School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Kenneth Tierce


African American, Adolescent, Achievement Gap, School, Perceptions, High-Achieving, Aware, Unaware, Social Capital, Parental Expectations, Peers, Life in the Gap, High Stakes Test


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe how the achievement gap is perceived as a lived experience by African American adolescents in a southeastern United States school district. The perception of the achievement gap as a lived experience among African American adolescents is generally defined as the meaning this group ascribes to their lived experience in the academic achievement gap. The theory guiding this study was Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. Vygotsky theorized that sociocultural learning precedes cognitive development; therefore, African American adolescents’ sociocultural awareness of the gap, or the meaning or lack of definition in perceptions of the academic achievement gap, would then precede their abilities to make developmental strides to close the achievement gap. Following a purposeful sample, data collection consisted of a 1-hour individual interview with each adolescent participant encompassing questions designed to probe their academic experiences. The second interview was also 1 hour, conducted collectively as a focus group interview. Both the individual interviews and the focus group interview were recorded and subsequently transcribed verbatim. Participants journaled their thoughts throughout the data collection phase. Data were then analyzed by describing as well as coding to organize and classify information. This process served to identify categories and themes from the research. Interviews were coded to highlight significant statements and identify themes. Trustworthiness was confirmed by lucid descriptions as well as clarification of subjects’ statements.