Black male students continue to remain at the bottom of almost all academic indicators despite efforts over the years to improve their performance (“Courses in Manhood for African-American Boys,” The New York Times, Feb. 4). When only two percent of the nation’s teaching force consists of black males, some districts are stepping up recruitment programs in the belief that may be a factor.
Along the same line, the Oakland Unified School District created an elective in 2012 commonly referred to as the Manhood Development Program that is part of the curriculum at 20 schools for third to 12th graders. All classes are taught by black male instructors. The impetus was an agreement between the district and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights aimed at improving outcomes after an investigation found a grossly disproportionate suspension rate of black males.
The key to its potential success is the importance of the bond that develops between teachers and black male students, since so many grow up without a male figure at home. When busing began in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where I taught for 28 years, I noticed that the majority of black students lived with their mother. Attempting to contact them after they failed to appear at the annual open house was futile. I still don’t know if the presence of a father would have made a difference, but the assumption seems valid.
Although Oakland is now in the news, it is not alone. Minneapolis Public Schools has it own Office of Black Male Student Achievement, and New York City is in the process of hiring 1,000 black, Hispanic and Asian male teachers by 2017. Yet even if attempts to hire more nonwhite male teachers are successful, they are not miracle workers. Factors outside of school play a far more important role.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.