The report from the Council of Great City School Districts calls the situation a “national catastrophe.” The CGCS is right, of course. And this is a valuable report.
However, I’ll never understand why groups investigating the problems of black males choose to wade into this battle half blind. Similar to previous reports, the CGCS document mostly sticks to the black males/white males comparisons. That’s important -- but only part of the story. The other half: why are black females coming out of those same high poverty, single-parent homes faring far better?
Is it because girls are less affected by female-headed families? Is it because of the paucity of male black teachers in urban schools? Is it because gang violence and the drug culture affects males more than females? The real issue to me is why so many people shy away from trying to answer those questions.
Making the “boy troubles” a race issue delights the national feminist organizations. That’s their contention, that the boy troubles are all about race and poverty. But it ignores the less serious -- but very real -- problems white boys are having. More importantly, it ignores the common solutions needed -- literacy issues, as I see it.
To me, making this a race-only issue delays the eventual solution. As Chicago researchers discovered years ago, what’s playing out in the schools is a “genderization of race.”
From the report press release:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 - The stark statistics reveal what a new report calls a "national catastrophe" in the academic attainment and future career prospects of too many of the country's African American male youth. Only 12 percent of fourthgrade black male students nationally and 11 percent of those living in large central cities performed at or above proficient levels in reading on the 2009 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), compared with 38 percent of white males nationwide. In eighth grade, only 12 percent of black males across the country and 10 percent living in large cities performed at or above proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white males nationwide. In fact, the average African American fourthand eighthgrade male who is neither poor nor disabled does no better in reading and math on NAEP than white males who are poor or disabled. Moreover, only 5 percent of the collegestudent population was composed of black males, while 36 percent of the prison population was made up of black males.
Here are the recommendations from the report:
1. Convene a White House conference on the status of Black males and develop an overall call to action and strategic direction for improvement. 2. Encourage Congress, as it reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), to establish an explicit program with financial aid that would help public schools close achievement gaps. The program should include both educational strategies and social supports for Black males. 3. Marshal the energies and commitment of national and local organizations with an interest and stake in seeing improvement to coordinate their efforts on behalf of Black male youth. Such groups might include the Boys and Girls Clubs, 100 Black Men, the National Urban League, the NBA, the music industry, and others. 4. Build a nationwide network of support, particularly in the nation's major cities, to mentor and support individual Black male young people and their families. 5. Establish an ongoing network of mentoring, internship, and career experiences for adolescent Black males with the private sector in the nation's major cities. 6. Expand the number of Black male counselors in the nation's urban schools in order to provide social, psychological, and college/career guidance and direction to Black male students. 7. Encourage local, state, and national educators/ researchers to disaggregate academic and nonacademic data by gender and race/ethnicity so that valid comparisons can be made between Black males and their peers. 8. Ensure that Black male students are taking the requisite courses at the appropriate level of rigor beginning in late elementary school, at least, to ensure that they are on track academically for high school graduation. 9. Work with the higher education community to ensure appropriate academic and social supports for Black male students in higher education. 10. Encourage school district leaders, especially in the big cities, to better target their instructional programming, interventions, and afterschool initiatives to address the specific academic and social needs of Black male students. School boards and superintendents should be asking for regular updates on the status and progress of their initiatives for these students. 11. Create a cadre of individuals to work in Black communities to address issues of violence and disruption both on the streets and in school.
The opinions expressed in Why Boys Fail 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.