Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Anthony Annunziato

Second Advisor

Richard Bernato

Third Advisor

James Campbell


This study used critical race theory to examine the lived experiences of Black students attending a predominantly White, high-performing, suburban high school. The researcher used a phenomenological approach to examine student perceptions of sense of belongingness, self-efficacy, and educational opportunity. Eight students participated in a focus study group, and seven students participated in semi-structured individual interviews. The data analysis showed the students did not experience a sense of belongingness in their schools, but they did exhibit high levels of self-efficacy and felt they were provided the same educational opportunities as other students. Six themes emerged from this study: (a) Social Isolation, (b) School Responsibilities, (c) Self-Efficacy, (d) Racism, (e) Relationships, and (f) Academic Opportunity. The participants expressed their struggles attending a predominately White school, including social isolation, conforming to the majority to fit in, difficulty forming relationships with their peers, racism, battling Black stereotypes, and the emotional harm it caused them. They demonstrated high self-efficacy and Black pride, and developed coping strategies and resiliency to be academically successful. The participants valued the academic opportunity the school provided and felt prepared for college. Six areas of school improvement were identified by the participants to create equitable school experiences for all students: (a) evaluate curricula and instructional practices; (b) give students a voice; (c) combat racism in schools; (d) provide anti-bias and anti-racist education; (e) foster inclusivity and acceptance; and (f) increase diversity of faculty and staff. Recommendations for practice and research are discussed.

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