Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, December 3, 2012
By kindergarten, 1 out of 4 African American boys in California is convinced he will fail in school, a self-fulfilling prophecy driven in part by poverty and trauma, according to the results of a legislative inquiry.
The Assembly select committee investigation on the status of boys and men of color also found that the boys are increasingly putting a strain on the state’s economic health. The findings were drawn from several community hearings, expert testimony and the input of hundreds of other stakeholders over 18 months.
The final report, scheduled for public release this week, identified education, health and employment as among the most significant areas of concern, and offered recommendations, including where to focus resources and policymakers’ attention.
The report’s findings included broad summaries of how men and boys of color, especially African American and Latino males, fare in California.
“Where you live, to a large extent, determines whether you are exposed to hazardous pollutants and unhealthy food; whether you attend a good school or land a decent job with a livable wage; and whether you are likely to go to jail or die relatively young,” according to the report.
Currently, about 70 percent of California males under age 25 are of an ethnicity other than white, yet too many of those boys of color are failing in school and are off track to succeed in the workforce.
For example, by fourth grade, about 60 percent of black and Latino children score below proficient on reading tests, and by eighth grade, about 1 in 4 are chronically absent.
Recommendations included expanding educational programs that reduce suspensions and expulsions and increase access to college and career preparation.
The report cited Oakland Unified as an example of a district that is already implementing many of the recommendations, including full-service schools with health centers, discipline policies that keep students in school and programs to support at-risk youth.
For example, the district has an Office of African-American Male Achievement, which supports manhood development classes at middle and high schools and other programs for black males.
The manhood classes offer black male students positive African American male role models who encourage the young men to focus on their education and future and offer a curriculum that includes everything from how to tie a tie to an analysis of historical black figures.
The report noted that 1 in 6 black males between 15 and 25 were out of school, out of work or incarcerated.