How to Help African-American Males in School: Treat Them Like Gifted Students

Yvette Jackson, Washington Post, November 22, 2010

{snip} African-American boys drop out at nearly twice the rate of white boys; their SAT scores are on average 104 points lower; and black men represented just 5 percent of college students in 2008.

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Driven by the intense focus on accountability, schools and teachers used standardized test scores to help identify and address student weaknesses. Over time, these deficits began to define far too many students so that all we saw were their deficits–particularly for African-American males. As a result, we began losing sight of these young boys’ gifts and, as a consequence, stifled their talents.

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Damaging and pervasive chasms grow between teachers and students when teachers feel unprepared to meet the needs of students of color or economically disadvantaged students. Making cultural connections and strengthening teacher-student relationships are critical to making learning meaningful and relevant to students.

Finally, students must be enabled to be more active in their own education. Schools should give students opportunities to participate in teachers’ professional development aimed at enriching curriculum, improving teaching and expanding the range of materials students create.

{snip} We must embrace a new approach to African-American males that focuses less on what they aren’t doing and builds on what they can and want to do as the path to improving their academic performance.

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