The Black Boy Mattering Project: Uncovering New Approaches for School Policies and Practices
Roderick L. Carey

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Research Development Award

Award Year



University of Delaware

Primary Discipline

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, educational researchers are challenged now, perhaps more than ever, to help transform schools into environments where Black children feel valued, significant, or simply, where they "matter." According to psychologists, the relational phenomenon "mattering" (e.g., I matter to family, peers, and within society) is essential to adolescents' positive self-concept and school success. However, my prior work argues that oftentimes Black adolescent boys experience school-based "marginal mattering" when educators reinforce their insignificance through hyper-criminalization (e.g., evidenced in disproportional disciplining). Other times Black boys experience "partial mattering" when stakeholders cultivate and herald fragments of their skills and abilities (e.g., typically athletic). Schools that enforce these approaches risk leaving Black boys with limited self-concepts and diminished desires to matter in other ways to themselves and their communities. Yet, how might educators implement liberating practices so that Black boys infer their full, robust, or "comprehensive mattering" in schools? To support educators in creating such contexts and build mattering theory, "The Black Boy Mattering Project" investigates Black adolescent boys' perceived and imagined mattering across multiple domains within two local high schools. Data sources for this within- and cross-case study analysis include individual student interviews, focus groups, observations, and group activities (e.g., artistic renderings) to elicit Black boys' articulations (e.g., verbally and artistically) into how they perceive their present mattering and imagine comprehensive, liberating alternatives. Findings will illuminate and inspire reimagined policies and practices to guide stakeholders in creating radically affirming spaces where Black boys can matter comprehensively.
About Roderick L. Carey
Roderick L. Carey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Delaware. Situated at the nexus of critical educational theories and constructs from sociology and developmental psychology, Roderick's research primarily engages qualitative approaches to study the family- and school-based influences that shape how Black and Latino adolescent boys conceptualize their postsecondary school futures and enact college-going processes. He also foregrounds the social and school experiences of adolescent Black boys and young men through theoretical and empirical investigations into the phenomenon of "mattering." His recent publications reside in outlets including the Harvard Educational Review, American Journal of Education, Race Ethnicity and Education, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Urban Review, Urban Education, and Educational Administration Quarterly. He serves on the Editorial Board for Urban Education and was recently presented the 2019-2020 Outstanding Service Award. Prior to his current appointment, Roderick spent two years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Urban Education. Roderick earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (Minority and Urban Education concentration) from the University of Maryland College Park; his Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education; and his B.A. in Secondary Education and English from Boston College. Before his academic career, Roderick spent four transformative years as a high school English teacher, coach, and performing arts coordinator in Washington, D.C. charter schools.

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