Why Such Low Graduation Rates Among Black Male High School S


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Why Such Low Graduation Rates Among Black Male High School S

  1. 1. Why Such Low 1Running head: WHY SUCH LOW GRADATION RATES AMONG BLACK MALES Why Such Low Graduation Rates Among Black Male High School Students? Loretta H.V. Faheem Capella University
  2. 2. Why Such Low 2 AbstractGraduation rates have become a prominent feature in the landscape of high school reform andwithin the larger world of educational policy. Studies conducted over the past several years haverepeatedly demonstrated that far fewer American students are completing high school withdiplomas than had previously been realized (Swanson 2008). Whereas the conventional wisdomhad long placed the graduation rate around 85 percent, a growing consensus has emerged thatonly about seven in 10 students are actually successfully finishing high school. Graduation ratesare even lower among certain student populations, particularly racial and ethnic minorities andmales. We must do more for every high school student. Almost half of African-American andHispanic students will not graduate at all (Gates 2004).
  3. 3. Why Such Low 3 Table of ContentsI. Introduction 4II. Background and Statement to the Problem 5III. Research Question 7 Figure 1: National High School Graduation Rates, 2003-2004 7IV. Rationale 7V. Theoretical and Conceptual Framework 9VI. Literature Review 11VII. Proposed Methodology 16 A. Qualitative Research 1. Educator’s perspective 2. Student’s perspective B. Research Questions 17 C. Data Collection Procedures 17VIII. Expected Results 17IX. Implications for Research and Practice and Diversity and Ethics Considerations 18X. Conclusion 19References 21
  4. 4. Why Such Low 4I. Introduction The purpose of this proposal is to study graduation rates in school districts servingAmerica’s 50 most-populous cities as well as the larger metropolitan areas where they aresituated.Such rates are considerably lower in the largest cities than they are in the average urban setting.Intense disparities emerge in many of the largest metropolitan areas. About 70% of studentsgraduate on time with a regular diploma. For Hispanic and Black students, the percentage dropstoabout half. Not surprisingly, students served by suburban school systems may be twice as likelyastheir urban counterparts to graduate from high school (The Associated Press 2008). “Dropout factory” is how a high school is viewed when no more than 60 percent ofstudents who begin as freshmen make it to their senior year. This describes nearly four in 10across this country; about 1,700 either regular or vocational high schools. This is according to ananalysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press.That is 12 percent of all such schools, about the same level as a decade ago (The AssociatedPress2007). The highest cluster of dropout factories is either in large cities or high-poverty rural areasinthe South and Southwest. Minority student enrollment is significant. The challenges thesestudentsface are well beyond the academic ones. Oftentimes, they need to work as well as go to schoolorthey are in need of social services (The Associated Press 2008). Disconnected youth is the term that refers to young people who have been out of schooland work for a year or more. They are not temporarily “idle” but are fully disconnected from themainstream worlds of schooling and work. Young Black men are by far the most likely to
  5. 5. Why Such Low 5become“disconnected”. To reverse the negative trends in education and employment that afflicts thispopulation, a comprehensive set of efforts is needed that will improve their skills and earlyemployment and prevent disconnection from school and work (Holzer, H. R. (2007) .II. Background and Statement to the Problem Of all racial and gender groups, young Black men are by far the most likely to become“disconnected” from school and work. At the end of the 1990’s, employment rates among less-educated, young Black men (ages 16 through 24) who were not enrolled in school and notinstitutionalized were nearly 30 percentage points below the employment rates of young whitesand Latinos with comparable characteristics. These gaps grew even larger during the labormarket downturn that began in the year 2001. According to recent data from the NationalLongitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97), over 30 percent of young Black men drop out of highschool – a higher rate than is observed for any other group – and by some estimates, the dropoutrates among inner-city youth are much higher than that (Holzer, 2007). The curricula in most public schools also fail to adequately engage Black students.Disinterested students who are labeled as problems or disruptive often become the victims of“zero tolerance” policies. These policies disproportionately impact African American studentsand, thereby, contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline, especially among Black males (Knaus,2007). The risk of prison incarceration rises steeply with lower levels of education. AmongBlack males, 30.2 percent of those who did not attend college had gone to prison by 1999.Nearly 60 percent of Black high school dropouts born from 1965 through 1969 had served timein state or federal prison by the time they reached their early 30’s. Thus, over the past 30 years,
  6. 6. Why Such Low 6 the risk of incarceration has grown for both Blacks and whites. However, it has grown the fastest among men who have a high school diploma or less (Pettit, 2004). Jimerson et al (2000) found a long dropout pathway. Psychosocial factors early in development in the family, including the home environment, the quality of care giving and maternal attachment, were powerful predictors of high school status at the age of 19. Strong predictors in their analysis included being male; poor quality of early care giving; problem behaviors and low achievement in 1st grade; low parent involvement in 6th grade; and poor peer relations, problem behaviors and low achievement at age 16. Other predictors that a student is likely to drop out are family characteristics such as: socioeconomic status, family structure, family stress (such as death, divorce, family relocations), as well as the mothers age. Students who come from low-income families, are the children of single, young, unemployed (or underemployed) mothers are considered to be contributing factors. Low socioeconomic status has been shown to bear the strongest relationship to students tendency to drop out. In one study, for example, students of lower socioeconomic status had a dropout rate four times higher than that of students of a higher socioeconomic status (Alexander, etal, 2001). The tendency for students to drop out is also associated with their school experiences. According to the U.S. Department of Education, among the reason students drop out of school are: dislike of school; low academic achievement; retention at grade level; A sense that teachers and administrators do not care about students; and inability to feel comfortable in a large, depersonalized school setting (U.S. Department of Education 1999). It has been argued that dropping out is a developmental process with significant markerson a pathway to dropping out (Jimerson et al., 2000). It’s been discovered that patterns seemed tobe set by 3rd grade and that early events interact with later events to change progress on this
  7. 7. Why Such Low 7pathway. Early care giving starts the process and failing grades or discipline problems inelementary or middle schools should be seen as “midcourse markers”. Truancy or failing grades inhigh school should be viewed as “advanced markers” on this pathway. III. Research Question What are the Reasons Behind the High Dropout Rate Among Black Male High School Students? IV. Rationale Three new theories devoted to the inequitably poor academic outcomes experienced by young males of color that may prove to be promising in studying this population are: Steele’s
  8. 8. Why Such Low 8(1997) stereotyped threat model; Ogbu’s (1992) cultural-ecological perspective; and Majors andBillson’s (1992) cool pose theory. While preliminary, these theories begin to explore the socialand cultural factors that can inhibit academic excellence. Steele (1997) argues that while allstudents experience anxiety over possible failure in academic settings, individuals who aremembers of groups that are viewed as intellectually inferior experience increased anxietybecause personal failure could confirm the negative group stereotype. Accordingly, becauseanxiety is aversive, he proposed that members of these groups would seek to reduce anxiety bydetaching their self-esteem from academic outcomes or disidentifying. Theoretically, thisdisidentification protects the student’s self-esteem from adverse academic outcomes. Studentswho are more identified with academics are more motivated to succeed because there is a directlinked to higher academic performance. Students not identified with academics, such as Blackmales, are less motivated to succeed because there is no contingency between academicoutcomes and self-esteem – good performance is not rewarding and poor performance is notpunishing – leaving those who have disidentified with no compelling incentives to expend effortin academic endeavors. Disidentified individuals may, therefore, be at higher risk for academicproblems, especially poor grades and dropping out, but also absenteeism, truancy anddelinquency. Steele (1997) further argues that young Black males do not begin schoolingdisidentified and that identification with academics can be easily persuaded provided thatappropriate interventions are introduced. Significant focus has been extended toward a rite-of-passage program as a course ofactionfor successfully transitioning Black young people into adulthood and fostering positive outcomesin their lives. The program draws upon traditional African culture in order to impart values,improve self-concept and develop cultural awareness. Participants perceived the rite-of-passage
  9. 9. Why Such Low 9asa community endeavor that facilitated their transition into adulthood (Piert, H. J. (2007) . This study proves the social theory that has been espoused for a number of years withintheBlack community. If and when positive re-enforcements are extended to young Black males,theywill emulate positive role models. More specifically, if they can see it, they can achieve it.V. Theoretical and Conceptual Framework Criminological theory suggests a number of mechanisms linking juvenile justicesanctionsto educational outcomes. Labeling, deterrence and propensity theories suggest differenteffects of juvenile justice sanctions on education, and different mediating mechanisms. Labelingtheories predicts a negative relationship between official sanctions and educational attainment.Deterrence theories predict the opposite, while propensity theories suggest that both officialsanctions and educational outcomes can be explained by stable individual characteristics(Lemert,1951). Two versions of labeling theory predict different mechanisms between juvenile justiceinvolvement and dropout. One version of labeling theory proposes that labeling induces a deviantself-concept (Matsueda, 1992; Matsueda & Heimer, 1996). This, in turn, leads to deviantbehaviorincluding delinquency, truancy and poor school performance. Disengagement from school,particularly if it leads to grade retention, increases the likelihood of dropout (Finn, 1989;Jimerson,Anderson, & Whipple, 2002). Another stream of labeling theory contends that official labelingleads to further delinquency due to reduced conventional opportunities (Becker, 1963;
  10. 10. Why Such Low 10Paternoster& Iovanni, 1989; Sampson & Laub, 1997). This may also increase the likelihood of dropout duetoreduced resources available to “labeled” youth. Institutional responses to juvenile arrest can leadto increased risk of dropout through disruption of educational progress. Between 79 and 94percentof schools have zero tolerance policies which impose automatic penalties, including suspensionand expulsion, for student offenses (US Department of Education, 1998). While thesezero-tolerance policies are designed to increase school safety, they may also induce labeledstudents to drop out. Sampson and Laub’s (1997) life-course theory of cumulative disadvantage furthersuggeststhat the negative consequences of labeling accumulate faster for those in disadvantaged structuralpositions, particularly for the urban poor. According to this theory, disadvantaged youths are lessable to avoid the negative consequences of labeling because they have less access to socialnetworks. In contrast to both of these perspectives, propensity theories point to stable individualtraitsthat account for both offending and high school dropout (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Wilson &Herrnstein, 1985). Propensity theories suggest that any apparent link between sanctions anddropout is in fact false, as both are caused by common individual traits. In other words, thejusticesystem adjudicates the most serious offenders, who are prone to drop out of school and continueona path of deviant behavior. A negative and statistically significant relationship would indicate support for deterrencetheory. Positive and statistically significant results would support some form of labeling theory.
  11. 11. Why Such Low 11Furthermore, stronger labeling effects for minorities or those living below the poverty levelwouldbe consistent with Sampson and Laub’s (1997) life course theory of cumulative disadvantage. Jimerson (et al, 2000) argue that dropping out of school is a developmental process, notanevent, but a process influenced by social, political and economic factors. They argue thatdroppingout of school is impacted by the coming together of one’s developmental history, educationalexperiences and current circumstances. Each of these factors occurs within an arena of power. In the case of Black males, many well-intentioned reform agendas have missed the mark.Many face daunting challenges in school just as they are at risk in the larger spheres of society. Itisdue, in part, to historical and ongoing inequality in society and institutionalized racism. Thecriminalization of Black males such as in racial profiling, the continual disparaging mediaimageschallenged by the NAACP, and the overrepresentation of Black males in state and federal prisonsare similar phenomena that are inextricably linked to educational at-risk conditions Waller (1932). VI. Literature Review In response to unparalleled federal support and public interest, an unprecedented numberof high school reform efforts have emerged in recent years. High schools are rapidly emerging asthe “next frontier” of education reform. Philanthropic agencies such as the Gates Foundation, theCarnegie Foundation, and the Open Society Institute have contributed tens of millions of dollarsto innovative programs for reforming American high schools. The No Child Left Behind Act islargely an elementary education law, however, high schools are also required to meet itschallenges and reform, if necessary, to address the needs of adolescents who enter unprepared todo high school–level work. Improving high schools is also immensely important because
  12. 12. Why Such Low 12Americans continue to view education as a primary mechanism for redressing inequalities insocial life (Knaus, 2007). Despite efforts to improve ineffective schools and raise academic achievement, there is awell-documented, lingering achievement gap between affluent and poor students as well asbetween White and Black students (Grissmer & Flanagan, 2001). Moreover, there is growingevidence that low socioeconomic students of color are disproportionately taught by less qualifiedteachers and attend deteriorated schools that are racially and socioeconomically isolated(Darling-Hammond, 1997). In the report “What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future,”Darling-Hammond and her colleagues (National Commission of Teaching and America’s Future,1996) contended students enrolled in high-poverty and racially isolated high schools are unlikelyto have classroom teachers with certification or college degrees in their field. Such students, theyreported, have less than a 50% probability of taking a course with a math or science teacherholding a state-issued license and undergraduate degree in the field she or he teaches (NationalCommission of Teaching and America’s Future, 1996). The educational system is the sole compulsory institution in the nation. As such, publicelementary and secondary schools must absorb disproportionate responsibility for amelioratingthe negative effects of inequality in society. Thus, the problems of many public schools are notnecessarily problems that are caused or cured by the schools. They are, instead, rooted in varioussocietal ills such as poverty, social class biases, and institutional racism. Conventional wisdomsuggests one of the core purposes of schooling is to embody egalitarian principals such asdemocracy and the maintenance of an equal opportunity social structure. It is believed, therefore,that an ideal American educational system would be both transformative and reproductive. More
  13. 13. Why Such Low 13specifically, schools should act as a vehicle of social mobility for poor and minority studentswhile simultaneously helping middle-class students reproduce their social status. Good schoolsencourage at-risk students to surpass the level of education of their parents to obtain socialprogress (transformative) while allowing affluent students to at least reach the same level as theirparents (reproductive). Recent national trends suggest Black and other minority students continue to bedisproportionately enrolled in schools in central cities (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). Formany Black high school students, this translates into overrepresentation in large, urbancomprehensive or “zoned” schools that are situated in racially isolated and high-poverty areas.Academic achievement and graduation rates at these high schools are often very low incomparison with affluent suburban schools. In the worst cases, less than one quarter of thestudent body reaches 12th grade on time (Balfanz & Legters, 1998). In light of the intractable nature of concentrated poverty, proliferating urbanization andracial isolation, many scholars and educators have summarily concluded that little can be donewithin the context of the existing educational system to significantly improve the conditions forpoor students in general and Black male students in particular (Alexander 2001). Despair aboutthe current conditions of education is at the core of the ongoing school choice debate. As a result,some have advocated for establishing alternatives such as innovative all-male academies aimedat addressing the unique needs of Black males and to buffer them from potential pitfalls.Although controversial, several such academies have been created during past decades,beginning in the Milwaukee Public School District and spreading to other districts throughoutthe nation.
  14. 14. Why Such Low 14 The concept of Black adolescent male students as endangered is not new. For decades,Black male students have been disproportionately at risk of school failure and diminishing lifechances. Numerous studies have chronicled the troubled status of Black male youth in schooland in social life. The metaphor, “endangered species” was based mainly on the increasingnumbers of Black men at risk of school failure and in the criminal justice system coupled withtheir shrinking numbers in the higher education pipeline and in gainful employment. Comparedwith other groups, Blacks men have higher dropout rates, lower standardized achievementscores, higher suspension and expulsion rates, higher infant mortality rates, the highestincarceration rates and the shortest life expectancy (Gibbs, 1998). Whether it is perceived failure in the labor market or in educational pursuits, Black menare socialized to view their self-worth as somewhat less than that of others (Hare, 1988) and theirlocus of control as relatively lower. Kunjufu (1986) asserted that the social institution thatcontributes most flagrantly to the destruction of the aspirations of Black men is the publiceducation system. He contended that educational institutions have historically evolved a series ofcomplex features that deny Black men equal access to opportunity. Special education, trackingand ability grouping and standardized testing are examples of structural educational barriers. Insome cases, according to Kunjufu, learning and school engagement gaps between Black men andother groups can be observed as early as the fourth grade. Unfortunately, many Black men neverrecover from the initial slippage and are relegated to a poor-quality education with few chancesfor upward mobility. Considering the normative cultural values embedded in the social, political and economicinstitutions of our society, Black men have come to resemble an endangered species. Theendangered status of Black males results from a combination of institutional racism, the inertia
  15. 15. Why Such Low 15of intergenerational poverty, and an inability to execute and sustain meaningful educationalreform and community development. In the crudest sense and with the exception of a few whoare widely admired, young Black males are largely perceived and stereotyped by one or more ofthe five Ds: dumb, deprived, dangerous, deviant and disturbed (Gibbs, 1988). Although thesewords are seldom spoken or written, they can reflect mainstream cultural values and are oftenreflected in educational policy and practice. A review of the literature by Jordan, McPartland, Legters, and Balfanz (2000) identifiedthe following three main components of comprehensive school reform models in high schools:(a) structural reforms, (b) curriculum and instruction reforms, and (c) professional developmentreforms. The first component, structural reforms, refers to policies and strategies aimed atchanging the social and/or physical organization of the school. They include various initiativessuch as career academies, small learning communities, class size reduction, the creation ofinterdisciplinary teacher teams and block scheduling. Second, curriculum and instructionalreform refers to attempts to improve the content and delivery of core academic subjects.Examples include innovative ways of teaching math and English as well as infusing culturallyrelevant pedagogy and material into academic courses. Finally, ongoing professionaldevelopment refers to any number of training activities for teachers and school leaders aimed athelping them to address changing dynamics of educational processes. The broader issue of how staffing, especially teachers, affects a school’s capacity forchange has occurred separately from the discourse on comprehensive school reform. In this vein,it is argued that if the current wave of high school reform is to make a positive difference in theoverall schooling experiences of Black men, an important issue must be addressed: therecruitment of Black male teachers. This issue is rooted in research findings suggesting that race
  16. 16. Why Such Low 16congruence and cultural synchronization may make a significant difference in motivating Blackstudents to learn (Jordan et al 2000). Teacher background characteristics are critical factors in the success or failure of highschool reform. In addition, ascriptive characteristics such as gender and ethnicity/race as well asachieved factors such as certification, education level and experience are also important. There ismounting evidence that student engagement and achievement is positively affected byimprovements in school structure, curriculum and teaching and professional development(Jordan et al., 2000). However, as ineffective high schools slowly improve, the distribution ofacademic success within the school can be relatively unaffected. In other words, as the schoolbegins to manifest positive signs of improvement as a result of reform efforts, the achievementlevels by race/ethnic and socioeconomic status subgroups remain largely unchanged. Thus, thegap between Black men and other subgroups remain intact. This assertion is based partly on cultural synchronization theory coupled with anunderstanding that overall teacher quality and effectiveness always trumps racial congruencebetween students and teachers. That is, effective teachers of any racial/ethnic background aremore preferable for raising motivation and achievement generally and particularly among Blackmale students than are unqualified Black teachers. Moreover, Black male teachers, perhaps, haveseveral important advantages in educating Black adolescents. These include, for example,strategic use of shared knowledge, modeling appropriate behavior, and in some cases, commonsocial experiences. The rapport Black male teachers can rapidly establish with Black malestudents through their common cultural heritage can be maintained in the face of social classdifferences. The value-added dimension of being exposed to good teachers who are Black men
  17. 17. Why Such Low 17might be a key factor in raising the probability of success for some Black male students (Holzer2007) .VII. Proposed Methodology A. Qualitative Research 1. Educators’ perspective – The majority of students who enter Baltimore TalentDevelopment in ninth grade are reading at a fifth or sixth grade level. The position of some highschool principals is that the fact that students are entering high school with such poor literacyskills raises questions about how much catch-up work high schools can be expected to do. Theunanswered question is whether more pressure should be placed on middle schools and evenelementary schools (The Associated Press). 2. Students’ perspective – A female, 17 years of age, enrolled in a GED programafter dropping out of a Washington, D.C. high school that she describes as huge, chaotic andviolent. According to her, girls got jumped on; boys got jumped on; and the teachers werefighting and hitting students. Additionally, teachers had low expectations for students which ledto dull classes. A male GED classmate, age 23, attended and left two Washington, D.C. highschools that were on the “dropout factory” list. According to him, he would’ve liked forsomeone to have sat him down and told him that he needed to go to class; that they were going towork with him; and that they were going to help him. Instead, he had no one (The AssociatedPress). B. Research Questions a. What do you consider your learning style to be, visual, auditory? b. Does the gender of your teacher matter to you? Why or Why not? C. Data Collection Procedures
  18. 18. Why Such Low 18 High school students from three schools who attend an after school academic remedialandenrichment program will be interviewed over a period of three months. Surveys will be sent tothestaff at the end of the first semester. Since students are considered among the “specialpopulation”and because the interviews will be conducted on school property, school officials must givepermission. Thus, written permission is needed for any subject who is a legal minor. Permissionto conduct the interview will be asked of the student as well (Neuman, 2003).VIII. Expected Results In a race-conscious society (such as ours), cultural synchronization can be an importantaspect of teaching and learning (Irvine, 1990). Teachers who have shared knowledge andunderstandings with students can be better equipped in solving students’ problems andmotivating them to learn. We believe, however, that increasing the number of Black maleteachers alone is not the answer. Instead, we suggest that shared cultural knowledge (endowed asa result of being a member of the same racial and gender group) can provide a value-addeddimension of teaching and learning, holding constant a teacher’s ability to teach, credentials andlevel of experience. Perhaps a wrinkle in this conjecture is that although Black male teachers andBlack male students may share common cultural experiences, teachers are virtually, bydefinition, middle class. Complete cultural congruence or synchronization between Blackteachers and Black students almost never exists and can have possible drawbacks. For example,there are many racially isolated schools having many Black teachers where Black male studentsconsistently fail. Here, the persistent underperformance of Black male students can perhaps beexplained by a combination of factors such as inadequate resources, unstable leadership, lowteacher quality, and a host of student inputs such as the intractable conditions brought on by
  19. 19. Why Such Low 19poverty. Thus, although there is a potential for positive influences, recruiting Black male teachersto teach Black male students cannot be viewed as a panacea.IX. Implications for Research and Practice and Diversity and Ethics ConsiderationsPrimary focus of my integrated project will be on the target population of Black males betweenthe ages of 10 and 20. A comparison analysis of other cultures as well as females will beillustrated. In my efforts to illustrate and document the gross disparities relative to educationalfunding in this country, not to include both genders and not to be culturally diverse with myinformation would be an exercise in futility (Knaus, 2007). My considerable research on thissubject matter has enhanced my position relative to the consequences of inequality ofeducational funding in the Black communities. Relative to diversity, only about 58% of Hispanic students and 53 percent of Blackstudentswill graduate on time with a regular diploma, compared to 80% of Asian students and 76% ofwhite students (EPE, 2007). The U.S. Department of Justice provides written waivers for researchers studyingcriminalbehavior (Neuman, 2006, p. 134). Western, Schiraldi and Ziedenberg (2003) indicate that duringthe 1990s, incarceration became increasingly concentrated among men with little schooling.Theyshow that in 1999, 13% of white and 52% of African American high school dropouts age 30 to34had a prison record (110:7). (Their data also show that 3% of all white men and 22% of allAfrican
  20. 20. Why Such Low 20American men age 30 to 34 had a prison record.) Analyses of U.S. Department of Justice andNational Center for Education Statistics data by the Justice Policy Institute found “more AfricanAmerican men of any age incarcerated (791,000) than were enrolled in higher education (603,000) in2000” (110:9). Peer-reviewed articles that are authored by subject-matter experts who acknowledgeresearch sponsored by government agencies are reviewed very carefully. Researchers may beasked to compromise ethical or professional research standards as a condition for receiving acontract or for continued employment. When confronted with an illegitimate demand, aresearcher has three basic choices: loyalty to an organization or larger group, exiting from thesituation or voicing opposition (Rubin, 1983). Researchers face pressure to build a career,publish, advance knowledge, gain prestige, impress family and friends, hold on to a job and soforth (Neuman, 2006, 130). A basic principle of ethical social research is not to humiliatesubjects. The topic of this project is of a very sensitive nature. Therefore, the ethical researcheris cautioned not to create anxiety and discomfort among the subjects as they are asked to recallany unpleasantness.X. Conclusion Many Black male adolescents are at risk of educational failure as a result of a complexarray of institutional and socioeconomic factors they face within their schools and thecommunities in which they live. These current social and educational conditions have historicallinkages and indeed are intergenerational. Effective policies and strong interventions are neededto improve the plight of Black men in society. Within a broader framework, it is important tokeep in mind that problems that manifest within school are not always school problems, per se.Black men are not only disproportionately at risk of school failure, but also at risk of many otheroutcomes such as infant mortality, poor public health, drug abuse, crime and legal problems, and
  21. 21. Why Such Low 21unemployment (Gibbs, 1988). For this reason, multiple institutions serving Black communitiesmust seek remedies for shrinking the social mobility and achievement gap between Black menand other groups. Of the institutions Black men encounter, schools, which are the solecompulsory institution, appear to be the most malleable to change. Despite the challengesoutlined, high schools can be reformed and improved via policy and leadership that is guided byresearch and theory as well as a strong commitment to ensure a qualitative education to allstudents. There is cause for hope that high schools attempting to prepare Black men for adult lifecan be reformed into more effective organizations succeeding at helping greater numbers achieveacademically, but broader aspects of social life are more difficult to assess. There is considerableevidence suggesting communities themselves and other social institutions such as the criminaljustice system and public assistance agencies are far more resistant to change than are publicschools. This is most apparent in racially isolated communities where concentrations of povertyhave existed for generations (Sweeten 2006). To be sure, the devastating effects of poverty areoften intractable, not only for educators, but also for public health, social service and housingand workforce development agencies. As posited by Waller (1932), the community is the whole and the school is fragment.However, educational politics along with complex bureaucracy and institutionalism causes us tolose sight of the fragmentary nature of schooling in social life. As a result, school reforminitiatives are often narrowly focused on creating more effective schoolhouses, paying littleattention to the demographics and cultural backgrounds of the student population. In the case of Black men, many well-intentioned reform agendas have missed the mark.Many Black men face daunting challenges in school just as they are at risk in the larger spheres
  22. 22. Why Such Low 22of society (Holzer, 2007). It is due, in part, to historical and ongoing inequality in society andinstitutionalized racism. The criminalization of Black men such as in racial profiling, thecontinual disparaging media images challenged by the National Association for the Advancementof Colored People, and the overrepresentation of Black men in state and federal prisons aresimilar phenomena that are inextricably linked to educational at-risk conditions (Holzer, 2007).The strategies often used in high school reform represent a responsible but incomplete approachto addressing the needs of Black male adolescents. Certainly, the overall quality of a school, asmeasured by its structure or organization, curriculum and/or instruction, and professionaldevelopment are critical factors. Also, the quality, effectiveness, and commitment of teachers areparamount issues. But holding these things constant, the cultural issues affecting Black men andthe possibilities and limits of bringing in Black male teachers should be given thoroughconsideration and further study. At this point, the missing components of comprehensive schoolreform are the lack of attention paid to the cultural uniqueness of Black men and the relativeshortage of Black male teachers. Suffice it to say, everything has its price. Our society will payimmeasurably if we continue to choose not to focus on the circumstances which lead toeducational disinterest. Are we or are we not our Brother’s keeper?XI. References:1 in 10 schools is ‘dropout factory’. U.S. putting new emphasis on boosting graduation rates forhigh schools. (2007, October 29). The Associated Press. Retrieved April 18, 2008 fromhttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21532193.Alexander, K., Entwisle, D. & Kabbani, N. (2001). "The Dropout Process in Life CoursePerspective: Early Risk Factors at Home and School," Teachers College Record, 103 (5).Balfanz, R., & Legters, N. E. (1998). How many truly awful urban high schools are there? Someearly estimates. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press
  23. 23. Why Such Low 23Becker, H. (1963). Outsiders: Studies in the sociology of deviance. New York: Free Press.Darling-Hammond, L. (1997). Teachers and teaching: Testing policy hypotheses from a nationalcommission report. Education Researcher, 27, 5-15Editorial Projects in Education. (2007, June 12). Diplomas count: Ready for what? Preparingstudents for college, careers, and life after high school. Education Week, 26(40).Finn, J. D. (1989). Withdrawing from school. Review of Educational Research, 59, 117–142.Gates, M. F. (2004). Every Student Ready for College. Profiles in Leadership: Alliance forExcellent Education.Gibbs, J. T. (Ed.). (1988). Young, Black, and male in America: An endangered species.Greenwood: Auburn House.Gottfredson, M., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: StanfordUniversity Press.Grissmer, D., & Flanagan, A. (2001). The role of federal resources in closing the achievementgaps of minority and disadvantaged students. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.Hare, B. R. (1988). Structural inequality and the endangered status of Black youth. Journal ofNegro Education, 56, 100-110.Holzer, H. R. (2007). The State of Black America 2007: Portrait of the Black Male.Reconnecting Young Black Men: What Policies Would Help? The National Urban League.Irvine, J. J. (1990). Black students and school failure: Policies, practices and prescriptions.Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Jimerson, S.R., Egeland, B., Sroufe, L.A. & Carson, B. (2000). A prospective, longitudinal studyof the correlates and consequences of early grade retention. Journal of School Psychology, 38,525-549.Jimerson, S. R., Anderson, G. E., & Whipple, A. D. (2002). Winning the battle and losing thewar: Examining the relation between grade retention and dropping out of high school.Psychology in the Schools, 39, 441–457.Jordan, W. J., McPartland, J. M., Legters, N. E., & Balfanz, R. (2000). Creating a comprehensiveschool reform model: The talent development high school with career academies. Journal ofEducation for Students Placed At Risk, 5(1&2), 159-181.Knaus, C.B. (2007). Still Segregated, Still Unequal: Analyzing the Impact of No Child LeftBehind on African American Students. The State of Black America®. Abstract received fromNational Urban League database.
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