Black disaster

Half of black male students are failing in school, concludes a Schott Foundation report. Nationwide, only 47 percent of black males graduate from high school in four years, compared to 75 percent of white males. In some cities, it’s much worse: Indianapolis posts a 19 percent graduation rate; Detroit is 20 percent. (The few white males who go to Detroit public schools are even less likely to earn a diploma in four years; their graduation rate is 17 percent.)

By contrast, Fort Bend, Texas manages to graduate 80 percent of black male students in four years. Several Maryland counties also beat the odds.

Richard Whitmire raises an important question: Why do black girls do so well?

Black girls, in contrast to the boys, get pretty good grades, go to college at decent rates and graduate from college at very good rates, earning degrees as twice the rate of men.

. . . The girls come from the same homes, the same schools, the same neighborhoods as their brothers and neighbors? Seems like a question worth asking, and yet … silence.

If schools are doing OK with girls, then the problem isn’t race. Whitmire says gender. I’d say a culture that is toxic for young, fatherless males.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. African-American girls have much better role models than the boys do, both among celebrities and in their neighborhoods. The girls have strong, smart women like Oprah promoting an uplifting message and the boys have thuggish rappers and sports stars who celebrate the worst of the ghetto subculture.

  2. Why do girls do better in school than boys? Well, the short answer is very simple. Girls and boys have somewhat different innate temperaments, which includes somewhat different interests and somewhat different social inclinations. I think there is a preponderance of evidence that these differences in innate temperament make girls more amenable to schooling as we know it.

    A longer answer would have to investigate these differences, which I don’t think has been done to any great extent. Certainly there has been research on differences in abilities, which I believe has established some minor or obscure differences. But I think in the decades ahead research will eventually find differences in interests, ways of thinking and relating, and propensities, that are much more important than any differences in abilities. But it’s a touchy subject, of course.

    A real eyeopener for me on this subject was the book, “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen.

    But what should we do in our schools about these differences? Beats the heck out of me!

  3. superdesroyer says:

    Maybe it is because girls naturally mature faster than boys. I have always thought that the problem with single mother culture is that the boys get stuck into the culture of 12 y/os whereas the girls mature.

    Also, there are many more educational tracks open to girls than boys. Things like nursing, social work, and teaching have large numbers of black women working in them but have few black males.

  4. Oh, please. African American girls do “better” in school because they are less likely to attract a teacher’s notice by acting out. They simply behave slightly better. They aren’t learning more.

  5. I’m curious why Fort Bend, Texas can graduate 80% of black guys when Detroit graduates 20%. I know why I have to read it on this blog rather then in a press release from Detroit Public Schools, I just don’t know how Fort Bend does it.

  6. Hip Hop culture.

  7. MarkRoulo says:

    What could be the difference between Detroit and Fort Bend, TX?

    Hmmmmm ….

    Fort Bend County boasts the second-highest median household income in the nation … The study by the Arlington, Va., research council puts Fort Bend’s adjusted median household income at $74,782. When cost of living is ignored, Fort Bend’s income is $67,902″
    http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2005/09/26/daily46.html

    From a census bureau web page:

    “The median income of households in Detroit city was $26157.”

    Maybe the black males in a city with 2½ the median income household income as Detroit are being raised in a different environment than Detroit (more educated parents, possibly more money spent per student, maybe the teachers spend more time teaching and less time on discipline, etc)?

    -Mark Roulo

  8. speedwell says:

    I live in Houston (most of Fort Bend is either part of metro Houston or considered suburbs).

    One part of Fort Bend’s “secret” is that Texas schools, particularly Houston-area schools, are far from shy about disposing summarily of “troublemakers,” either by sending them to special disciplinary schools or kicking them out altogether. By the time a young black man reaches high school, he’s already run quite an obstacle course. He’s that much less likely to be the type who acts out or talks back. He’s “presorted.”

    Another part of Fort Bend’s “secret” is that it has a culture of willing subservience. For example, their police department has way too much power and abuses it daily, and the locals (at least the ones I’ve spoken with) profess to like it that way, because it is perceived as keeping down the riff-raff. Fort Bend’s a bland, bedroom-community sort of place with all the charm and character of the classic cookie-cutter subdivision. Immigrants and minorities move there in order to “fit in.” So the young person in Fort Bend schools is also “preconditioned” to do just what they’re told.

    There are more positive parts of this, too. The county is full of immigrants with super-high work ethics, like my dad was when he came to this country. It rubs off. When I was a temp, I used to really enjoy working for small businesspeople in that part of town. Caught up in their enthusiastic seriousness, I did some of my best work for them.

  9. So the reasons this school district does so well in the graduating of black guys is:

    1 – they’re rich.
    2 – they “cherry-pick”, or rather “road-apple discard”.
    3 – they’ve got a police force that emulates the SS.
    4 – it’s a “classic cookie-cutter subdivision”.

    Mommy and daddy may be loaded in the Fort Bend school district but you wouldn’t know it from the amount of money they spend:
    Total per pupil expenditures this district – $6,638 state average – $8,818
    http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/tx/district_profile/389/#finance

    And if mumsy and dadsy’s net worth are determinative we ought to just draw a line through the median income chart and shut down the public schools in communities that don’t make the cut.

    But let’s not forget that our host wrote a book about a school that does better then the Fort Bend school district and that school doesn’t cherry-pick nor do the parents belong to the country club.

    With regard to the police force, this is the first time I’ve heard the cops being cited as a reason for the success of a school district although that unlikely service is mitigated by their, claimed, abusiveness which somehow ends up as evidence of the tragically middle-class sensibilities of the residents.

    I’ve got my own suspicions about the interconnection between income and educational attainment.

    I think where the parents are well-fixed the paladins of education, who in less well-off communities commonly over-awe the residents with their impressive credentials, are quickly put in their place.

    The sorts of excuses and excesses which might not be a problem in middle-class or urban school districts grease a slide out the door in wealthier school districts. Consequently the administration never develops the grand pretensions that subordinate “mere” education to the latest in educational fadishness.

  10. One also must wonder how big a role two-parent families, one where the young black male has a *father* in the house, plays in the different rates of graduation.

  11. Mrs. Davis says:

    The sorts of excuses and excesses which might not be a problem in middle-class or urban school districts grease a slide out the door in wealthier school districts. Consequently the administration never develops the grand pretensions that subordinate “mere” education to the latest in educational fadishness.

    Sorry allen, look elsewhere. The administrators are teachers who have excelled at bamboozing parents and have moved up to bamboozling boards of education.Rich districts may produce a higher caliber of bamboozler, but they still do the same damage to the curriculum and may well be the source of many fads.

    The ones who catch the wrath of the parents are not the administrators and educationists creating the disorder, but the poor teachers left to implement the curriculum and face the parental ire on a daily basis. The administrators only do it once a year when they come down from on high to announce their new wisdom and their displays of arrogance are impressive even to an attorney.

  12. Military sergeants know how to deal with young black men. You make teachers out of former black military sergeants and let these men teach discipline to the young black men.

    Get black boys out of classrooms with black girls. The boys partially act out to impress the girls. Put them in environments (not “rooms” necessarily) where the best way to impress those around them is to learn and perform well. Let them learn competence and self-efficacy first, then lead them through a curriculum adapted to their needs.

    School of education indoctrinated teachers may know squat about the real world these kids face, but there are a lot of unconventionally accredited teachers who know what the kids need. Think outside the box. Let meritocracy and getting the job done trump the unions.

  13. Charles R. Williams says:

    Intuitively, fatherlessness is more immediately damaging to boys than to girls. The long range consequence for these girls is single parenthood. And this perpetuates the problem.

  14. Margo/Mom says:

    Ever notice how it is that whenever there is an identification of a school or district that is succeeding against the odds there is a rush to explain it out of existence?

  15. One of the few correlations between money and education is that between socio-economic standing and educational attainments. The clear, if never voiced, implication of a correlation between socio-economic standing and educational attainment is that there’s not much point to trying to educate the children of the poor.

    Yet exceptions to that correlation pop up all the time. Joan’s got her book about one such school and within an hours walk of where I sit is another, similar school. I could probably dip a hook into the literature and snag half a dozen more exceptions without much trouble so where’s that leave the correlation? It exists but it’s hardly the simple cause-effect relationship that apologists for the public education system would prefer. There’s some underlying dynamic that’s dependent on parental income but not necessarily exclusive to higher-income bracket parents.

    I believe that as you ascend the income scale parents become increasingly resistant to both excuses and obfuscation. Parents who give orders for a living are far less likely to be accepting of excuses from educators, especially educators who give orders, then are parent who take orders. Those parents are providing artificially to those administrators what the public education doesn’t – a motivation to put education at the top of their priority list.

    The ones who catch the wrath of the parents are not the administrators and educationists creating the disorder, but the poor teachers left to implement the curriculum and face the parental ire on a daily basis.

    And that, from the point of view of an administrator is an acceptable, even great, situation.

    Care to speculate on a means of resolving that situation without recourse to a newer, better brand of human being?

  16. Mrs. Davis says:

    Care to speculate on a means of resolving that situation without recourse to a newer, better brand of human being?

    Eliminate public school systems, compulsory attendance laws, and any legal right (entitlement) to an education. Eliminate all child labor laws for people over 14. Force all non-profit corporations to spend 15% of their endowment in the following year. Take a DNA sample from ever child to be stored to determine paternity for purposes of child support.

  17. Mrs. Davis, I hope you are being sarcastic.

  18. A simple “no” would have been more succinct since not a single element of your libertarian fever-dream is politically feasible with the current batch of hairless bipeds.

    Perhaps something a bit less sweeping and a bit more achievable?

  19. Mrs. Davis says:

    No, not if you want different results from the present.

    The current system is grossly sub optimal. You can tinker at the edges and perhaps make it marginally less sub-optimal. But it is not yet totally counter productive, so it will continue to lumber on. Until there is a major social upheaval.

  20. Margo/Mom says:

    Ms. Davis:

    Is your hope that from the ashes a phoenix will rise?

    Allen has a point that bears looking at. Research that indicates that the poor can’t learn helps to justify lots of divisions between the access of the haves and have nots. Education of parents is a significant predictor of student achievement, until parent involvement is entered into the equation, at which point it disappears. Yet schools for low-income students either don’t work very hard at effective two-way communication, or are actually highly resistent to any meaningful involvement of parents (and launch poorly attended programs to “fix” the parents to demonstrate what a futile task it is to expect involvement at their school).

    When we look at the resources that are easy to quantify, such as teacher education and experience, or facilities, we generally find that the poor get less. We cry that the children of the poor start school behind, but we neither look at how to ensure that the children of the poor have the same access to high quality early childhood education as others, or admit concern that they get further behind every year that they are in school.

    Sure, Ms. D. Blow up the system. Take us back a couple of centuries. Who will benefit? Only the children of those with means.

  21. As intriguing as Mrs. Davis’ suggestion is, the majority of Americans are incredibly dependent upon the government to fix all problems. Although, it would be interesting to see the horror on the looks of parents when they realize that they, not the government, are now truly responsible for the education of their progeny.

    Interestingly, if you look back 100+ years ago, you see communities banding together and hiring some college grad (usually male to control the boys)to teach little farm kids to read and write. In many cases the parents were illiterate and could only leave their signature with a mark.

    In some cases, within one generation, children of these illiterates (no help for projects from them, much less reading or writing) had progressed enough to go on to local colleges, med schools, and seminaries.

    If you look at photos from rural schoolhouses from the 1800’s and early 1900’s, you will often see children barefoot, wearing their overalls (probably the only ones they own) and often filthy. Yet, they were there.

    Parental involvement consisted of getting them there and backing the teacher. Subjects were the 3 R’s, along with world history, poetry, and possibly Latin and Greek.

    We can’t go back, but we could possibly learn something from their tenacity.

  22. Reality Czech says:

    Ever notice how it is that whenever there is an identification of a school or district that is succeeding against the odds there is a rush to explain it out of existence?

    What you call “explaining out of existence” is an attempt to find causes (which exist for everything beyond quantum mechanics). If those causes can be copied, so can the successes (maybe). If the causes are sui generis, success will have to come in other ways.

    The same is true of the Downtown College Prep school. DCP has a selected student population, selected by the students and their parents. You cannot generalize this to an entire school system unless the program is guaranteed to succeed despite active rejection and sabotage. Good luck with that.

  23. Schools for losers – I’m going to be an NBA superstar.

  24. timfromtexas says:

    No, we can’t go back. Those days most children looked forward to going to school. At home were hard work and chores. Schooling provided a break. That is, of course, not the situation now.

    The government cannot be taken out of the eqauation now. NCLB has shaken things up quite well. We are finally trying diffeent approches, charter schools, magnet schools and the like. these aproaches are taking us down the path to tracking.

    I hope at least one large school district will work its way into true meaningful tracking, with a set k-12 curriculum for all of its educational tracks. If it were to happen, it would make NCLB a walk in the park for that district.

    Now changing to such a system will receive great resistance from some parents, but the greatest resistance will come from the educational burocracy, and other entities that have vested interests in the status quo.

  25. Mrs. Davis says:

    If you look back 250 years ago you see that virtually all of New England and two thirds of the middle Atlantic states were literate without a public school system.

    While publicly supported schools may have, and may still, make sense in homogeneous communities that could not support multiple schools, in todays densely populated metropolis they have morphed into unaccountable political monsters that use nineteenth century factory model to serve the poor not at all and the affluent suburbs inadequately.

    Americans want a good education for their children no less than the colonists and are willing and able to spend much more to obtain it. The spirit of philanthropy has not atrophied either, and were we to get the state out of the way there would undoubtedly be sufficient resources to provide all interested and willing children an education superior to the one they are currently receiving in state schools.

    If you really believe the state does such a great job of providing intellectual nourishment our children, why do you not insist it take over all the restaurants to provide for our physical nourishment?

  26. Andy Freeman says:

    > What you call “explaining out of existence” is an attempt to find causes (which exist for everything beyond quantum mechanics).

    Oh really? The students at DP were failing at their previous schools. They succeeded at DP. Instead of looking at what DP did differently for them, all we hear about is how DP kids are different than the kids who continue to fail at their old schools.

    If the DP kids are different than the kids who didn’t go to DP, then it isn’t necessarily true that DP would help the other kids. However, it’s pretty clear that DP did work better for the DP kids than the existing system and thus should be expected to work well for similar kids who didn’t get a chance to go to DP.

    “They’re different” does not actually justify allowing them to fail. We now know something that works for DP kids and presumably for other kids like them.

    But, instead of talking about how to make DP-like programs available to more DP-like kids, we only hear that DP kids are different.

    Do you really want to argue that helping DP-like kids is a bad thing?

  27. Margo/Mom says:

    Ms. D.

    Your citation does not support your assertion. It not only talks about tax-supported schools, but also points out that literacy was inequitably spread, men having greater access than women, migrants from some groups (through a selective migration process) being highly literate, while laborers from the lower class were not. Didn’t scan through far enough to see mention of slaves. It also used “signature rate” as a proxy for literacy, presuming that if one had to revert to making a mark, one was illiterate, while those who could manage their whole name were literate. Not a resounding endorsement of the free-market approach to education.

  28. Margo,

    You said, “…we generally find that the poor get less.”

    Please explain to me why parents who’re able to give their children a better education shouldn’t do so.

    It is their money, why should they listen to the bleatings of the “gimme more!” crowd?

  29. Margo/Mom says:

    Ragnarok asked, “You said, “…we generally find that the poor get less.”

    Please explain to me why parents who’re able to give their children a better education shouldn’t do so.

    It is their money, why should they listen to the bleatings of the “gimme more!” crowd?”

    Well, absolutely nothing if we believe in an aristocracy. Them that has gets more. Pay no attention to those embarrassingly impoverished hoards in the street. Even aristocracy has been tempered at times by a sense of noblesse oblige.

    But the point I was making was to challenge some of the popular wisdom about why it is that the poor learn less. It’s pretty hard to support a view that they are less able learners when one takes into account the different resources that go into teaching the haves vs the have nots.

  30. Margo,

    I was thinking more of a meritocracy, actually; and there’s nothing wrong with taking care of your family first. Not so?

    As for why the poor learn less, there’s an embarrassment of reasons. But perhaps the most important thing is that kids have to want to learn. And that has to come to from their parents and neighbours.

    Please don’t tell me that it’s merely poverty. I come from a country in which poverty is much more real, and yet education is taken a lot nore seriously.

  31. Margo/Mom says:

    Ragnarok:

    Taking care of family first sometimes crosses a line and becomes ignoring the needs of and obligations to others. Do you recall the scene in Grapes of Wrath when Mrs. Joad considered whether she ought to share some of her family’s family’s small bounty with the starving children around her? You will recall that the adults found themselves unable to eat knowing that there were children just outside their tent who were starving. The movie (and book) raised powerful questions about what happens to the oppressed when their sense of individual responsibility and belief in working hard to earn a living can be used to divide and unfairly exploit them.

    But no, inherited wealth is not meritocracy, it is aristocracy. And if social capital (including education) is the means of tranmission, it is no less so.

    But when you deduce (presumably from scores and other indicators showing that the poor learn less) that the poor don’t want to learn, again, this ignores the tremendous differences in what is available to them.

  32. Richard Aubrey says:

    From time to time, in a discussion of the impoverished school system of one or another big city, some clown mentions the per-pupil expenditure. That should never be done. Because, almost without exception, the ‘burbs are spending a whole lot less.

    In the Detroit area, there is a small system called “Lamphere” which was noted for spending a ton per pupil. And the demagogues pretended all the ‘burbs spent that much. In fact, Lamphere was almost the only one spending more than Detroit, while most spend ten or twenty percent less. And, it goes without saying, did far better.

    The late Daniel Moynihan did a whimsical study years ago which demonstrated that there is a greater correlation between propinquity to the Canadian border and educational results than between per-pupil expenditures and educational results.

  33. Margo,

    What it comes down to is this: should a parent provide first for his own children, or not? Your allusion to Mrs. Joad misses the point.

    It would be admirable for her to give her food to someone else’s starving children – but not before she feeds her own. Clear?

    As for meritocracy vs. aristocracy, this is a strawman. I said quite clearly that I was thinking of a meritocracy – not so? But even if we were dealing with aristocrats, the argument stands. You might claim that he has a social duty to share his wealth with the poor – but not before he takes care of his own children.

    And I didn’t say the the poor universally don’t want to learn – please read carefully. In the US many kids don’t care about learning, both poor and not-so-poor. The latter have a better chance because they’re likely to have parents who’ll set an example (YMMV).

  34. Good lord, Margo,

    It’s an aristocracy if your parent’s leave you a pittance? (See, I can make up a strawman argument, too.)

    Seriously, the hyperbole is getting silly. We aren’t talking about the Joads or the unwashed hoards of 18th century France here. Well, maybe you are.

    And I’m not sure what popular wisdom you’re challenging. The only popular wisdom, according to the “experts”, that I ever hear is that the poor learn less because they are poor and their schools are poor. If we throw more money at them and their schools, the problem will be solved.

  35. Margo/Mom says:

    My goodness there is a lot of buzzing around today. My initial remarks were in response to Ms. D. wanting (again) to blow up the public school system as a solution–which would most likely have as a first result an extreme version of Ragnarok’s every man for himself version of “meritocracy,” although I am not clear how the social capital gained by the merit of the first generation is passed on to the next by virtue of merit–particularly in an every man take care of his family set-up. Without some common agreements–typically known as government by the consent of the governed–such a system rapidly devolves into something that I (and I believe others) would call an aristocracy–that is, those who have, transmit (unequally–based on whatever merit was there in the first generation, presumably) to their progeny. Those who have not may compete, albeit at a growing disadvantage, on down through the generations.

    I realize that some who post here view this as ideal. I do not.

  36. Ragnarok says:

    C’mon, Margo!

    …Ragnarok’s every man for himself version of “meritocracy”,…

    Where did I say that?

    As Susan said, “If we throw more money at them and their schools, the problem will be solved.”

    The North San Jose school board wants $455,000,000 to build a school and possibly another one in the future. What do you say to that, Margo?

  37. Mrs. Davis says:

    Margo,

    Do you really think the system we have now is working any better than even the straw man you set up?

    The vast majority of poor kids in the inner cities are not getting any kind of education from the state schools to prepare them to succeed in main stream society. I don’t say that my alternative would solve every problem for every child, but it would give every child a fighting chance which is more than they get now and succeed for more as well.

    Every time the residents of the inner city are given the opportunity to opt out of state schools, they line up in droves for the chance. They deserve more of a chance, more choice, more authority and more control over their education than they are getting now. That would set them free, not condemning them to start life with a 10 year sentence in public schools.

  38. Ragnarok says:

    Eventide hath come, and so has time for a little reflection.

    IIRC, Margo, I said that a parent should look first at providing for his children. I also said that if he then provided for other children, his actions would be quite admirable. Right?

    But you disagree. And there’s the rub: by your logic, you should provide for other children before you take care of your own. Right? And since there’s an infinitude of “other children”, you’d never get around to your children? Right?

    And have you actually practised this?

  39. Reality Czech says:

    Andy Freeman said

    it’s pretty clear that DP did work better for the DP kids than the existing system and thus should be expected to work well for similar kids who didn’t get a chance to go to DP.

    It did. It should. What fraction of kids are “DP kids” lacking the opportunity, and what fraction wouldn’t ever be?

  40. http://joannejacobs.com/2008/08/02/black-disaster/#comments

    Margo/Mom wrote:

    [i]Sure, Ms. D. Blow up the system. Take us back a couple of centuries. Who will benefit? Only the children of those with means.[/i]

    Oh sure, the current system’s working so well for the poor that Mrs. Davis suggestion would be a devastating blow to the educational aspirations of the poor. [/sarcasm]

    The current *system* sucks and the poor get the lousiest schools. That’s not a shortcoming of the system, that’s both how it was designed and how it turned out.

    The whole point of school districts was to ensure that spending *wouldn’t* be equal. If spending were equal back when public education were being rolled out the wealthy would’ve bolted the system and being wealthy would quite likely have had the political clout to avoid having to pay for public schools as well as private. Districts allow the wealthy to have a de facto private school system within the framework of the public school system.

    Interestingly enough, many of the schools attended by the poor, especially urban poor in urban districts, aren’t living hand to mouth. In many cases the schools of the poor are quite well-funded, but because the poor are generally poor-equipped to apply the sort of pressure that a public school bureaucracy responds too they get expensive schools that do a lousy job.

    My disagreement with Mrs. Davis isn’t in her goal but in her approach; the poor will never get decent schools with the current system but envisioning an end isn’t the same thing as describing the means.

    If you do think that the public education system is an inherently bad idea, corrosive of democratic ideals, then you have a responsibility to find and promote realistic approaches to bringing about the system’s end, not just a harrumph about how terrible it is and the use of high-explosive metaphors.

  41. Mrs. Davis says:

    I’d be happy to hear your ideas, Allen, as you seem to agree how messed up things are.

    And one thing I should clarify, that I think got to Margo is that I would certainly have state paid vouchers for all children.

  42. Andy Freeman says:

    > because the poor are generally poor-equipped to apply the sort of pressure that a public school bureaucracy responds too they get expensive schools that do a lousy job.

    Do you really want to say that public school folk, when left to their own devices, will waste money and not educate kids?

    If that’s how they behave, why should we give them money?

    It is not the job or responsibility of parents or anyone else to fix public schools. If the folks who think that public schools are a good idea don’t fix them, they’re going to lose the money.

    Almost no one pays for public schools because they believe that public schools are some inherent good. We pay because we want kids educated. If public schools aren’t going to do that, we’re going to stop paying.

    And no, we don’t have to come up with an alternative. We can get failure for free.

  43. Andy Freeman says:

    > If you do think that the public education system is an inherently bad idea,

    How about we start with the assumption that all coercion is bad, but that some coercion has benefits that exceed said “bad”.

    Do public schools’ benefits exceed its costs? If not, why are we doing it?