A trail of breadcrumbs : black early childhood education student success in higher education

This dissertation explores strategies used by successful Black early childhood education students completing coursework toward degree attainment at San Francisco State University. Minimum ECE teacher qualifications are gradually changing to require four-year degrees, and without increased graduation rates for Blacks and Latinos, the ECE teacher workforce will lack the diversity of California’s population of young children. Data were gathered from intensive face-to-face interviews with 12 Black female participants. Data analysis took place through three sets of lenses drawn from the literature: (1) retention and persistence of college students (Tinto & Cullen, 1973), (2) micro-aggressions (Sue et al., 2007), and (3) stereotype threat and stereotype vulnerability (Steele, 2010; Aronson, 2004). Findings suggest that participants employed multiple strategies to support their social and academic integration at the university including strategically handling social and familial relationships, sheltering within in Ethnic Studies courses, and crafting accurate self-assessments acknowledging their academic skills and accomplishments. In contrast to attrition studies that emphasize failure, this study provides evidence of those who succeed, using a student-centered perspective to examine Black student retention. A key implication describes a program of targeted support which is improving completion rates for Black students in ECE, and could potentially transfer to other disciplines.