Black male students are doing very poorly in school, concludes a report by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban public schools. From the New York Times:
Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.
Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.
In addition to low test scores, black male students drop out of high school at nearly twice the rate of white males. SAT scores for black males who remain in school average 104 points lower than white males.
Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, calls for “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” such as “how much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”
Black girls are much more likely to complete high school and go on to college than their brothers. The culture for girls is less toxic than the culture for boys, most of whom are growing up without their fathers.
The report urges convening a White House conference, encouraging Congress to appropriate more money for schools and establishing networks of black mentors.
What it does not discuss are policy responses identified with a robust school reform movement that emphasizes closing failing schools, offering charter schools as alternatives and raising the quality of teachers.
The report did not go down this road because “there’s not a lot of research to indicate that many of those strategies produce better results,” (Michael) Casserly said.
And what’s the evidence that spending money improves results? Or holding a White House conference for that matter.
In Baltimore, the dropout rate for African-American boys declined to 4.9 percent during the last academic year, down from 11.9 percent three years earlier, the Times reports.
Andres A. Alonso, the chief executive of the Baltimore City Public Schools, said the improvement had little to do with changes at the margins, like lengthening the school day or adding mentors. Rather, Mr. Alonso cited aggressively closing failing schools, knocking on the doors of dropouts’ homes to lure them back and creating real-time alerts — “almost like an electrical charge” — when a student misses several days of school.
Baltimore also opened alternative schools to help students complete a diploma.