Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Education policies pushing Black males out of schools at ever-increasing rates

By Dr. Pedro Noguera, New York University
Guest blogger Dr. Pedro Noguera is the Director of the Center for the Urban Education at The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education &  Human Development at New York University. He is a professor of sociology and education, the author of City Schools and the American Dream, and a Research Advisor to the NYC Black Male Donor Collaborative.

Across the nation, alarming numbers of Black males, particularly those from low-income inner-city neighborhoods, are dropping out of schools in record numbers.  According to national reports , graduation rates for Black males hover between 38% and 42%.  Even in cities like New York and Atlanta where graduation rates have increased, graduation rates for Black males have largely remained stagnant. From 1973 to 1977 there was a steady increase in African-American male enrollment in college; however, since 1977 there has been a sharp and continuous decline. The problem is so pervasive and intractable that a growing number of policy makers and commentators have described the Black male dropout problem as a crisis.

Closer analysis of the drop out crisis reveals that it is actually a symptom of a much larger problem. On every performance indicator related to academic success—performance on standardized tests, grades, college entrance exams, etc.—Black males are under-represented, and on those indicators related to failure they are overwhelmingly over-represented. Nationally, Black males are more likely than any other group to be suspended and expelled from school. Black males are also more likely to be classified as mentally retarded or to be identified as learning disabled and placed in special education. They are also more likely to be absent from gifted and talented programs and advanced placement and honors courses. In contrast to most other groups, where males commonly perform at higher levels in math and science related courses, the reverse is true for Black males.

The educational challenges confronting Black males profoundly influence the types of opportunities that are available to them later in life. Today, Black males between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are the only segment of the population with larger numbers in prison than in college; they are also the only segment of the US population with a declining life expectancy.

Given the broad array of challenges confronting Black males, it is essential that we begin to find ways to increase the number of Black males who are succeeding in school and who are able to avoid the pitfalls and hardships that beset so many others.

For the last few years the Schott Foundation has emerged as a leader in drawing attention to the educational challenges confronting Black males.  Now it is stepping forward to lead the way to create an Interactive Black Boys Report that will serve as a tool for policy makers and educators to take action.  


  1. As a mother of a 10 year old son. My mission is to ensure that he is afforded the Opportunity to Learn and going through the middle school process in NYC has highlighted the slim pickens available for quality middle schools, in both charter and traditional district public schools.

    Thank you Pedro and the Schott Foundation (John Jackson)for holding up the issues but more importantly keeping the conversation alive about how to make a difference.

    I will follow this interactive Black Boys Report and use it as a guide both personally with my own son and in work. I also promise to spread the word about it.

    "Education is the One Thing No One Can Take Away from You"

  2. For a while, African American males in education has been in a sad state of affairs. But there is hope. My dissertation highlights the phenomenon that some African Americans who score low on the SAT and are, therefore, predicted to not succeed academically in college, may in fact have a high success motivation. Those who do succeed tend to have a life purpose and a strong self-motivation to fulfill that purpose, despite the predictions, when they are surrounded by a network of encouragers, enroll in a harmonious college environment, and possess a healthy self-image and strong work ethic that allows them to forge ahead and develop the maturity and effective study strategies to succeed academically. Students such as these are determined not to fall prey to the negative statistics but to join the honored ranks of successful African Americans.

    African Americans would do well to take initiative well before entering college by focusing on identifying their life purpose and then looking for professionals in that area to serve as mentors for guidance and encouragement. We can help them with this. Young students need to meet more role models who demonstrate the results of self-motivation and will convey their journey of success.


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