Grant Aims to Brighten Black Males’ Future

Matthew E. Milliken, Herald-Sun (Durham), February 10, 2010

The National Education Association grant awarded to Durham schools is meant to improve the test scores and college and job readiness of black males.

“Too many are in academic trouble,” school board Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown said Tuesday. “Too many are held back a grade. Too many fail to enroll in rigorous coursework. Too many drop out, and their scores are among the lowest of any demographic. That has to change.”

The six schools involved in the new grant have large populations of black students and significant gaps in scores between black and white students.

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Data from 2008-09 show that black students’ test scores in core subject areas are often less than two-thirds those of white students at the six schools and sometimes much lower. For instance, while all white students at Fayetteville Street were deemed proficient in math, only 34.1 percent of blacks were. At Chewning, 61 percent of white students and 21.6 percent of black students passed state reading tests. By comparison, 47.6 percent of Hispanic Fayetteville pupils passed math tests and 47.6 percent of Hispanic Chewning students passed reading tests.

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About 70 percent of dropouts were black in 2007-08. That year, 84 percent of students given short-term suspensions and 67 percent of those given long-term suspensions were black. Black male students alone accounted for more than half of suspensions in both categories.

About 55 percent of black male students graduated from high school on time in 2008, compared to 86.5 percent of white males.

{snip}In North Carolina, the achievement gap was about 27 points in 2000 and 33.5 points in 2006.


The NEA Foundation on Tuesday awarded Durham Public Schools $1.25 million to boost the classroom achievement of minority students.

The money will target black males in the early grades to help them graduate on time. Research shows the group is struggling the most within the district, said Kristy Moore, president of the Durham Association of Educators.

“We want to make sure that we have mentoring programs. We want to make sure that teachers have accessibility to go out to the homes and to visit parents and see what the students really need,” Moore said.

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Lakis said he sees many black students fall behind their peers in class. No one has been able to determine the reason for the disparity, but he said his job as a teacher is to address the situation.

“We are really trying to solve the problem, more so than diagnose it,” he said.

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Moore said Durham schools will apply for mini-grants to pay for programs tailored to their individual needs.

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“A teacher needs to wear the hat of a social worker and a care provider and a community organizer and get that involvement from the student, the parent, the grandparent (and) anybody who is involved in that child’s life,” Lakis said.

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