By Alban Boucher
Alban Boucher earned his B.S. degree in Social Work at Nyack College and a M.S. degree in Non-Profit Management, with a focus on Social Policy, at Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy. He is Dean of Students at New Visions Charter High School.
You are in a race. You’re about to run, but notice you are farther behind your opponents. Do you figure out how to maneuver a way to win by cheating, or do you run faster, harder and more determined? Now, imagine the track is America and the person(s) running far behind are young black children. This is the challenge young black children face in America when it comes to education. This is their reality.
One of the marks of success in American culture is educational attainment. Young adults who complete higher levels of education are more like to achieve economic success than those who have not, according to U.S. Census data. Unfortunately, for many black children born into poverty, educational equality has been historically difficult to attain. Schools in high-poverty areas are less likely to offer college-preparatory classes, and they have much higher rates of teachers’ teaching out of subject areas, greater turnover, and lower test scores.
Many efforts have been made on behalf of young black children in America when it comes to this issue. The monumental Brown vs. Board of Education abolished segregation in public school in the Jim Crow south. The purpose of this law was to “equalize educational and academic outcomes.”
Proponents of the decision believed that school desegregation, blacks attending the same school as whites, would equal the playing field as far as education. Unfortunately, this decision has taken a long time to materialize and the results of integration have varied.
In some aspect, integration had succeeded in its goal of equalized educational achievement. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress annual report on academic achievement in primary and secondary schools, black children aged 9 and 13, increased their reading test scores by an average of 28 points since 1971 compared to the 4 points by their white counterpart.
According to the report, it seems as though black children are better off today than in segregation era. Yes and no. In the midst of this “progress” in reading abilities, black children still lag further than whites in educational attainment. African-Americans continue to have strikingly lower literacy, high school graduation and college completion rates, political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry stated in an article published in the Nation.
The discourse for this inequality has changed over time.
Since most schools in America are desegregated, policy experts and school officials believe the problem now lies in school funding. Programs such as Head Start have helped children succeed at a young age, but the progress has grown stagnant for children who attend high school and beyond. The question now is: What do we do?
We build! If our children are not graduating at levels that aren’t satisfactory, we must take their education and their future into our own hands. We must build our own schools and demand brilliance from our children. One example of schooling that has a great impact on young minority males is the Excellence Boys Academy located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York.
Excellence is a subcategory network of charter schools called Uncommon schools in metropolitan areas across the east coast. Their goal is to make sure their students graduate from college, preparing them as early as kindergarten. This school is an all-boys school catering to minority children who are born into poor families with limited resources. For example, most of the children who attend Uncommon schools reside in housing projects and in low-income areas.
The results from Excellence Boys Academy have proven to be substantial. Uncommon Schools NYC closed the racial achievement gap in math at every level by an average of 14 percentage points, the school reported. By 6th grade, 75 percent of their regions outperform the state in reading, and continue to outperform the state in 7th and 8th grade.
This school and their method is one way that the educational attainment problem for young black children can be solved. It is by no means the answer to the problem, but I believe it is the step in the right direction. Let us continue to find new, progressive ways to combat educational inequality for all our children.