Over 60 years ago, Black children in Little Rock Central High made a mark in history by integrating the school. However, In 2020 Black boys in public schools from Little Rock and all across America still aren’t getting an equitable education.
I am sure that having many public schools failing Black boys isn’t why brave youth in the 1960s and 70s integrated schools, but are the same ideals for Black boys in the 60s still influencing Black communities now? I believe so due to the increase of Black families embracing school choice.
Public charter schools in America are doing the right thing by Black boys whom they are educating. Several public charters are led by Black male educators. Educators who make up only 2% of American educators. It has been a long-standing position of mine that Black boys in public schools still aren’t receiving an equitable education for many reasons, one being the lack of Black male educators in public schools.
I reflected on several racial incidents in Georgia schools over the years. One, in particular, speaks to the experiences of Black boys and families in public schools outside of the inner city. I remember in high school, we laughed at the thought that schools in Georgia had segregated schools, including activities for students.
We were shocked to find out that in our very own State of Georgia, there were still segregated proms. Well into the last decade, there were schools in America, particularly the south, that had student activities based on stereotypes and prejudice towards Black students. The bias and inequitable treatment Black boys experienced in student activities often carried over into the classroom.
Black boys need equity just as much as equality. Too often, Black boys don’t receive the resources and tools needed to achieve higher levels of success. This begins early on in their education. By the time they reach middle school, educators have limited time to correct years of educational learning gaps. But, it is our job to ensure the educational system provides Black boys what they need based on their way of learning. This means educators need support from parents and the community.
In Atlanta, you can see clear differences in the distribution of resources based on zip codes. The educational impact between north and east schools to south and west schools is apparent. System-wide, you mainly see Black boys thriving only in sports programs.
In Atlanta communities that aren’t predominately Black, you don’t see Black boys in academic-based extracurricular activities such as debate. The stigmas and stereotypes of the schools Black boys attend also negatively impacts the vision people have of Black boys. A lot of parents shun Title I and other school designations that reflect the school having a status of lower-income families, reduced or free lunch, etc. It is also used to further separate educational access for all students, especially Black boys who are leading in areas of deficiency of progress in many public schools.
It’s true. A lot of our Black boys aren’t ready for the next grade level. They’re not fully grasping basic math skills and are two to three grade levels behind in reading. Being a Black male teacher, I am focused on ensuring our Black boys are ready for high school and college. The problem starts with our Black boys not being prepared for high school. This is a huge part of why they don’t make it out successfully.
Middle school programs must be better structured, organized, and well planned for Black boys to be successful. It’s especially critical for the success of Black boys since these are critical and challenging developmental years. The lessons learned in middle school can help elevate the level of success Black boys can obtain in high school.
Let’s not forget the elementary setting since this is where Black boys first fall behind. Ensuring elementary teachers are receiving the training they need to teach the fundamentals to Black boys must happen. Early learning centers and access to quality programs also play a critical role in the success of Black boys in schools. Black parents should be provided ways to gain access to high quality early learning programs even before Black boys enter elementary school.
Black boys need quality teachers. They don’t have to have all Black teachers, but quality over race. Many school districts face challenges with teacher quality. Black boys need teachers who have had success helping Black boys achieve academically. Our schools still must advocate and fight for quality teachers in order for the success rate of Black boys to increase. Teacher quality determines how prepared our Black boys will be in and out of school.
Black boys will start receiving an equitable education when our policy makers put words to action. We have to hold them accountable. Accountability is one of the key reasons why Black boys are discriminated against, stereotyped and led into the school to prison pipeline. Our ancestors who lived through the Civil Rights Movement didn’t sacrifice blood, sweat, tears, and life for us to allow Black boys to receive an equitable education in 2020 and beyond.
We must continue to lift every voice to advocate for educational access, equity and equality for Black boys in public school. We should do this simply because some things in Black history shouldn’t be repeated and reversing the success of Brown vs the Board of Education is one of them!
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.