the College of Education and research fellow at the William A. & Barbara R. Owens Institute for Behavioral Research at the University of Georgia, sees his research as a continuation of the work by W.E.B. DuBois and other prominent researchers to understand black schooling in middle class and suburban contexts.
“My argument is that black people’s long-standing belief in the infallible role of education in their quest for freedom, human and civil rights, and upward mobility is unparalleled,” Morris told College of Education students, faculty and staff at the Jan. 18 Research Wednesdays. “I argue that black people’s quest for education must serve as the prism through which we examine the aspirations and dreams of black people in America. I believe this becomes the best lens and we need to talk about it much more than we do now.”
Morris has focused his latest research on three predominately African-American schools in Atlanta to find out more about how location impacts black students’ academic performance. He and his research team have surveyed roughly 2,000 adolescents and conducted a four-year study of more than 75 African-American families to determine what factors influence academic outcomes and to what extent school leaders create policies to help these students.
In this study, many African-American families who have recently moved to the South discussed feeling uninformed about concrete ways to help their children achieve academically – which classes to put them in, which high schools they should attend and other considerations.
In addition, adolescents agreed that hard work and a good education plays a key role in being successful, but felt that society was still “inequitable and unfair to black people,” Morris said.
“In many ways, their beliefs mirror sociological data on black adults in terms of how they feel progress has occurred and how much still needs to be done,” said Morris, who’s currently writing a book on these research findings. “It’s the goal of this book I’m writing to set forth a comprehensive understanding of community life and the experiences of black adolescents in a number of black school districts in the South.”
For more information about Morris’s research on student achievement, visit http://www.ibr.uga.edu/directory/faculty/morris.htm.
The Research Wednesdays Speaker Series is designed to fulfill three goals: to provide a platform for explorations of new ways of conducting and disseminating educational research, to discuss new methods of mentoring doctoral students in an effort to enhance their development as researchers, and to fill a professional development need by providing access to cutting edge researchers at the state and national levels.
For more information on Morris and the Research Wednesdays Speaker Series, visit http://education.gsu.edu/main/coe_events.htm.