Masters Thesis

Teachers Beliefs about Control, Relationships, and Culture and How Those Beliefs Impact African American Suspension Rates: A Case Study

For the past three decades, the African American suspension rates have far outpaced Caucasian suspension rates. This is a trend which has been observed throughout various community and school settings in the United States. These facts are what leads this study and the research question: To what extent does teacher beliefs about control, relationships, and cultural norms affect the suspension rates of African American students? The researcher had long thought about the effects of teacher’s beliefs of control and building relationships in a classroom on these suspension rates. Building upon previous research, this case study further examines teacher beliefs by asking and analyzing teacher’s own responses about control, relationships, and cultural knowledge in their classrooms. To do this, the researcher focused on asking opened ended questions in a qualitative survey to a group of teachers in a Southern California suburban middle school. In addition, analysis of written referral forms from this school and pool of teachers were analyzed to gauge the wording and language used by the teachers to see if practice matched teacher’s statements. The results of the survey and analysis found while teacher’s claim they care about building relationships with their students in their classrooms, the practice shows the opposite since referral reports showed repeated instances of conflicts over control in the classrooms between the teacher and students. A potential cause of this conflict can be the lack of cultural competency and capacities of teachers from different backgrounds than their students. To correct this, this study recommends for educational leaders to look for mentorship and coaching programs aimed at improving teacher’s cultural capacities of all students in their classrooms.