By Jon McGill, Director of Acaemic Affairs, Baltimore Curriculum Project
“Inequality is corrosive. It rots societies from within. The impact of material differences takes a while to show up but in due course competition for status and goods increases; people feel a growing sense of superiority (or inferiority) based on their possessions; prejudice toward those on the lower rungs of the social ladder hardens; crime spikes and the pathologies of social disadvantage become even more marked. The legacy ...is bitter indeed.”
• Of 32,000 African-American boys in Maryland schools, grades ten through twelve, only 1,229 sat for AP exams (Washington Post, 5.17.09)
• According to the Task Force on the Education of African-American Males, a 2007 state research project, six out of ten school suspensions were imposed on African-American male students in 2004-2005 (this statistic remains constant through most recent data).
• African-American males make up only 5% of college students but less than one-third graduate within six years (60+% for non-Hispanic whites) (reported in New York Times)
• The Schott Foundation for Public Education noted, in 2011, that twice as many non-Hispanic whites as African-Americans were nominated for “gifted and talented programs”, four times as many whites went to math AP programs and nine times as many white students sat for Science AP exams (reported in the Baltimore Sun, 7.25.08). The Schott Foundation reported “Alarming data on the devastating reality of education for Black males across all 50 states.” (Schott Report, 2011)
• The Maryland graduation rate for African-American males is 55% versus 78 percent for white students.
• The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported that three times as many Black males as white non-Hispanics in Maryland were under grade level in basic reading, and four times as many were below basic levels in Mathematics. The national statistics were considerably worse.
• Add to this the research that looks more widely at the situation for Black males and we see that this group leads statistically, relative to its percentage in the population, in homicides (victims and perpetrators), in suicides, in HIV/AIDS rates and is number one in arrests, convictions and incarcerations. Black males are the only group currently declining in life expectancy. Indeed, while all other sectors of the population get higher life expectancy from higher education attainment, Black males exhibit no discernible life-lengthening benefits.
• Unemployment affects African-American males more than any other group; college graduation and attendance rates have declined continuously since 1977 and even “middle-class” Black males lag in GPA and test scores. One of every three Black males is raised in poverty and that rate is growing
• On any given day, 23% of Black males are in the criminal justice system. Only 18% are enrolled in higher education.
One of many troubling aspects of Noguera’s research, conducted in California, found that only a tiny percentage of African-American male students agreed with the statement “my teachers support me and want me to do well.” Other groups were much more likely to believe this statement. Noguera also categorized those aspects of effective schools that were repeatedly found across racial, ethnic and regional boundaries. These were:
· clear sense of purpose/mission
· core standards and rigorous curriculum
· high expectations
· commitment to all students
· safe and orderly environments
· strong parent partnerships
· a problem-solving attitude
· caring relationships between teachers and students
· adult collegiality
· clear accountability guidelines
“To be effective, such initiatives must involve efforts to counter and transform cultural patterns and what some have called ‘oppositional identities ‘adopted by black males” (Noguera, 2002)
Much has been made in the last decade of a “crisis” in the education of boys. In fact, that crisis is located in the education of boys of color much more than any other category. Not much has changed in fifty years of educational statistics for white boys: much has changed for the worse for their Black counterparts and so what we need are new strategies that address, specifically, the education of African-American students. We can improve the education of boys with a focus, first of all, on what boys need and, secondly, what African-American boys need.
■trained teachers who understand the needs of boys and are willing to be continually
■trained to recognize how best to serve them;
■a rigorous curriculum that challenges stereotypes and insists on high expectations and standards;
■an insistence upon partnership with parents that have genuine meaning and consistent impact upon the school culture;
■teaching methods that draw upon recent research about the learning styles of boys and of African-American boys in particular (although we should be wary of stereotyping any boys in terms of defining rigid learning styles: no research has been conducted that would allow us to maintain that any ethnic or gender grouping has any one specific learning style. Learning is a complex activity informed only partly by cultural norms, traditions and habits. It remains that the two greatest factors in effective learning are economic context of the student and the effectiveness of the teacher);
■an intentional climate and culture that promotes the view of education as the most important element in the growth of boys and their future success;
■a college preparatory culture that expects boys to move seamlessly into higher education;
■a co-curricular program in the visual and performing arts as well as athletics;
■a mandatory core curriculum that emphasizes skill-building, problem solving and critical thinking.
■a clear mission that all students will perform at or above state and national basic levels prior to graduation.
The second report comes from the Congressional Black Caucus and its title, “Challenge the Status Quo” suggests the contents. Where we are now, says the report, is numbingly familiar territory. “Many public school students are systematically disqualified access to their states’ most selective public institutions of higher education because of their addresses.” Their address, too often, also identifies their race and their economic status, two major determinants of educational chances and success rates. As the recession begins to ease, for some, there are clear signs and persuasive data to suggest that the crisis in education, in general and for Black students in particular, is deepening. The current “reform agenda”, soaked as it is in a “more of the same” formula: more tests, more standards, more expectations, but fewer resources, fewer trained teachers, fewer urban institutions to support inner city populations,