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African-American Female Students and STEM: Principals’ Leadership Perspectives Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationAfrican-American Female Students and STEM:Principals’ Leadership PerspectiveAs the U.S. becomes more diverse, school leaders, major corporations, and areas of national defense continue to investigate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education issues. African-American female students have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields, yet educational leadership research, examining this population is limited. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how principals support African-American female students in schools with a STEM program.The Critical Race Theory (CRT)was used as a theoretical framework to highlight the inadequacies to support educational inequalities. The application of the CRT in this study is due to the embedded inequality practices within the educational system, that have resulted in the underrepresentation of African-American female students in STEM. To complement CRT, the transformative leadership model was also utilized to examine the emancipatory leadership practices principals utilized. These theories framed the context of this study by recognizing the need to address how support is actualized to African-American female students in STEM by their principals.A case study approach was an appropriate method to answer the two research questions, 1) How do principals feel they support African-American female students in their STEM programs? and 2) What practices do principals engage in that support underrepresented students in STEM? This approach intended to uncover how a principal leads a multifaceted population of underrepresented students in STEM programs. Two principals of STEM schools, where more than 50% of the population were African-American, were interviewed and observed completing daily operations at community-wide events. The STEM Coordinators and a teacher were also interviewed, and test scores were examined to provide further information about the STEM program, and public records were obtained to analyze the principals’ means of communication. I found that principals supported African-American female students by engaging the community, and exhibiting leadership practices that align with the school culture. The results of this research bring voice to principals who lead schools with thriving STEM programs with majority African American female students. Leaders that exhibit transformative leadership practices by acknowledging race, and recognizing obstacles students of color face, support negating color-blinding ideologies that could impede the progress of all students.

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