THE BLOG
12/15/2014 09:36 am ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

How Do We Get Young Black Boys to Succeed Academically?

Did you know that black boys are more likely than any other group to be placed in special education classes, with 80 percent of all special education students being Black or Hispanic males?

Learning disabilities aside, black students (and particularly boys) experience disconnection when it comes to the authority figures in their classrooms. The K-12 teaching profession is dominated by white women, many who are very qualified and very interested in helping all their students succeed but lack the first-hand experience needed to connect with their Black male students.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the disadvantages that Black boys bring to their schools aren't corrected in K-12 classrooms, they are furthered. As they get older, they are continually marginalized in their schools and societies -- given less-than-adequate access to the resources that their already advantaged peers receive. While the connection between items like reading scores and civic responsibility may not seem well defined on the surface, they are related and that relationship is integral to turning the tide for Black boys in America

It has been shown over and over again that punishment for Black boys -- even first-time offenders -- in schools is harsher than any other demographic. Consider these facts:

• Black students make up just 18 percent of children in U.S. preschools, but make up half of those youngsters who are suspended.
• Black boys receive two-thirds of all school suspensions nationwide - all demographics and both genders considered.
• In Chicago, 75 percent of all students arrested in public schools are Black.

Schools with majority Black students also tend to have lower amounts of teachers who are certified in their degree areas. A U.S. Department of Education report found that in schools with at least 50 percent Black students, only 48 percent were certified in the subject, compared with 65 percent in majority white schools. In English, the numbers were 59 and 68 percent, respectively and in science, they were 57 percent and 73 percent.

No wonder they aren't in college

These trends are not conducive to improving the numbers of young black men who are able to attend college. In fact, the numbers are dismal when it comes to black young men who attend and graduate from colleges in the U.S. Statistically speaking, black men have the lowest test scores, the worst grades and the highest dropout rates -- in K-12 education, and in college too. The recognition of this educational crisis has led to some strong initiatives targeted at young black men with the intention of guiding them through the college years and to successful, productive lives that follow.

Which is why college motivation within and without the black community is so vital for these young men. At this point in the nation's history, they are in the greatest need for the lifestyle change that higher education can provide, and not just for individual growth, but also for the benefit of the entire nation.

It is clear that improving the successful admission into college and subsequent acquisition of professional degrees would go a long way toward improving the outlook for these young men in crisis. But, change needs to start early on and involve the entire school system as well as the community as a whole.

Do you think that earlier targeting when it comes to young black men and higher education would help them succeed?