Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Todd Lilly


Many Black students at independent schools across the nation spend most of their educational lives with few classmates or teachers who look like them. This isolation is exacerbated by a curriculum that historically has taught to a White standard of excellence. Long the bastion of wealthy, White families, independent schools have generally failed to make headway in their efforts to recruit Black families to their campuses. This has left Black students with the burden of finding their own methods of adapting to a predominantly White school environment. This study sought to determine how involving four African-American fourth-grade students in a diversity audit of a Lower School library collection would impact their feelings about attending an independent school. Results showed that while these students had developed effective coping skills on their own, giving them authority over the library collection increased their positive feelings about the school as well as their sense of belonging. Students felt the project was important, both for themselves and for younger Black students at the school. Further, these African-American fourth graders felt the curriculum should offer more opportunities for students to voice their opinions and make choices about what they learn. Alongside these curricular changes, students said that school leaders should intensify their efforts to recruit more Black students and teachers to these campuses.


© 2024, Michelle Efird Rosen