Student Achievement

UNC Effort Aims at Minority Boys in Early Childhood

By Jessica L. Tonn — August 29, 2006 1 min read
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A professor of social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Oscar A. Barbarin, has received a $6.2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support his efforts to raise achievement levels among minority boys.

The five-year grant will go for the Promote Academic Success Initiative, a project aimed at improving the social and academic development of African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian boys ages 3 to 8. It is one of the largest active educational grants awarded by the Battle Creek, Mich.-based foundation.

Oscar A. Barbarin

Mr. Barbarin, a researcher on early-childhood education, especially among black and Latino children, says that achievement gaps for minority boys begin in early childhood and carry over into adulthood.

“Schools are geared toward girls and middle-class kids,” he said in an interview last week.

To help combat the problem, the initiative will focus on building partnerships between school districts and others affecting early-childhood development and early-elementary education—such as Head Start programs, families, and community organizations. The multi-pronged approach will not only bolster the educational achievement of minority boys, but also improve their social and emotional adjustment later in life, Mr. Barbarin said.

“Our work will be guided by the metaphor of a four-legged stool, in which each leg represents what children need to thrive: effective parents, competent teachers, supportive communities, and a spiritual foundation,” he said in a statement announcing the grant. “If one of the legs is wobbly, the others can compensate until the weak leg is strengthened.”

By March, Mr. Barbarin hopes to have selected the three or four communities around the country that will take part in the initiative.

As part of the selection process, districts must show their commitment to the project’s goals by already having built effective relationships with families and community groups.

“Schools cannot do it alone, and they know they can’t do it alone,” Mr. Barbarin said last week.

A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2006 edition of Education Week

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