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Why are so many black boys missing so much school?

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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
Replies (51-57):
emeraldangel2.0
by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 9:34 PM


Quoting futureshock:


Quoting emeraldangel2.0:


Quoting futureshock:


Quoting emeraldangel2.0:

they've probably had it drilled in their heads that they are worthless since an early age, and it's just self fufilling prophecy at this point. sad but probably true.

Who would drill that into the heads of little kids?

everyone. parents who don't know any better themselves, teachers who just don't care, friends who have been told the same thing. tv, music, their neighborhood. there'a a lot of factors there that's telling them they are a failure since day one.

That is unbelievably sad.

it really is. it's why i want to be a teacher because i want to be the one who lets them know that they're not worthless, that they can achieve something as long as they believe in theirselves.


futureshock
by Ruby Member on Nov. 17, 2012 at 1:08 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting emeraldangel2.0:


Quoting futureshock:


Quoting emeraldangel2.0:


Quoting futureshock:


Quoting emeraldangel2.0:

they've probably had it drilled in their heads that they are worthless since an early age, and it's just self fufilling prophecy at this point. sad but probably true.

Who would drill that into the heads of little kids?

everyone. parents who don't know any better themselves, teachers who just don't care, friends who have been told the same thing. tv, music, their neighborhood. there'a a lot of factors there that's telling them they are a failure since day one.

That is unbelievably sad.

it really is. it's why i want to be a teacher because i want to be the one who lets them know that they're not worthless, that they can achieve something as long as they believe in theirselves.

I hope you reach that goal!

stormcris
by Christy on Nov. 20, 2012 at 8:48 AM

Chronic illness and poor academic performance go hand in hand. If these kids are getting sick often they are having a hard time focusing and there may be other issues such as ADHD and various other conditions.

What I am curious of in this district is what is the mold spore content of the air and if there is a mold issue what are they doing about it? What are the other conditions that might cause illness and lead to higher absence rates? What are the policies on keeping sick kids at the school and cross contamination? 

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Nov. 20, 2012 at 11:46 AM


Quoting stormcris:

Chronic illness and poor academic performance go hand in hand. If these kids are getting sick often they are having a hard time focusing and there may be other issues such as ADHD and various other conditions.

What I am curious of in this district is what is the mold spore content of the air and if there is a mold issue what are they doing about it? What are the other conditions that might cause illness and lead to higher absence rates? What are the policies on keeping sick kids at the school and cross contamination? 

Interesting questions.

Radarma
by "OneDar" on Nov. 21, 2012 at 11:16 AM

 http://www.kvia.com/news/Mother-seeks-10-000-in-damages-after-teacher-allegedly-calls-son-s-assignments-trash/-/391068/17480968/-/15fg95n/-/index.html?hpt=ju_bn5

Thought this was interesting, apparently mom has been sued and has sued many times.

This student was also in trouble for missing too much school.

 

 

PaganMomma40
by Member on Nov. 21, 2012 at 11:34 AM
1 mom liked this

At the grade school level it is the responsibilty of the parent to make sure that their child attends school period. But from my perspective(and Im only speaking of my own observations) you have so many young mothers that have not themselves finished school and I believe it is a cycle. Not knowing the worth of a "free" education is a direct cause of these children not getting the guidance that school and learning is important. 

  I know people will get angry but if we keep letting our young girls get pregnant and birth children this will always be a problem. The saying "babies raising babies" is very true. If they know nothing about life and succeeding at school, a job or anything else how will they be able to teach success to their children? Just my humble opinion.

Radarma
by "OneDar" on Nov. 21, 2012 at 11:57 AM

 

Quoting PaganMomma40:

At the grade school level it is the responsibilty of the parent to make sure that their child attends school period. But from my perspective(and Im only speaking of my own observations) you have so many young mothers that have not themselves finished school and I believe it is a cycle. Not knowing the worth of a "free" education is a direct cause of these children not getting the guidance that school and learning is important. 

  I know people will get angry but if we keep letting our young girls get pregnant and birth children this will always be a problem. The saying "babies raising babies" is very true. If they know nothing about life and succeeding at school, a job or anything else how will they be able to teach success to their children? Just my humble opinion.

 Well I agree with your humble opinion.

Spot on, as a matter of fact.

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