All posts by Wayne D. Lewis

Wayne D. Lewis is the author of The Politics of Parent Choice in Public Education. Lewis is Executive Director of Education Programs in the Kentucky Education &Workforce Development Cabinet and Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies at the University of Kentucky.
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Might Mark Cuban’s Comments Move Forward the Conversation on Race in America?

In the aftermath of the Donald Sterling debacle that led to the Clippers’ owner being banned from NBA games for life, ailment Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made comments in an interview that have landed him at the center of racial controversy. If you didn’t happen to hear what Cuban had to say, click here to link to the video from the interview. But rather than indict Cuban for revealing his own prejudices, I want to thank him for his honesty and for helping to move the conversation on race in America forward.

The crux of Cuban’s comments was that he believes we all have prejudices. He then went on to talk about some of his own. Most notably, Cuban said that if it’s late at night and he comes up on a Black kid in a hoodie, he is going to the other side of the street. As you might imagine, that’s the comment that has caused the biggest stir. But Cuban was just being honest. He was brave enough to say publicly what lots of Whites and truthfully, some Blacks would say to their close friends and in the comfort of their homes. In fact, Cuban is more the norm than the exception in being fearful of a young Black man walking down the street wearing a hoodie. Cuban does go on in the interview to say that he would also move to the other side of the street if at night he walked up on a White guy with a shaved head and tatoos. But for the Black kid, all that was needed to strike fear in Cuban’s heart was the hoodie.

Cuban should not be publicly castigated for being honest. I applaud his honesty, for I believe it is Cuban’s brand of honesty that’s needed to move the conversation on race forward in America. And I make that statement as a Black man who wears a hoodie at night four to five days a week. And trust me, from the reactions I get from some people I come across when I am dressed this way, I knew a long time before Mark Cuban’s comments that I make people uncomfortable at night in my hoodie. A White man wearing a hoodie is usually assumed to be on his way to or leaving the gym. A Black man in a hoodie might be assumed to be working out, but it’s more likely that he is assumed to be prowling the streets looking for trouble.

Could I dress differently, maybe in a way that might make Mark Cuban feel more comfortable when he passes me on the street? Sure I could. But I don’t, and I likely won’t. Why? First, because I like my hoodie. Second, because I’m going to dress the way I want to dress when I go the gym. I have no desire to change my gym attire simply to make those whose path I cross feel more comfortable with me. I understand what comes with making the decision to dress that way. I understand that Mark is going to be fearful of me, and I’m okay with that. I understand that I’ll get extra attention when I stop at the grocery store or gas station on my way home; and while I don’t like that, it is what it is, at least for now. But most important for me, I understand that for my own protection, I shouldn’t go for a late night stroll in my hoodie, not even in my neighborhood. And no matter where I am, I need to make sure that I keep my drivers license and a business card showing my affiliation with the University of Kentucky in my pocket.

What I have described is my reality, nightly. Race relations in America isn’t just something I learned about in college and read about in my spare time. I have lived ‘race relations in America’ every day of my life, and regardless of your race and whether you want to admit it or not, you have lived it every day of your life too. But we can’t move forward as a nation with race relations as long as Americans pretend that we live in a post-racial society. The truth that all of us know but many of us are unwilling to acknowledge is that race still matters; in fact, race still matters a lot. Cuban simply acknowledged in the interview that race matters to him when he’s walking up on someone at night. White kid in a hoodie=I’m probably safe. Black kid in a hoodie=let me not take any chances. To his credit, Cuban acknowledged in the interview that such prejudices are not ideal, but that they are real nonetheless.

Until people feel comfortable with acknowledging their prejudices about race without fear of being labeled a racist for the rest of their life, we’ll never be able to get to the place we ought to be in America with race relations. I may be in the minority on this one, but I appreciate what Mark Cuban had to say. He was honest and respectful in his comments, and I hope others will be as brave as he has been and dare to have tough but meaningful conversations on race with their families, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Those kinds of conversations are necessarily uncomfortable, but there’s no other way to get to the other side of racial prejudice and bigotry.

Hypocrites and Opposition to Charter Schools in Kentucky

I’ll start this post by telling you that I don’t care very much for hypocrites. I have no problems working with people whose opinions and beliefs are different than mine, sovaldi but if at all possible, buy cialis I try not to work with hypocrites, simply because they get under my skin. Hypocrites come in all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, and religious and political persuasions. Neither Republicans nor Democrats, Blacks nor Whites have a monopoly on hypocrisy.

I have seen blatant hypocrisy recently in the position some prominent Kentucky leaders and scholars have taken to oppose to the passage of charter school legislation in Kentucky. For those of you who live outside of Kentucky, Kentucky is one of the handful of remaining states in the U.S. where there is no charter school legislation. First of all, to be clear, I am not saying that anyone who opposes the passage of charter school legislation in Kentucky is a hypocrite. I am saying, however, that there are hypocrites in Kentucky who oppose the passage of charter school legislation. I am aware that I am not being politically correct, but political correctness has to take a backseat when our children’s futures are at stake. High quality public school options for low-income and minority families could mean the difference between a career and gainful employment or joblessness, prison, and poverty. For some of our children it is not a stretch to say that having high quality public school options could be the difference between life and death.

So I get upset when hypocrites demand that our most under-served children remain in failing schools and stand in the way of reform that would benefit under-served children, while at the same time they use all their resources to keep their own children out of failing schools and get them into select magnet programs or private and parochial schools. For those hypocrites, school choice is good for parents like them who have the social, political, and financial capital to get their kids into schools that serve them well. But when it’s time to talk about high quality public school options for low-income families, options that are outside of the traditional public school district, they cry foul, arguing that we must protect local school districts at all costs from school choice advocates, or that allowing parents to send their children to a charter school would take needed funds away from the traditional public school.

Well, I have a few questions for the hypocrites: When you relocate outside of Jefferson County (Louisville, KY) into Oldham County or Shelby County or across the river to Indiana so that your child can attend a school that meets her needs, don’t the tax dollars that used to follow your child to Jefferson County now follow your child to their new school? Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) no longer receives SEEK funds for your child when you move to Oldham County. But you don’t make the argument that Oldham County is robbing JCPS of needed funds, do you? Do you argue that it’s unethical that families relocate outside of Jefferson County so that their children can attend a school that  meets their needs? No, you don’t make that argument because it is understood that school districts have to compete to keep the children of middle class and affluent parents-parents like you.

And what about the hypocrites who oppose policies that would give low income families choice, but they reside in Jefferson County and choose to send their children to Louisville Collegiate School, Trinity, or Saint Xavier? How many dollars for your kids does the state send to JCPS?  Are Trinity and Louisville Collegiate responsible for ruining JCPS? And why doesn’t the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) lobby the legislature to have private and parochial schools in Jefferson County shut down because those schools rob JCPS of much needed revenue. Surely, if every child attending a private or parochial school in Jefferson County had no option other than attending a JCPS school, the JCPS bottom line would improve drastically overnight.

But here’s the secret those hypocrites don’t want you to know about: they actually support school choice, but they only support it for their children. As long as the hypocrites can get their children into the schools they want them to attend, they are perfectly content to hold hands and march in solidarity with JCTA to prevent the passage of legislation that would result in additional high quality public school options for low income families and families of color.Those hypocrites make speeches, and give talks, and give appearances in which they claim to fight for the interests of under-served families, but in reality they fight for their own interests. The truth is that local school districts can continue to fail the children of low income parents and parents of color for generations to come, and all those hypocrites will ever do is give a speech about it or talk about it in a radio or television interview. But here is the best part, the hypocritical elected officials will count on low-income families and families of color to continue to support them on election day, even when they have done absolutely nothing to improve educational option for low income children.

So what do I expect of these hypocritical leaders? I expect them to (a) continue to fight to get their own children into select public and private schools, (b) back their teachers union buddies by trying to prevent the passage of charter school policy in Kentucky, and (c) think little about actually improving educational opportunities for the communities and families they claim to serve.

What do I expect of low income families and families of color in Kentucky? I expect those families to hold their leaders accountable for what they say they will do when they walk door-to-door asking for votes. I expect low income families and families of color to make sure their leaders are being who they say they are. I expect low income families and families of color in Kentucky to demand high quality public school options for their children, and demand that their elected officials support legislation that would provide additional high quality options for their children. I expect low income families and families of color to hold their elected officials directly accountable to them, and not just to the teachers unions. I expect low-income families and families of color in Kentucky to get down right mad about the education achievement of their children and demand that the Kentucky General Assembly, the Governor, and their local school board do something to change it right now.

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Charter Non-Renewal in North Carolina: This is How the System is Supposed to Work

The North Carolina State Board of Education voted unanimously last week to not renew the charters for two schools based on non-performance. The North Carolina Charter School Advisory Board recommended last month that neither charter should be renewed.

The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits of the decisions of the North Carolina Charter School Advisory Board or the North Carolina State Board of Education. Instead, stuff my purpose here is to point out that this is how charter school accountability is supposed to work. When charter schools don’t perform up to the academic standards agreed to in their charters, after going through due-process, charters are  supposed to be revoked or not renewed. That process is fundamental to the charter school movement. And truthfully, the closing revoking the charters of schools that do not perform is fundamental to the success of the charter school movement.

Those of us who are advocates for high quality charter schools do not fight for the passage of charter school legislation to set up schools that do not serve children well. Sure, what it means to serve children well continues to be and should be debated. That conversation is an important one, not just for charter schools but for public education writ large. But performance contracts for charter schools should be very clear about how schools agree to be held accountable for academic performance. Failure to shut down charter schools that do not live up to the standards they have agreed to does a disservice to children and damages the credibility of the charter school movement.

So again, I do not have enough details to make a judgement about these particular schools; and it is my understanding that one of the schools has the opportunity to appeal the decision within the next 60 days, which I believe the board should do if it has in fact met the standards it agreed to and it has been treated unfairly in this process. The right to appeal is a part of the system. But I applaud North Carolina for staying true to the charter school accountability system that is in place and holding charter schools accountable for academic performance. Accountability for academic performance is what makes charter schools different. That means sometimes making difficult decisions about charter revocation and non-renewal, but so be it. Children’s lives are at stake.

Raleigh-Based African American Parent Advocacy Group Calls for an End to Zero Grades in Wake County Public School System (WCPSS)

The Raleigh-based Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children (CCCAAC) has called for an end to the practice of giving students ‘zero’ grades in Wake County Public Schools. District leaders had considered a policy that would have prohibited teachers from giving students zeros as grades, clinic setting 50 as the lowest scores students could earn, check but teachers’ vocal opposition to the proposed policy changed resulted in district officials amending the policy proposal to encourage rather than dictate changes in teachers’ grading practices. The revised proposal would not ban Wake teachers from giving students zeros as grades. It does call on schools to develop school-level policies on grading–rather than the development of a single grading policy for all schools which the initial proposal included. But the CCCAAC is not happy about Wake officials’ change in direction. The group wants a single policy on grading for all Wake schools. The group was supportive of the earlier district proposal setting 50 as a low score for students.

This topic is an incredibly important one, purchase but a pretty sensitive one as well. In theory, grades are supposed to be a reflection of how well a student has mastered the course content. In reality, however, grades might measure some of students’ content mastery, but grades also include other stuff. For example, a middle school student told me just last week that she loses points on her course grades because of her behavior infractions. While teaching her to behave appropriately in class is very important, it has nothing to do with the degree to which she has mastered course content. Similarly, I have known teachers to award bonus points to students for things like bringing canned goods for a Thanksgiving food drive, returning signed permissions slips the following day, or for good classroom behavior.

The recognition that so much other stuff is included in students’ grades has led to some schools and districts, including elementary programs in WCPSS,  adopting standards-based grading approaches. With standards-based grading, that other stuff is taken out of students’ grades, and teachers are left to evaluate only students’ mastery of content standards in mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, etc. In my opinion, movement to standards-based grading approaches is promising as it requires that teachers be much more intentional about teaching specific standards/skills and then much more intentional about how students’ learning is assessed/graded.

Regarding CCCAAC’s call for an end to zeros given as grades, I can understand the parents’ desire for fairness across the district; and I can appreciate the parents not wanting students accumulating zeros and digging a hole for themselves that they are unable to dig out of. But the bigger and I would argue more important issue is whether or not a student is mastering course content, and to what extent their grades serve as measures of that mastery. I don’t believe accumulating zeros or 50s is particularly helpful to students, parents, or teachers. Does a zero grade mean that a student has mastered absolutely none of the required content? Possibly, but probably not. Would a score of 50 mean that a student has mastered 50% of the required course content? Probably not. In the end, neither policy/practice is really ideal, because neither policy/practice would likely result in grades being any more meaningful than they are currently.

I favor a standards-based grading approach which provides feedback to the student and the parent on the specific area(s) where the student has mastered or is making progress toward mastering standards. With the current practice of awarding zeros or the CCCAAC-endorsed practice of awarding 50s, neither the student nor the parent can use the number grade as a measure of what the student knows of does not know. What I am suggesting is pretty similar to what is already in place in elementary schools in WCPSS. Dr. Gerry Swan and Dr. Thomas Guskey, both at the University of Kentucky, are doing some really interesting work with standards-based grading in Kentucky school districts. For anyone interested in learning more, I suggest their work as a starting place.

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Parents: As the School Year Begins…

New school year excitement is in the air! The school year is beginning and your little ones (or not so little ones) are headed back to school for a new academic year.  Here are just a few things to consider as you prepare your kids for success in the coming year:

  • Be sure your children know that you believe in them. Do not take it for granted that they know that you believe they are fully capable of doing well in the classroom. Children need to hear regularly that you believe they are capable of achieving at high levels. Children (and even adults) need that reassurance. Further, African American and Latino children, especially boys, will likely interact daily with teachers, administrators, and/or peers that do not believe they are capable of learning at high levels. Understanding that they will likely have regular contact with adults who do not have the same high expectations for them that you do, go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure your children know that you believe in them and that your expectation is that they will achieve academic success.
  • Engage your children’s teacher(s) as soon as possible. Let them know that you are ready and willing to partner with them throughout the school year. Inform them of the best ways to communicate with you and let them know that you want to have a two-way line of communication. Keep the lines of communication open throughout the year, regardless of whether there is a problem. Don’t wait for problems. Open lines of communication and partnership/collaboration with teachers will often prevent problems from occurring.
  • Identify advocates for your children at their school. Every child should have at least one adult advocate in the school. An advocate is someone who is personally interested and invested in the welfare and success of your child; someone who will advocate on his/her behalf. Every child should have at least one advocate in the school building and you should know who that person is. If your child does not have at least one adult advocate in the building, start working to find one today!
  • Set clear and measurable goals for the academic year with your children. Write them down and revisit them periodically. Engage them in conversation about academic goals and sit down with them now at the start of the year to make clear what your expectations are for them this year/semester/quarter. Then set a timeline for periodic monitoring of how they are progressing toward the achievement of those goals. Don’t wait for the first report cards; know how they are progressing as they move through the reporting period. Many school districts now make students’ progress in each class available online. If you are not sure about how to access this information, contact your child’s teacher ASAP. You don’t want to wait until there is a problem. Monitoring their progress along the way may prevent problems from ever occurring.

Best wishes for a safe, happy, healthy, and successful academic year!

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New Jefferson County (Louisville) Collective Bargaining Agreement Makes Small Advances but Leaves Much to be Desired

Last week the Jefferson County Teachers Association’s (JCTA) voting members approved a new contract with the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). Centerpieces of the new agreement include a) no annual raise for JCPS teachers, cialis and b) slight changes to flexibility in hiring for JCPS principals.

According to JCTA president Brent McKim, buy cialis teachers are willing to forgo the annual raise because they understand the difficult budget situation for the district. JCPS will, however, provide an additional $5 million to compensate teachers for working ‘extra hours’ and for participating in professional development. Other changes include providing early childhood and elementary school teachers with an additional 10 minutes for their planning periods, and permitting teachers to take a personal day to attend their child’s graduation—rules currently prevent teachers from taking personal days during the last five school days. I applaud the district for providing additional planning time early childhood and elementary teachers. Generally, teachers are not provided with an optimal amount of time for planning. Providing teachers with additional time during the school day for planning and collaboration must be a part of school reforms. The time is not a luxury for teachers; rather it is absolutely necessary for high quality instructional planning. Without high quality instructional planning there can be no high quality instruction.

There are changes in the new contract to regulations around hiring flexibility for principals, but the changes are slight and leave much to be desired for giving principals the flexibility they need to hire the best possible candidates for teaching positions. Under the previous contract, principals were prohibited from hiring a teacher candidate from outside the school district if a JCPS teacher requests a transfer to the school for the opening. The three most senior transfer applicants were given preference for the position. Under the new contract, the pool of transfer candidates for positions will be expanded to eight. If fewer than four teachers request transfers for the position, principals will be permitted to interview candidates from outside of the district to reach a total of four candidates for the position. The change provides principals slightly more flexibility in hiring, but not much. Even with the new contract, the hiring restrictions on principals in JCPS are unnecessarily burdensome and do nothing to ensure that the best candidates are chosen for teaching positions. The interests of children would be served by allowing principals the flexibility to hire the best candidate for a teaching position, regardless of whether the candidate comes from inside or outside of JCPS and without regard to how many years of experience a candidate has. Principals factor in teachers’ years of experience when making decisions about the best candidate for filling a vacancy. Giving a teacher preference for a position simply because he or she has been doing the job longer, not because he or she is a more effective teacher, is ridiculous and it is part of the adult-centered, traditional teachers union ideology that we must break free from in public education. That ideology puts the desires and security of adults before the needs of children.

Although not nearly as big a problem as hiring flexibility for principals, I believe it is time we engage in conversations around the idea of paying teachers to attend and participate in professional development. Asking teachers to attend professional development that takes place ‘after-hours’ is not sufficient justification for needing to pay them to attend. The ‘after-hours’ concept itself is problematic for non-hourly, salaried employees like teachers. Further, the idea that teachers must be paid to attend professional development which is both required for continued certification and/or equips them with the tools to do their jobs well just doesn’t sit well with me. Regulations pertaining to the maximum number of hours per month that teachers may be asked to stay ‘after-hours’ for professional development and the fiscal reality of having to pay for both trainers and attendees puts unneeded burdens on principals and school budgets. I am a supporter of paying teachers a salary commensurate with their abilities. Effective teachers should be paid well. Highly effective teachers should be paid very well—at a salary that differentiates them from average teachers. But with that salary the expectation should be that teachers will meet all professional obligations, including attending meetings and participating in professional development after school. These are not foreign concepts. In fact, for teachers in Kentucky school districts without collective bargaining agreements this is how professional life works. It is time to revisit these ideas in Jefferson County as well.

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So-Called “Gap Students”: Reframing Adults’ Conversations About Children of Color

I get more and more irritated every time I hear an educator use the term gap students. Educators now routinely use that term to refer to subgroups of students whose test scores are significantly  below those of their White middle-class, online non-disabled peers. The gap they refer to is the achievement gap between White students and other students. I know very well-meaning educators who regularly use the term and do so without any malicious intent. But the use of the term is derogatory, insulting, and dangerous for how educators think about children of color, children from low-income families, and children with disabilities. Additionally, use of the term gap students absolves schools and educators (at least in their thinking) from any culpability in creating the achievement gaps that they are referencing.

Use of the term gap students implies that there is something wrong with the children being referenced, some inherent deficit that exists with them; an implication which is false. The reasons for the achievement gaps that we see in schools are numerous and highly complex. We can discuss and debate those factors all day long, but we should never allow our thinking or language to insinuate that the blame for achievement gaps rests solely or even primarily with the children whose achievement scores are below the level we would like them to be. So-called gap children are the victims in all of this; victims of historical, societal, familial, community, and yes, school conditions that have created and perpetuate racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.

So instead of referring to children as gap students, maybe we should refer to their teachers as gap teachers, their schools as gap schools, their school leaders as gap principals and gap superintendents. How about we call the state commissioner or superintendent a gap commissioner. Let’s see how much they like that. There is plenty enough blame to go around for the shameful achievement gaps that we now have. Instead of insulting and degrading our children by labeling them as gap students, let’s own up to our failures as adults and change our behavior and practice to better meet our children’s needs.

The Case for a Black & Latino Male Success Initiative at the University of Kentucky

The University System of Georgia’s (USG) 2002 study of factors related to the challenges its campuses faced with the enrollment retention, cialis and graduation of African American male students revealed that: (a) African American males students felt isolated and alienated on their campuses; (b)  most schools had failed to engage African American males students, viagra both inside and outside of classrooms; and (c) African-American male students longed for the ability to talk to faculty, staff, and peers on their campuses that could related to their racial and gender experiences. Based on those findings the USG invested in pilot programs targeting African American male students at the middle school, high school, and higher education levels across the state, with the explicit goals of increasing the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of African-American male students within the system. USG’s Initiative is a testament to the resolve of its leaders to intentionally and strategically do something about the troubling statistics associated with African American male students’ experiences on its campuses.

The commonwealth of Kentucky is different than Georgia in a few significant ways. First, Georgia is a much larger and much more racially diverse state than Kentucky. At the time of the 2010 U.S. Census, Georgia boasted a state population of 9,687,653 residents, which was an 18% increase over the state’s population at the 2000 U.S. Census. In 2010, 59.7% of Georgia’s residents identified themselves as White, 30.5% as Black or African American, 0.3% as American Indian and Alaskan Native, 3.2% as Asian, 0.1% as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 4% as some other race, 2.1% as two or more races, and 8.8% as Hispanic or Latino of any race. Kentucky, however, is only about half the size of Georgia in terms of population and is significantly less diverse. In 2010, Kentucky had a state population of 4,339,367 residents. Kentucky is also one of the Whitest states in the U.S. In 2010, 86.3% of residents identified themselves as White, 7.8% as Black or African American, 1.1% as Asian, 0.2% as American Indian and Alaskan Native, 0.1% as Pacific Islander, and 3.1% as Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Given the differences in number of state residents and the differences in racial/ethnic composition of the states, one would expect to see differences in student enrollment patterns between higher education institutions in Georgia and Kentucky, and those differences are in fact there. In raw numbers, UK enrolls fewer male students of color than comparable institutions in the University System of Georgia. The University of Kentucky’s Black male enrollment (and Black female enrollment) in bachelors’ degree program has, however, been relatively stagnant since the 2008-2009 academic year. Total undergraduate enrollment at the University of Kentucky for the 2012-2013 academic year is 20,878 students.  Black students account for approximately 7.5% of the undergraduate student enrollment at the University. Black male undergraduate students account for just under 46% of the University’s total Black undergraduate enrollment. Hispanic or Latino students comprise about 2.7% of the University’s enrollment, and Hispanic or Latino males account for just over 47% of the University’s total Hispanic or Latino student population.  But overall, African American and Hispanic or Latino male student enrollment at UK comes pretty close to mirroring the racial and ethnic profile of the state.

Outside of enrollment, however, the University of Kentucky faces many of the same challenges that USG institutions faced in 2002; namely, retention, achievement, and graduation rates for undergraduate male students of color, particularly Black male students. University of Kentucky Institutional Research data show clearly that achievement (GPA), retention, and graduation rates for Black male undergraduate students fall significantly behind those fore Black females, Hispanic or Latino students, White males, and White females. Even as much work remains to be done with improving the University graduation rate for all students, the graduation rate for Black male students at UK shamefully falls significantly below that of any other subgroup of students. The six-year graduation rate for the 2006 cohort of Hispanic or Latino first-year, first-time students at UK was 52.6%; for Black female students it was 54.7%; for Black male students it was 42.6%; for White female students it was 60.8%; and for White male students it was 55.5%. Strongly related to graduation rates, the first fall to fourth fall retention rates for Black male students are abysmal. For the 2009 cohort, the first fall to fourth fall retention rate for first-time, first-year Black male students was 45.6%; for Black female students it was 53.1%; for White male students it was 65.5%; and for White female students it was 70.1%. Also related, academic achievement for Black male students at UK falls significantly below the achievement of other subgroups of students. The first year UK GPA for Black male students for the 2011 cohort of first-year, first-time freshmen was 2.25; for Black female students it was 2.56; for White males it was 2.79; and for White female students it was 3.09. 

Further, many of the findings of USG’s study of Black male students hold true for Black male undergraduates at the University of Kentucky. Exploratory research conducted in 2009 by the University Office for Institutional Diversity indicated that Black male students at UK also experience feelings of isolation and alienation, and that the University campus can be a hostile place for them. Institutional research data and exploratory research findings make it pretty clear that if the University desires to improve the quality of experience for Black male undergraduate students and in-turn improve retention and graduation rates, intentional and strategic interventions must be put into place. The University of Kentucky has both the talent and resources to improve educational outcomes for its Black male students. It is my sincere hope that the University leadership make a decision to build and support an Initiative aimed at supporting the success of male students  of color.

 

Georgia’s African-American Male Initiative: One Model for Systems and Institutions that are Serious about Black Male Success

Recognizing serious challenges with the recruitment, pilule retention, sovaldi and graduation rates of African American male students on the campuses of the University System of Georgia (USG) in 2002, viagra the system launched its African-American Male Initiative (AAMI). System officials took note of the significant gender gap among African-American students in the system; African American women accounted for approximately 68% of the system’s total African American student population. In response to identified gaps, the USG raised questions about whether African-American males had been presented with opportunities for higher education, whether they faced gender-specific challenges at certain stages of the academic ladder, and what the specific barriers to their enrollment and retention were on the individual USG campuses.

The system’s study of those questions revealed that: (a) African American males students  felt isolated and alienated on their campuses; (b)  most schools had failed to engage African American males students, both inside and outside of classrooms; and (c) African-American male students longed for the ability to talk to faculty, staff, and peers on their campuses that could related to their racial and gender experiences. Based on those findings the USG invested in pilot programs targeting African American male students at the middle school, high school, and higher education levels across the state. The goal of USG’s AAMI has been explicitly to “increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation of African-American males within the University System through strategic interventions.” The program focuses on removing obstacles to students’ success and providing resources to help students be successful. As a result of the system’s initiative and early success, it successfully attracted funding support form the Lumina Foundation in 2006 and again in 2009. Lumina funding enabled the Initiative to refine its strategies and focus more specifically on undergraduate student success.

One partnership that has been central to USG’s efforts has been with the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB). SAAB’s goal is for “all Black males on educational campuses to take full advantage of their academic years and to better understand and practice their full responsibilities, rights, and privileges as citizens” of the U.S. The organization was founded and established in 1991 on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University by Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, a Mississippi native and doctoral graduate of the University of Georgia. USG used some of its Lumina funding to establish SAAB chapters on eight USG campuses.

By 2011, there were 37 programs focusing on African American male success in the USG system. Those programs have resulted in significant increases in the enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of African-American male students on those campuses; from 2002 to 2011, African-American male system enrollment rose by nearly 68%, six-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen rose by 10% (28.95% to 38.98%), and the number of bachelors degrees conferred annually rose by nearly 50% (1,294 degrees in 2003 to 1,938 degrees in 2010). While significant work remains to be done, the USG AAMI is a national model for higher education systems and institutions that want to do more than just talk about improving enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of African American male students.

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Educational Attainment for Black & Latino Males Remains Alarmingly Low

The Schott Foundation’s 2012 report, case The Urgency of Now, shows that high school graduation rates for Black male students remain significantly lower than for any other group of students. Since 2004 the foundation’s reports have shown that Black male students are significantly less likely than any other group of students to earn a high school diploma. This year’s report shows that only 52% of Black males and 58% of Latino males graduate from high school in four years, compared to 78% of White, non-Latino males who graduate high school in four years.

These numbers show clearly that now is not the time to pull back our efforts. These numbers further illustrate the continued need to reject proposals for policy and/or practice that fail to take racial inequity into account. Differences in the socioeconomic circumstances of families surely impact educational outcomes, but socioeconomic differences fall far short of explaining persistent differences in the educational outcomes of Black and Latino male students. Race and gender do still matter.

You can access the Schott Foundation’s full report, The Urgency of Now, here.