A new report from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work documents a variety of educational barriers faced by Black families in Pittsburgh.
“All too often, the stories of challenging struggles of Black families attempting to navigate their journey of obtaining and affording college education are not heard,” said Anthony Williams, headmaster of the Neighborhood Academy, during a press conference this last week concerning the report.
The study describes local Black parents’ opinions about what makes a high-quality education, the strategies they use to stay involved in their kids’ education, and the barriers they and their students face, as well as reflections on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The interviews provide tremendous insights into these families’ truths, challenges, and triumphs in navigating a racialized educational terrain in Greater Pittsburgh,” reads the executive summary.
The report was requested by the Pittsburgh College Access Alliance
— a project of several local nonprofits focused on educating Black students, the Crossroads Foundation, NEED, FAME, and the Neighborhood Academy
— which seeks to promote Black students’ access to higher education.
The study says that local Black families report having to make difficult decisions between flawed options for their children’s education.
“At the heart of the discussion is the challenge of navigating choices many parents and students must make among under-resourced urban schools, racially isolating and sometimes hostile private and suburban school experiences, and limited resources at home,” According to the study. “Opportunities like those provided by PCAA agencies have been pivotal to that navigation, and they provide guidance for larger educational initiatives and schooling.”
The study found that “adverse racial experiences” were common among Black students who attended predominantly white schools or schools with predominantly white teachers, and calls for “increased attention to racial equity in school personnel training, cultural priorities, and school curricula.”
The report recommends more equitable distribution of resources among schools that serve Black students, increased attention to racial equity in school culture, enhanced crisis response capacity, better marketing of existing resources, and investment in strengths-based parenting support for Black families.
“We believe strongly that this report highlights important practices for Black families and the practitioners that serve them in schools and educational programs, and that the findings are relevant across public and private schools, as well as nonprofits and community programs,” said Esther Stief, executive director of the Crossroads Foundation, at the press event.
Research for the study began in 2018, when researchers began conducting interviews with local parents and students, and was also supplemented with additional interviews to reflect Black families’ experiences of the pandemic.
The final report is available on the University of Pittsburgh’s website.