Cultural Responsiveness, Racial Identity and Academic Success: A Review of Literature

by George W. Noblit; Mary Stone Hanley

Jun 29, 2009

Commissioned by the Heinz Endowments, this paper reviews the literature on "culturally responsive pedagogy" and the arts. Academic success among African Americans is correlated with education that incorporates racial identity and socialization and a focus on resiliency and culturally relevant concepts. The arts are an ideal venue for such educational programs.
  • Since desegregation, U.S. schools have been sites of assimilation, where "acting white" is often felt as being necessary to succeeding in school.
  • Research suggests that cultural pride and awareness enables black boys to discover their own agency.
  • In a 1998 study on elementary school reading comprehension, African-American children performed significantly better on stories depicting black imagery and cultural themes.
  • In an after-school program at an inner city high school, researchers saw the arts encouraging self-expression: "Students didn't want to talk about their lives, but they did want to rap about it."
  • The report suggests that foundation giving in this area be directed toward studies of programs that use culturally responsive pedagogy to improve racial identity, resilience and/or achievement; an educational campaign to spread the results of these studies; and new initiatives, including extensive training.