Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Thursday, May 17, 2007

UPDATE! Helping African-American Boys Succeed

An Invitation from Education Week Teacher Magazine Research Center


Last Chat:
Thursday, May 17, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time

The academic problems of African-American boys are well documented. Their high school graduation rate is well below that of white boys. They generally perform worse in school than African-American girls. And they are far more likely than white boys to be placed in special education classes.

Their academic struggles are often exacerbated by behavior problems in and out of school. They have higher suspension rates than other groups and are more likely to be involved in criminal activity outside of school.


Despite the bleak statistics, African-American boys have made progress in many places around the country, raising their academic achievement and performing quite well compared with their peers from other racial and ethnic groups.

• What needs to be done to ensure that such success stories are replicated in other places?

• What are the best approaches for helping African-American boys in school?

• And why are they still struggling academically in most places?

We are currently accepting questions for this chat. Please submit questions now. Send a copy of your question to Eddie Griffin (BASG) at

UPDATED: Friday, May 18, 2007


*Martha King:
Can you compare the success of African American boys with that of Latino boys and Asian American boys? Key differences, similarities.

*Connie Collins, Program Specialist K-12, Fort Wayne Community Schools:
Are there specific methods or classroom practices that motivate students to perform to their potential? For example, do small groups work better than whole group discussions, or does the instructional intent still play a large role in method choice with diverse students.

To what extent do you think early intervention might help Black male students at ages: 0-3 working with families 3-5 working with families and classroom 3-5 just in classrooms

*Annie Pettway, Director Community College of Allegheny County:
Can High Schools integrate college course requirements for African American Males in the 9th grade? Allowing them to come to a college campus on a daily basis.

*Jack Walden, Board Menber, OESD#2:
On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your opinion of the value of "Motivation"? (mine is 10)

*Hashim Bello, Stakeholder, Bell Curves LLC:
The Supreme Court of the U.S., arguably, seems to implicitly concede that there are barriers to entry at prestigious institutions that require the use carefully tailored affirmative action policies/preferences to redress. To the extent that any given standardized test represents such a barrier, how, in your opinion, does the current climate of increased standardized testing exacerbate the discrepancy in performance between African-American male and female students? Between African-Americans and other racial groups?

*David Millwe, CVO , Urban Leadership Institute:
What role does teacher development and preparation play in addressing academic and social deficits among African American males?

*Gwen Lavert, Asst. Professor Education, Indiana Wesleyan University:
There is reserach that shows that some children come to in cognitive confusion. If this is true, why do so many schools put so much empahasis on rote and recall? Why do many schools spend time teaching to the test instead of teaching students how to think?

*Judy Puglisi, Facilitator, New Haven Public Schools:
What is the single most influencial factor in increasing academic acheivement for African-American boys?

*Janice E. Jones, Retired Educator:
When and why do so many African American males lose hope in the educational system of their community?

*Nancy deProsse:
What roles have teacher unions been able to play in working on this issue?

*Diane Proctor, first grade teacher, R.F. Kennedy Elementary School, Providence, RI:
I have a number of African American boys in my inner-city school, who have many social problems such as incarcerated fathers, mothers who have drug-related issues, and multiple psychiatric problems. Because their family structure is falling apart so much, there are very few positive male role models to guide these children out of trouble. What can I do as a teacher to help them?

*Aline Hill-Ries, Dir of Program, Studio in a School:
At what age do problems generally tend to arise? How important is it to have a male African-American as a teacher? How can the rate of recruitment of more African-Amercian males into the teaching profession be increased? Do African-American males tend to leave the teaching profession or stay, compared to other ethnic groups? If so, why?

*Geniese Ligon, Dean of Students:
Are there specific issues we need to consider as studnets are transitioning from one grade span to the enxt. specifically elem. to middle school.

*Sarah, Social Studies teacher:
How can technology be used to promote positive outcomes in academic and personal achievement in African American boys?

*Judy Puglisi, Facilitator, New Haven Public Schools:
What research can you direct me to that identifies the characteristics of high schools that have been successful in increasing academic outcomes for African-American boys.

*Barbara Montgomery, Training Specialist, Ombudsman Educational Services:
With all that is going on in the world today, including peer preseeure, how do we get our young, African-American men to change their mindset to see the importance of having an education?

*Alison Moya Teacher CMSD:
What do you think is the root of this problem? Does the problem stems from the absence of male role models?

*Nikki Myers, teacher and graduate student, Colorado Springs:
Do you know of any research or strategies that are being used to help identify and cultivate the abilities of gifted/talented African American boys?

*Latisha Price, Teacher, Community Action School:
How can we get boys who have almost giving up on school back on track and help them see a successful future.

*Charles, Teacher:
Do you believe that the race of the teacher of black students makes a difference in terms of their personal achievement?

*Dr. Monica Roache, Assistant Principal Arlington Public Schools:
What strategies can be used to motivate African American Boys to be successful in school. Often African American Boys feel that it is "Cool to be a Fool". They dont want to be recognized for their academic achievements.

*Veronica Bloomfield, Elementary Language Arts Program Specialist, Los Angeles County Office of Education:
Do you know of specific programs (strategy based approaches) that are especially helpful for teachers in need of culturally responsive teaching practices?

*Kenya Easton, Parent:
If so many articles and studies exist regarding the state of emergency on Black Boys failing in school, gang violence, being fatherless and a whole lot of others problems that black boys face. Please tell me why laws and other prevention programs, schools, clubs are not put into place to help them help thems? Contrary tn popular belief. Black boys would love to succeed if they know they have a chance in life. Taught how to reach their goals, by developing social skills and wanting to get their education. and gaining knowledge on how to do it effectively. Please tell me how I can help? How to open up an organization for black boys? Unfortunately we have too mny people in power who don't belive that. I wnat to help, I need to help. I need to find out how I can do more.

*Walt Gardner, education writer:
What specifically is unique about African-American boys that accounts for their dismal academic performance overall?

*Hashim Bello, Stakeholder, Bell Curves LLC:
Do you feel that African-American (AA) boys are conditioned to be underperformers, by virtue of lower expectations, and that the underperformance is currently the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy? To the extent that AA boys (as a subset of AAs in general) are conditioned to be underperformers, how can the educational system compensate?

*Mary Thomas, teacher District of Columbia Public Schools:
I am a teacher and mother of two black males, ages 12 and 13. Oftentimes black adolescent males are perceived as more threatening, which negatively impacts the relationship between the school and the students/parents--adversely affecting quality of instruction and student academic performance. How can parents encourage schools to institute training for teachers and administrators to increase their awareness of age-appropriate behavior and racial sensitivity?

*Verna Smith, Education Services Coordinator, Mingo CAP, Inc. Head Start:
Head Start is concious of culture in regards to center environment (books, posters, learning materials,etc.) and promoting acceptance of diversity including gender. What can we do in our role as early interventionist to help our young African-American boys in their academic struggles?

*Tommy La'Pola, Teacer, Seattle Schools:
In those places around the country where black boys are succeeding, to what extent is this the result of “cultural segregation”? In other words are these schools where parents have had to apply or otherwise work to get their children enrolled, thereby indicating a family culture that puts a premium on education and where families are willing to work to assist their child with their education? A follow up question: can a school expect to be able to overcome the influences of a student’s family if the family and school have contradictory expectations of a student?

*Lorraine forte, Deputy Editor, Catalyst Chicago:
What teaching strategies are most effective with young black men? How do you get a large urban system to address the needs of these youth on a significant scale?

*NGrant, Math Coach, NYCDOE:
What are the effects of immigrants of African descent, as teachers, on the teaching and learning of African-American students?

*Dotti Shelton, Ed. D., Independent Educational Consultant:
What strategies, tools, activities in particular have been shown to be appropriate and effective with black students, especially at the middle school and high school?

*Amy Westfield, Spanish Teacher, Champaign Centennial High School:
Can you speak on any differences in achievement between African American boys and mixed (African American/White) boys. Is there any correlation between achievement and how these boys identify themselves? (ie. higher rate of achievement for those who identify themselves as white vs. those who identify themselves as black?)

*Mattie E. Curry, Teacher, Dooly County High, GA:
African American males tend to be targeted from the time they enter the school doors. Do you think that a separate institution for them might be the answer as based upon my 20 years of teaching experience, even African American teachers appear to be more antagonistic toward them?

*Danny Martin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education and Mathematics, University of Illinois at Chicago:
While I agree that we need to give focused attention to the needs of African Ameircan males, I am always very troubled by the ways in which these these boys, and their needs, are framed. I am particularly troubled that the needs of African American boys are determined based on how they differ from white boys and African American girls. Comparisons such as these produce the damaging message that African American boys are changeworthty and that there is something wrong with them rather than something being wrong with the practices and systems that devalue their very being. A comparison with white boys, for example, carries with it an assumption that outcomes for white boys should the norm and goal for black boys. I would argue that this is an artificially low standard and that black boys should be allowed to develop and thrive to their full potential, not based on what is deemed acceptable or good for white boys. Comparing black boys to black females carries with it a dangerous and pernicious assault on black masculinity. The assumptions under both comparisons seem to be that, in order to be successful, black boys must become less black (more like white boys) and that they must become more feminine (more like African American girls). What I also find troubling is how many so-called experts and policy-makers proliferate this rhetoric without ever questioning the very premises on which they operate. Anyone who frames the needs of black boys in terms of how they differ from white boys is in no way an expert. To begin your discussion here says that you, a priori, accept the inferiority of African American boys. In my view, there is nothing inherently wrong with black boys. Many of the behaviors of these young boys are responses to systems of oppression that continue to mount vicious assaults on them everyday. My comments are not meant to romanticize the state of black males. However, I question the very way that the so-called "problem of black boys" is framed. Black boys don't need to be like white boys and black boys don't need to be like African American girls. Black boys need to be cared for, loved, and respected. The truth is that too many people who work in schools and other societal institutions do not care about black boys. I'd like your guests to comment on my assertions. If the above issues are too heavy-hitting, I'd like your guests to address the following question: How much day-to-day work do you do with African American boys, outside of research? Thank you. Danny Martin, Ph.D.

*Jessica Thumser, Teacher, Needwood Middle School:
I'm looking for ways to make "school is cool" relevant to 8th graders. This years' kids seemed to delight getting suspended, etc. They loose ground by being out of the classroom due to behavior problems. PS: I will probably miss the Live Chat due to the fact I teach until 3:20! I wish the chats could be later in the day . . .

*Cindy Friday Beeman, student teacher in kinder, Harrison Elementary:
Is there any research that shows whether the ethnicity or the sex of the teacher matters in the success of African-American boys in school? If so, does this factor matter more in a student's early years, just before middle school, or later? I can count on one hand the African-American teaching students I have met through the course of my program, male and female. This concerns me, but I wonder what research finds about whether it should. Thank you.

*Trish Steele, Kindergarten Teacher, Fox Chapel Elementary:
How do we get African American boys to listen and not talk back to adults when they are corrected for mistakes? Also related... How do we get them to be responsible for their actions when they deny that they have done anything wrong?

*Linda Stiles, Speech Language Pathologist:
Do you feel that the evaluation methods and criteria used to place students into special education programs are not considering the background and culture of African American boys and that is contributing to the over-referral of African American boys into special education programs? For example the tests that are used, what population are they normed and standardized on? Are they valid for students from all cultures and economic backgrounds?

*June Bernabucci, Sr. Director, Unified Arts, Hartford, CT:
Breaking the cycle of teen mothers who don't have father figures plays significantly in the development of african-american boys. what can be done to assist teen moms to be better mothers and find proper role models for their sons?

*Kevin A. Dougherty, Hall Director, The University of Arizona:
What do the achieving African American males say? Is there any research that explores the experiences of how or why the few African American males are able to academically achieve?

*Arthur Jarman, Head of Membership and Communications at the National Union of Teachers for England and Wales:
I hope you will find of interest the work we have done in respect of the educational performance of black Caribbean boys in the UK. You can find it on our website, On the home page, click on:"Born to be Great A Charter on Promoting the Achievement of Black Caribbean Boys"

*David Battle, Doctoral Learner, Capella University:
What are some options that are available that an individual can participate in helping African-American boys in academics? I am an African-American male myself. Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in this chat due to my schedule demands.

*LuAnn Stout, Math Teacher, Smallwood MS:
I have been studying the success of charter schools, particularly KIPP Academies, that have shown remarkable success with below grade level African-American boys. Can public schools be flexible enough to incorporate their strategies (for example,greater autonomy for Principal's, longer school days, and parent-supported behavior contracts)?

*Karen Brown, Special Education Teacher, P.S. 398, Brooklyn:
Does the education system at large feel a sense of responsibility to incorporate social education within the curriculum?

*Celestine Candida, teacher, St. Mark's Episcopal School:
I have a 5th grade student who is very capable of doing passing work, but is doing D work. He is very polite and helpful, but he has anger issues and this gets him in trouble at school. How do I motivate him and get him to do his work

*Q. Davis, children's pastor, Southbay community Church:
Is their any particular curriculum that has been effective for young african american males

*Diane Haney CEO San Diego County Title I parents:
How many schools throughout the United States lack African American Teachers as role models?

*Jeffrey Lewis, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison:
We live in a society that has historically and continually constructed its collective image of Black males based on fear and aversion, and not love and caring. I believe Black male identities and behaviors (individual and group) are at least partly, and probably significantly the result of their attempts to survive what many experience as hostile, suffocating environments. How do we intervene to help adults move beyond their fear and aversion of Black males, and create more inclusive educational environments?

*Sonya Gray,Director, RWOC After school at-risk program:
What is the biggest problem you see with our African American young men? What can we as African American adults do to help them succeed in todays society? How can we get the fathers and mothers more involved in the young mens lives?

*Tiombe Kendrick, School Psychologist, Miami-Dade County Public Schools:
I read the report on conducted by the Schott foundation and found it to be interesting. How does a school district take that report and consider applying the recommendations, especially in a large urban district

*Tisha Markette, principal, Amistad Academy Elementary School:
How can we get parents to be open about concerns and advocate for their children?

*Beth Robins, Doctoral Student Researcher , Aurora University:
Could the answer to the illiteracy rates among African American boys simply be to teach them (and indeed all students)the basic 42 to 44 phonemes of the English language, and how to blend them "first and fast", i.e. in Kindergarten, as recommended by the research-based National Reading Panel(2000)?

*Timothy Nevels, Co-Founder, Onyx House, Inc.:
Why aren't schools adopting single gender classes? It clearly works and it cost next to nothing to deploy. Only requires some retraining of teachers.

*Clara M. Moulds, Independent Educational Consultant:
As a prevention strategy, what can we do to assist parents of Africa-American toddlers and preschoolers with knowing how to help their childlren learn at home that could help prevent school failure of so many black boys?

*Edward M. Trusty, Jr., teacher, Gilman School:
Is there any research addressing the performance of African American males in private/independent schools compared to their public school counterparts? Which variables for this population prove to facilitate achievement?

*Peter Meyer, Contributing Editor, Education Next:
Could it be that the racial achievement gap is no more than a proxy for the "background knowledge" gap that E.D. Hirsch has so eloquently described. And instead of focusing our attentions on "black," shouldn't we be directing our attentions to content?

*Rashid Johnson,Curriculum Specialist, Bruce-Monroe Elementary School:
How does home and school discipline impact urban, African-American males; why is there a disparity between home and school rules?

*Jennifer Charles, Ed.D, Educational Technology Consultant, New York City:
How has American society and history shaped the cultural behavior and academic problems of black boys? Do we need to address these factors as we attempt to help black boys to succeed academically?

*Karen Washington, Character Education Manager:
I would like to know what other school districts are doing to address the issue. Houstin Independent School District has assembled a task force to address the issue, right now we are compiling research.

*Alberta English, Educator:
What can we as educators do to encourage are young people to learn in and outside the classroom? Comment: As a teacher I have noticed that students do not encourage the peers to achieve in the classroom. Why?

*Melvin Lars/CEO Brighter Futures Academic, VIolence intervention/Prevention, Academic Enhamcement Company:
When are we going to step up to the plate and stop allowing our "Black" boys from making excuses as to why they do not succeed? Single mom, Rap about what I live, etc. I am from a single parent/HS dropout mom's home and can sight person after successful "Black" person form my neighbor hood that lived the same plight. Yes it was difficult but not impossible...

*Jill Hunter-Williams, Legislative Director, Congressman Danny K. Davis:
Based on the research regarding what works, what are the top changes needed during the reauthorization of NCLB to help African American boys succeed?

*Jeanne Surface, Project Director, AIM Institute, Omaha NE:
Are there any programs that recruit young African-American males to the teaching profession? IF so, has this made an impact on the graduation rate?

*John DeVleming, Mercer Island school board director:
I am a school board director in a high performing suburban school district with less than 2% African-American enrollment. We intend to open enrollment to out of district students and one objection offered has been that we will get inner city kids who will be unable to keep up in class and disruptive to boot. We think we do a great job of teaching all the students who enroll here and welcome the challenge of teaching ambitious children from a somewhat different cultural background. Can you offer me any advice on how to deal with skeptical current parents or how to deal with the culture shock our new students may feel?

*George Guy, assistant principal Hartford Upper Elementary School:
How do building level administrators get teachers to "buy into" the fact that they have to differentiate how they "connect" with African American males in order to get greater soci-emotive and academic results in our schools?

*Ricardo Cooke, Teacher, Capuchino High School:
How do we create a learning environment where African American Boys feel that academics are worthwhile and will not have to face social scrutiny from their peers for striving for academic success?

*Cynthia Battle, Outreach Specialist, Beginning with Books:
What age do you see African-American boys starting to struggle in school, and how can earily educators help prevent poor performance in school?

*Education researcher:
In addition to working on all the systemic problems that African-American boys face, how can we help them overcome the peer pressure they sometimes face that discourages achievement (i.e., being accused of "acting white")?

*Moira Cameron, Teacher, Rochester City Shool District:
What documented evidence exists that an African-Centered pedagogy is effective with African-American boys? In which U.S. urban districts has it been either been 'launched' or attempted?

*Marion Smith Jr.,English Teacher & Curriculum Specialist, Clark County School District:
Too many American public schools fail to confront the racial, class, gender, and language biases woven into our social fabric, so where do K-12 teachers begin to enable students that look like me (Black males) to transgress boundaries and institutionalized limits?

*Shanickwa Spencer, parent:
How successful are African American boys in private schools?

*Rebecca Rumsey, Consultant, IER @ JCU:
Please comment on the recent report from PolicyBridge, a Cleveland-based think-tank, regarding the influence of the media, parents and culture (i.e., influence other than just schools) on the attitude toward education held by African American boys.

*Janet Riley, Principal, Elkhart, Indiana Evening High School:
How can an alternative type of school be structured to meet the needs of African-American boys? How can we give a different spin to the importance of education to let Black males know it is cool to be smart?

*Judy Beemer, Literacy Coach, Junction City (KS) High School:
How can we help African-American boys over-ride the peer attitude that says doing well in school or reading is not important or socially acceptable?

*Sam SMith, School COunselor, University High School:
What are the differences in working with African AMerican boys in remedial, mainstream and gifted and talented programs? Same approach?

*Stephanie Nimene, Mathematic Teacher at a Detroit, Michigan Charter School:
How do we as educators get parents of young black males involved in their children's education? What kind of programs do you know work in schools to pull young black males and their parents into educational success?

*Matt Skoczen, Teacher, St. Gabriel's Hall School:
I teach at a boys juvenile residential placement facility. The majority of the boys are African American and many are struggling readers/learners. What, if any, strategies seem to work to improve African American boys' reading processes?... and how does a teacher "fight" their deep-rooted thinking on things that music videos and the like are the "dream" to be chasing rather than a good education?

*M. Wong, Parent, San Diego:
What percentage of male African-American dropouts come from families with substance abuse problems?

Will you address special considerations for African American boys who are incarcerated? Specifically, violent felons who are in a treatment facility with an educational component? How to best serve?

*Jesse Willard, Education Advocate, Modesto, Ca.:
We recently attended a conference in Milwauke for the NEA. Most of what was discussed centered around NCLB and the major changes needed to the law. As parent advocates we are concerned that not enough attention is given to the horrendous disciplinary policies that exist in most districts.(Zero Tolerance) These policies are a large contributer to the achievement gap. What can be done nationally to convince the Teachers and Administrators that these policies have to go?

*Sarah, Social Studies teacher:
What can teachers do on the high school level to help African American boys, many who have been passed through the system due to behavioral issues, when they enter high school to ensure that they will stay until 12th grade and graduate?


  1. i left similar comments over at Francis Holland's blog. here are two questions that i posed at his site:

    (1) since there is so little chance of success in a career in athletics, i wonder if we (the Black community) have been socializing our Black boys for failure by emphasizing physical (i.e. athletic) prowess over mental (i.e. academic) prowess?

    (2) are we setting our boys back by saying they are not successful if they are NOT like sports figures and they are NERDS (or "acting white") when they are like successful businessmen or academics?

  2. Eddie - I don't have any questions for the chat ... I just wanted to commend you for what you're doing. Keep doing what u do! It is very much appreciated by others ... whether we comment on it or not!

    peace, Villager

  3. Bless you, and thank you all. The crisis of black boys has generated widespread discussions at the highest intellectual level. I will begin publishing some of the Questions asked and some of the amazing responses. Plez, glad you came by to visit. I admire your work also, as I do Villager, who needs updating. Thanks to Francis Holland for pushing the discussion and focus on solutions upon into the blogshere. Also, I might note that we are read by many non-African-Americans, who have waged in the discussion. STAY TUNE!

  4. Plez:

    My students often criticize me for starting out with the negative side. Here, you preface your question with “since there is so little chance of success”. This is the very challenge to my kids undertake- where there “little chance of success”. I have had my class of “dingbats and knuckleheads” come back and smear their successful careers in my face, as if to say, “See, I told you, so”.

    My students do not pursue any career without coming through me, not past me. I believe if God gave a child one talent and that talent is football, I’ll be the first to say, “Go for it”, because it is his one God-given talent.

    Does that say that I ignore the other children with other talents? Of course, not! But God bless that student of mine whose blessed with five talents and tries to get past me by using four.

    Some people who teach sometimes get in the way of instructions. That is the only setback I can think of. Whenever a teacher’s personality and feelings get into the mix of teaching, the classroom is diverted from learning to “obeying” and “following marching orders”.

    NERDS are cool in NERD WORLD. I had a young boy once told me that he wanted to grow up and be a super-hero cartoon character so he could save his mother from poverty- a six-year with no idea of what he wanted to be in life. This is why role models are important for all children- including the NERD, the Cartoon Super-Hero, and on and on.

    My students don’t stigmatize and fight each other. They are usually too tired from fighting me and working out the challenging exercises I give them. A true cognitive interaction between student and an inactive curriculum can be grueling on the mind, especially when the challenge is self-absorbing. I have online computer exercises, so challenging, that it will put a pre-K student to sleep by naptime. I have had students to become so intoxicated with knowledge that they fall out of their chairs at the computer terminal.

    Considering the fact that learning is a lifelong experience, we are all students. Sometimes our friend, Francis Holland, make me drunk with all the knowledge he shares.