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'Jaw-Dropping' Report on Black Males

New report on black males shows that non-poor black boys fare no better in school than white boys who live in poverty.

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.

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