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Why are so many black boys missing so much school?

Posted by on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:33 PM
  • 57 Replies

The pertinent details are in red:

Chronic absence, suspension derail Oakland black boys

arieliona/istockphoto.com

High rates of chronic absence, suspension and poor academic performance signal that more than half of African American male students in the Oakland Unified School District are at risk of dropping out, according to new research.

The Urban Strategies Council, an Oakland-based community advocacy organization, found significant disparities between African American boys and their peers: Fifty-five percent of black boys in the 2010-11 school year were falling off course from graduation or were at risk of doing so, compared with 37.5 percent of students overall in the district.

From kindergarten through 12th grade, researchers found that black boys struggled with regular attendance and suspensions and scoring proficiently on standardized tests or maintaining grades above a C average – warning signs that they might drop out.

Among African American males who were not on track to graduate, 73 percent in elementary school were chronically absent, missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, according to the findings released this week. In middle school, the same percentage had been suspended at least once. Nearly two-thirds of high schoolers were chronically absent and had less than a C average; 41 percent had been suspended at least once.

"We need to understand what's going on if we're going to effectively intervene and improve outcomes and graduation and success of African American males," said Junious Williams, chief executive officer of the council. 

The council's reports on dropout indicators are part of Oakland Unified's African American Male Achievement Initiative, an effort launched in 2010 to improve academic and social equity for black boys. The findings provide "a sense of urgency" for the district, said Chris Chatmon, executive director of the district's Office of African American Male Achievement. 

Chatmon, who plans to hold a community meeting next month to discuss the council's findings, said improving attendance among black boys requires working with other agencies and the community and presents different challenges in different age groups.

In kindergarten and first grade, African American boys in the district were more than four times as likely as their white peers to be chronically absent, the council found. 

"Five-year-olds don't miss school without an adult knowing at home," said Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, an initiative that seeks to improve student success by reducing chronic absence. 

Families might face hurdles, such as transportation or health problems, in getting their young children to school, or they might not understand the importance of kindergarten, said Chang, who has worked with Oakland Unified to address chronic absenteeism. 

"Once you miss a month or more of school, and you miss a month or more in kindergarten and first, you're not on track for reading in third grade," she said. "We've got to make sure kids have a chance to start on the right track."

One way the district has tried to target chronic absenteeism among young black students is by working with the Oakland Housing Authority. Forty percent of students at four West Oakland schools live in public housing; 30 percent of those students were chronically absent in 2010-11. Chatmon said the district saw an uptick in school registration by reaching out to West Oakland families living in public housing.

By the time black boys reach middle and high school, different factors begin to undermine attendance, Chatmon said.

"Street culture becomes more attractive than learning and school culture," he said. "How do we define school culture? What is it? What would get our students getting up at 5 in the morning, running to school? … You get school culture right, then you will produce African American boys that produce high academic outcomes."

Cultural clashes and misunderstandings also factor into high rates of suspension among black boys, Chatmon and Williams said. 

"We still have a teaching and administrative body that doesn't … understand the cultural context of where our students come from," Chatmon said. "We have to do a lot of work with our adults to authentically engage with our boys, with our families, to understand our community context."

African American boys made up 17 percent of Oakland Unified students in 2010-11, yet they represented 42 percent of students suspended. Disruption or defiance of authority was the most common reason for discipline, accounting for 38 percent of their suspensions.

Subjective standards for disruption and defiance – the reason behind more than 40 percent of suspensions in California and the recent target of criticism and legislative action – could be contributing to high suspension rates among black boys, Williams said.

The council recommended that Oakland Unified carefully monitor such offenses and clearly define what constitutes impermissible behavior. The district also needs strategies for prevention and intervention so students are not suspended for single incidents, Williams said.

In many ways, Chatmon said, that work already has started.

"This is a 'we' problem," he said. "We are taking this on with the frame of full-service community schools that call out everybody, humbly. We can't do it in isolation."

http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/chronic-absence-suspension-derail-oakland-black-boys-16298

by on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:33 PM
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Replies (1-10):
futureshock
by Ruby Member on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Cliff Notes:

High rates of chronic absence, suspension and poor academic performance signal that more than half of African American male students in the Oakland Unified School District are at risk of dropping out, according to new research.

In kindergarten and first grade, African American boys in the district were more than four times as likely as their white peers to be chronically absent, the council found. 

"Five-year-olds don't miss school without an adult knowing at home,"

"Once you miss a month or more of school, and you miss a month or more in kindergarten and first, you're not on track for reading in third grade," she said.

By the time black boys reach middle and high school, different factors begin to undermine attendance, Chatmon said.

"Street culture becomes more attractive than learning and school culture,"


FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:37 PM
1 mom liked this

It all begins at home.  We are not aware of the individual circumstances taking place in the homes.  Or the actual mind set of these young men.  Without knowing those factors, we can only assume.

What is the answer?  That is a question I haven't been able to answer as of yet.  

We cannot force parents to parent and to put their child's education first.  We cannot force these kids to get to school, stay there and to do their best while there.  

I may be babbling and not intending to do so.  Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:39 PM
1 mom liked this

Yes: if they don't want to be there, suspending them is certainly going to bring them back into the fold...

This, I believe, is a cultural issue: those boys are growing up in a culture of people who gave up on school and who are proud/defiant of that history... it's very, very difficult for people to withstand that kind of pressure around them, which is why it's very, very rare for anyone to stand out against it.

LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM

That is so true:

Try as they might, what no one can import into the school system is the most important aspect relating to any child's success: their parent's involvement in their education.

Children can learn to read at home without ever going to kindergarten (I read at 4, and know several kids who learned around their 3rd birthdays)... if reading is something adults do for their own reasons at home. Some kids won't learn to read until their early teens --by which point they've been labelled and shamed by the system and the people in it for so long they've become extremely defensive about the whole issue and many of them won't learn to read even when they can.

Quoting FromAtoZ:

It all begins at home.  We are not aware of the individual circumstances taking place in the homes.  Or the actual mind set of these young men.  Without knowing those factors, we can only assume.

What is the answer?  That is a question I haven't been able to answer as of yet.  

We cannot force parents to parent and to put their child's education first.  We cannot force these kids to get to school, stay there and to do their best while there.  

I may be babbling and not intending to do so.  Sick and tired of being sick and tired.


futureshock
by Ruby Member on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM


Quoting LindaClement:

Yes: if they don't want to be there, suspending them is certainly going to bring them back into the fold...

This, I believe, is a cultural issue: those boys are growing up in a culture of people who gave up on school and who are proud/defiant of that history... it's very, very difficult for people to withstand that kind of pressure around them, which is why it's very, very rare for anyone to stand out against it.

Agreed.

OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:43 PM

 It all comes down to the parents and how the families look at education.  Some feel very strongly about it and will make sure their children know the importance of an education while others will just let it go by the wayside, and that is incredibly detrimental to children.  It sets them up for a hard and volatile life.  You can have all the support in the world from schools and teachers, but without the parents, generally speaking, you'll see failure.

Radarma
by "OneDar" on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:45 PM

 Wonder how/why there seems to be a bit of a gender gap happening here.

How/why is this affecting more males than females.

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:48 PM
2 moms liked this

I was here. Racial threads are unsettling for me these days.

garnet83
by Member on Nov. 14, 2012 at 12:56 PM
1 mom liked this

Parents aren't doing their job and their priorities are screwed up. Convenience and stupid street culture is more important to them than their kids' education and their kids having opportunities later down the road. It's pathetic and shouldn't be tolerated.

maass1981
by Member on Nov. 14, 2012 at 1:28 PM

Sounds like they need to impliment some rules on truancy that fall back on the parents.  In the school district next to us, a grandmother that had custody of her nine year old grandson, was arrested and made to pay fines because her grandson had skipped out on school so many days.  We get seven unexcused absences and the school will contact the district attourney about the matter.  I think it is a wonderful policy to have. 

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