A causal model for understanding the complex interplay between student-reported teacher behaviors, student self-systems, and student engagement was tested. One hundred seventeen African American students in grades 1 through 12 completed a comprehensive questionnaire regarding teacher context, self, and engagement variables. A series of hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to test the hypothesized mediation models and to construct a path model. Most hypotheses were supported. Student self-system variables (perceived competency and autonomy) mediated relations between teacher context (structure and autonomy support), and engagement. Contrary to predictions, however, teacher involvement exerted a strong and direct effect on student engagement even when controlling for grade level and self-system variables. Given existing research showing that African American students are at risk for low teacher involvement and that engagement is critical for academic success, research and intervention strategies are urgently needed to promote teacher involvement with these students. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.