9 Biggest Lies About Black Males and Academic Success

The 2014 Education Summit at Morehouse College looked at ways to improve outcomes for black males, but first exposed the myths and flaws in the system.

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I believe these modifications will make us a lot more like private schools.

The state: You’re being noncompliant. I’m shutting you down.

Public school: I’m confused.

The state: Yes, you are confused. That’s why your kids aren’t learning anything. Why can’t you be more like private schools?

This satirical conversation between a public school and the state was meant to underscore the fact that differential standards for success can lead to disparate outcome, and certain regulations of public schools do not create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. Not all private schools operate in the best interests of their students, and not all public schools are deficient. However, having a measure of freedom to exert creativity and innovation to meet the unique needs of learners from diverse circumstances is essential to educational progress.

Today, approximately 258,047 of the 4.1 million ninth graders in the United States are black males. Among them, about 23,000 are receiving special education services, and for nearly 46,000, a health care professional or school official has told them that they have at least one disability. If black male ninth graders follow current trends, about half of them will not graduate with their current ninth grade class (according to the Schott Foundation), about 20 percent will reach the age of 25 without obtaining a high school diploma or GED, 45 percent of black males will attempt college; however, only 16 percent obtain a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25 (according to the Annual Community Survey).

Recently, the Department of Education released the second wave of data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (pdf). The study suggests that opportunity gaps that exist between black and white males across the country center around three key areas: 1. Schools routinely offer black children a less rigorous curriculum that omit classes required for college admission; 2. Schools discipline black males more harshly by suspending them for behaviors (e.g. tardiness) that rarely result in suspensions among white males and 3. black students are the most likely to have the lowest paid teachers with the fewest years of classroom experience, and who become teachers through alternative teacher-certification programs.

Notwithstanding, most black males persist through high school. In a national survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 87 percent of black students who were in the ninth grade in 2009 were in the 11th grade by 2012. In addition, black students were more likely to advance ahead than fall behind or drop out. 

Among students who dropped out of high school, 33 percent of black students left because they were suspended or expelled, compared to 19 percent for white students and 13 percent for Hispanic students. Typically, when we attempt to address the so-called “dropout crisis,” we focus on black students’ motivation for dropping out. Maybe we need to start focusing on schools’ intentions for putting them out.

Black males aspire to attend college at rates that exceed white and Hispanic males. About 64 percent of black high school males expect to eventually graduate from college. However, black students are behind their peers in the percent who are taking college preparatory classes. Fifty-three percent of Asian students, 24 percent of white students, 16 percent of Hispanic students and 12 percent of black students are taking pre-calculus or calculus by the 11th grade.