Teach me how to read because I don’t want to go to prison!
Only 12 percent of Black males are proficient in reading by 8th grade. Literacy is the civil rights issue for the 21st century. During the civil rights protests of the 1960s, African American students fought racism and segregation and advocated for social justice. School integration followed, and academic outcomes for Black boys have deteriorated ever since. There has been a 66% decline in Black teachers. Presently, White female teachers are 83% and Black males are less than 2%. Is the future for Black boys in the hands of White female teachers? But Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, national educational consultant and bestselling author of the newly released Changing School Culture for Black Boys, says we cannot give up on Black boys. “We must be just as radical as we were in the ‘60s when we were fighting for our basic rights. Knowing how to read, write, and compute is a basic right in this country, but Black boys are not getting their fair share of the educational pie.
They should not be promoted to high school with elementary skills. It is tragic that large numbers of Black males enter 9th grade with less than 6th grade reading and math scores. From the moment they walk through the metal detectors of their schools, Black boys are treated with fear and disdain by the adults charged with their care. Nationwide, they make up 8.5 percent of the student population, however:
Black boys are 80 percent of the African American children placed in special education and are retained more than any other student.
More than 30 percent are suspended from school.
They represent only one percent of gifted and talented students.
In some communities, the Black male dropout rate hovers at 48 percent.
Kunjufu reveals the true source of academic success or failure: school culture. Whether optimistic or pessimistic, for better or worse, it is school culture that births curriculum, pedagogy, principal leadership styles, teacher efficacy, expectations and most importantly, student engagement and academic performance.
“We have refused to enter the world of our boys. We know nothing about them or their culture, and therefore we misread their behavior and have no clue about what motivates them to learn,” says Kunjufu. “We educators must enter their world instead of insisting that they adapt to ours. If we are serious about helping Black boys, then we must welcome their culture into schools with open arms. Black male problems exceed academics. They include self-esteem, emotional, social, economic and psychological.” Schools must address the whole child.
Based on his 39 years as an educational consultant, Kunjufu offers the following strategies to transform school culture for Black boys:
Be open to learning about Black male culture and loop with master teachers every 3-4 years.
Integrate aspects of Black male culture, such as money, rap and sports, into lesson plans.
Develop positive relationships with Black boys. Call them “son.”
Incorporate Black male learning styles into lesson plans and pedagogy and use cooperative learning.
Implement single gender classrooms and schools.
Changing School Culture for Black Boys offers over 100 solutions, best practices, and writing exercises for educators and parents.