Black male students are lagging behind every other group, including their black sisters, writes Richard Whitmire in his farewell USA Today column. President Barack Obama will be a symbol of success, but will that be enough to help black boys succeed?
It’s not just about race or poverty: Black female students are much more likely to earn good grades, complete high school and go on to college, he writes. “Many colleges report that black women have higher graduation rates than white men.”
This gender gap has many causes, starting with the fact that 70% of black children are born into single-parent families. The girls have mothers for role models; the boys lack fathers. Then, ladle on daily doses of inner-city crime, violence, drugs and toxic popular culture, which disproportionately affect boys.
Now black boys have a role model of success, but that’s not enough.
As Obama often says, success begins with parents willing to take responsibility, set limits and turn off the TV. But successful education reforms have shown that the right academic atmosphere can help overcome dysfunctional family situations.
Whitmire suggests learning from schools that are succeeding with black male students and focusing on teaching reading effectively in elementary school — and, if necessary, in middle school. He thinks high-quality preschools could help black boys significantly, while mentors could keep more from dropping out of college.
Most important, Obama has resisted calls from the teachers’ unions to dismantle President Bush’s No Child Left Behind school-reform law. Whatever the law’s shortcomings, No Child’s relentless emphasis on data forces school districts to come clean about the poor job they have done with black boys.
Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail, took a buy-out from USA Today. Welcome to freelance life, Richard.
Via Core Knowledge Blog.