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Why are Black Students Underachieving?

(Chicago, IL, December 10, 2012) – Media depictions of African American students as academic failures are, as Amanishakete Ani states in SigHT: Unveiling Black Student Achievement and the Meaning of Hope, missing the truth about their intellectual capacity. And the truth, according to Dr. Ani, is that African American students not only have the potential to do well in school, many are succeeding against tremendous odds and beyond expectations, as objectively measured by standardized test scores, GPAs, and teacher reports.

A practicing psychologist, Ani works with low-income African American students and their families. She says African American children are disproportionately labeled in schools and placed in special education, and they receive more misdiagnoses of mental and behavioral dysfunctions than other groups, which leads to overmedication. “Negative deficit models that seek to understand ‘risk factors’ and failure have dominated treatment and even classroom pedagogy, and this has been a big part of the problem,” says Ani.

Taking a radically different approach, Ani thought it would make more sense to investigate how Black students achieve academically, despite the odds against them. Ani synthesized two models-Afrocentrism and Hope Theory-to better understand Black students who are successfully balancing school work, home life, and typical inner city problems (poverty, crime, gangs, etc.). The result is a positive, proactive approach she calls “Afrocentric SigHT,” or strength-based hope theory.

Ani interviewed six African American middle school student achievers, all from a low-income, low-performing school district in Cleveland, Ohio. The outcome is her gem of a book, which presents the profound insights of the students in their own words.

“When I speak of hope I am referring to the specific set of thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs that drive people to achieve their goals. Hope the way I mean it is not about wishing on a star. It’s about having a dream and then setting goals and taking positive action to make that dream a reality,” says Ani. “The students in my study have figured out how to do just that.”

Ani distilled five personal and cultural factors from the student interviews that are key to academic success:

1.1. Family and community encouragement
2.2. Secure racial-ethnic identity
3.3. Spiritual grounding
4.4. A personal sense of determination
5.5. Personal expectations of excellence

SigHT: Unveiling Black Student Achievement and the Meaning of Hope features a foreword by Ani’s mentor and teacher, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, an in-depth review of Hope and Afrocentric research, and guidelines for parents, educators, practitioners, and policy makers to enhance their work with African American students.

For additional information, contact 1-800-552-1991, Fax# (708) 672-0466. P.O. Box 1799, Chicago Heights, IL 60412. Website:, Email: The sale price is $16.95.


Contact information:
Alicia Archer,
(708) 672-4909 x731

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