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August 18th, 2010
06:28 AM ET

Failing to Educate Black Males

Another huge problem facing America's public schools, a new study on black males in public education titled "Yes, We Can" shows that only 47 percent of African American males graduate from high school compared to 78 percent of white male students. The study also looks at possible solutions to closing that gap. I dig a little deeper into this problem with John Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the organization that conducted the study and Geoffrey Canada, who heads the Harlem Children's Zone. Check out the video below:

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Mike Odell

    The gest of the article seems to place blame on the schools for failing the students. What you should review is that it is the students responsibility to study and learn. They are solely in control over their lives. They hold the key to deciding whether to get an education and dipolma.

    Like many in school today, those that are lazy, don't study and find other excuses WILL fail to succeed. Then they can blame the system.

    It is not just a black issue. It affects all. But perhaps the young black males are just lazy and have the expectation of not needing this. I can do other stuff.

    I say, if they don't make the grade, they have the choice. Low paying jobs, get on welfare and whine about how bad they got it....

    My 2cents.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:58 am |
  2. Jim Olmstead

    Perhaps another way to portray this story might be only 47% of black males are taking advantage of, or are being responsible for "their own education." We should be examining why that is the case? There certainly are discrepencies in the quality of schools. However, it is also the responsibility of parents to read to their children during early childhood and celebrate learning so that the importance of education is always reinforced. If parents aren't responsible enough to read to their children and teach them virtues like being responsible for their own education/life, even the best schools aren't going to educate someone. It is ultimately the responsibility of both the parent and student to seek out and get a good education. Education is a privelage and a national security issue. It is in all our best interest to take action to improve our system of education. CNN doesn't even display the word education on your list of topics at the top of this page! Generally speaking, our country simply doesn't value (meaning fund adequately) "public education" in our country. All we seem to do is point fingers. Instead we should be taking responsibility to find more sustainable funding streams (property tax doesn't work) so that schools are places the entire community could take advantage of and celebrate. Learning should and can be fun. But not if we simply reduce education to how well we do on a test score.

    August 18, 2010 at 7:26 am |
  3. Kristen

    Having been a teacher in a poor community with a high drop-out rate, I do not agree with your placing the blame on teachers and schools for any drop-out rate, including black males. Parents are a key element. I taught 9th grade history and struggled every day to convince my kids to stay in school to graduate. The school systems can help by providing alternative learning experiences for students, such as trade programs and job training, to give kids options other than a traditional classroom. But this will not help at all unless the parents refuse to allow their children to drop out. Without the pressure and support from home, the drop-out rates will continue.

    August 18, 2010 at 7:42 am |
  4. brian

    it is not the schools fault that the black males are failing, i came from overseas to live here in the south and i have noticed something in the past three years of living here, that i have never seen anywhere else in the world.
    there partners get the jobs, 2-3 jobs while they sit at home doing nothing, its laziness, and you will not see this in any other part of the world, and there partners think this is normal.

    August 18, 2010 at 7:45 am |
  5. Rick Voit

    To simply blame schools for failing to educate black males as your "expert" has done is ludicrous. Education...which begins with a desire to learn and better oneself...begins at home. Period. If my grades slipped or if I were to have skipped school, my parents would have been all over me. And not blaming my school. My D.C. high school was about evenly racially mixed and I would guess that pretty much everyone graduated, black and white. Rather than attribute the decline to schools, these "experts" might consider the collapse of the American family, the influence of popular culture and the failure of our leaders to motivate and reward success.

    August 18, 2010 at 7:47 am |
  6. Ralph

    Until we can improve the socio-economic conditions of blacks, nothing will change. To hold schools and teachers accountable for their problems is absurd! They first need a stable home life before they can learn.

    August 18, 2010 at 7:49 am |
  7. David

    Great discussion. The two gentlemen you interviewed are working diligently to assist young people with their education. Their efforts are needed and appreciated. The one subject that was not covered in depth was the role of the Parents and Family in a child’s education. If the child is going to succeed the parents need to be intimately involved in their education. Are the parents checking the child’s homework daily? Are they having regular meetings with teachers? Do the parents require the child to read to them daily? Can "society do more? Always. It is societies responsibility to provide the tools(schools, books, food, teachers) necessary for the child to be successful. But, ultimately, a child’s education is the responsibility of the parents or parent. Regarding single mothers. Yes, they have a very difficult job. Yet, they made a decision to bring a child into this world. We are all responsible for our own actions. It does not take a "village" to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child. It takes a "village" to support the family.

    August 18, 2010 at 7:50 am |
  8. Mike

    Is it possible the problem comes from the home and not the schools?? Why are there so many black males in prison? Parents should stop blaming other and take responsibility!!!!!!

    August 18, 2010 at 7:55 am |
  9. your_vigil

    This story really bothers me because once again, it places all the emphasis on the schools and not the parents. It is a parent's responsibility to raise a child who can read and who respects authority figures, or else said child will perform dismally in school. I would like to know, in the areas where only 1 in 4 black males graduate, what percentage of white, Indian, Asian, and Hispanic individuals graduate? How is it that schools "fail black males" but not males (or females) of every other race?

    Further, why have you referred to black males as "historically underprivileged?" Is it a better assessment to refer to them as "generally without a strong family structure?" It is not the job of the government or the schools to fix what a family has broken, and until we make an entire generation take responsibility, the problem will not be resolved.

    August 18, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  10. Wondering

    This article reminded me of a story my cousin, an elementary school teacher, told me. She asked a male black student to take a seat and be quiet. He muttered "racist". She asked him to repeat it, and he did. Her only response was "My African-American husband would be surprised to hear that."

    The point is, there are many influences outside the schools and it's unfair to assume that educators are always to blame.

    August 18, 2010 at 8:09 am |
  11. April

    I just listened to Steve Perry, hopefully I got his name right, talk about how to fix the problem with schools failing black males. Not once did he mention anything about the responsibility of these children's parents. Aren't parents the principle educators for their children? All he pretty much did was teacher bash. Even though most of what he was saying is true, however, when it all comes down to the cause of this issue, we need to hold these parents responsible. It is the parent's responsibility to make sure that their child does their homework, be prepared for and get them to school on time, show up for parent-teacher confernces, and make them behave while they are in school. On that note, teachers are paid to teach your children, not raise your children. That is the parent's job. So let's stop all of the uneccesary finger pointing and get back to reality. This issue is not going to be resolved until these parents are held accountable, period!!

    August 18, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  12. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Teachers are only partly the blame but what people are not looking at is the students themselves coming to school stoned .

    August 18, 2010 at 8:14 am |
  13. Jim NY

    I watched the CNN about this situation and the expert interviewed stated that it was the schools fault that black males are not graduating. He also said that more black males would be graduating if they were treated the same as white students. Stop blaming everyone else for your failures. It makes it easier to blame others. That way you don't have to change anything. I believe that if a student, no matter the color of their skin, fails to graduate it's because they do not apply themselves. Children, of every color, have issues. That's a fact and not to be used as an excuse for failure. The 47% of black males not graduating high school is not because of the color of their skin. This is the 21st century and blacks are given more opportunity than others to succeed. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink it."

    August 18, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  14. layla

    Interesting piece though I'm surprised no one mentioned the influence of parents, whether positive or negative. The schools only have the students for half the day, then they send them home to do "homework". Public schools continue to fail all students, but the erosion of the family structure is a key piece in the quagmire.

    August 18, 2010 at 8:40 am |
  15. Mason

    Woefully absent from this public discourse, is the glaring fact that the single most important factor in a child's educational success is sustained parental involvement from an early age. Until that problem is solved, nothing else will matter and the problem will not only fester, it will continue to worsen. Progressives and other traditional black leaders and the traditional approaches to solving problems will fail unless they tirelessly focus on the REAL problem. Let's start the conversation with, "It doesn't matter if you are poor. The single best way to improve you life is through education. If we decide not to make this our number one priority in a real way...everything that flows from that decision is OUR fault. NOT the white man's...its OURS!" - A CONCERNED BLACK MAN (Mason)

    August 18, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  16. E. Valdez

    I saw that segment as it aired on CNN and I could not help to but to think that black males were depicted as needy, requiring kidd gloves to handle their fragile minds...give me a break! If a young black homeless girl can achieve academic sucess and receive a full ride scholarship to harvard while living in poverty and dangerous situations, then what's wrong with those black males sitting in classrooms, surrounded by computers and teachers? You made them sound like emotional cripples, a burden on society..the responsibility of ones own sucess comes from within..look to other countries and the answers may surprise you...American black males are in my opinon, lazy, angry, unapologetic, and find fault with everything except themselves..what next, blaiming middle passage?

    August 18, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  17. shelia

    I am a former educator and the students that always gave me the most problems were Black and Hispanic Males. The reason why Black males are doing so poorly in school is because they refuse to study and they cause problems in class. I never understood why some of the Black males felt like they were acting white if they made good grades. The Black females that I taught were just the opposite. That is the reason why Black females out number Black males in college by a 7 to 1 ratio.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  18. qleanqlassy

    I always find it weird when an issue faces blk men I cant find 10 blk women who care .........where are they..........why is it they only only care about blk women...why are they not speaking up

    August 18, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  19. Josh

    why is this article called "schools failing black males"? Shouldn't the title be black males failing school?

    August 18, 2010 at 11:06 am |
  20. Eric

    Yes, we have a serious education issue in the US. I just heard 2 men say that everyone need to step up: mayors, educators, etc. What I DIDN'T hear them say is that PARENTS need to step up. The bottom line is that if these kids don;t show up to school, no amount of resources or educator dedication will help. It's the parents that need to take responsibility and A) get these kids to school and B) make them do their homework and study – politicians and teachers can not and should not be expected to do this! Lengthen the school year, increase school hours – if the kids butts aren't in the seats, it will do no good.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  21. Robert

    Take a look how many of comments regarding "PARENTS"
    Ask the teachers....ask the Principals......Mayors....etc...Parents can make the difference.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  22. educator

    Just watched this story on CNN. Interesting headline- Is it that schools are failing black males or that black males are failing schools. Interesting solution to open the schools 7 days a week 24 hours a day. As a teacher and a parent of two boys I don't want the school raising my children and having them spend all their time away from home. How about having parents take some responsibility in shaping their children into productive citizens. Amazing how it is always the schools or teachers that are failing these kids. Really?

    August 18, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  23. Tod Policandriotes

    I agree that the education industry is not doing well. I am a Scientist at SIUC and I see that the state is cutting the budgets and enrollment is down. I see very few blacks in engineering and the sciences, but the reduction is not just blacks. I also see less whites, but an abundance of foreign students. I also see that we financially support a large amount of foreign graduate students over American students, why is this? Our taxes are going to pay for non US citizens who never paid taxes here.
    One thing I do not see is the faculty planning trips to high schools to promote a higher education. I think that faculty and administrative staff like myself should be encouraged to go to schools all over Illinois and given demonstrations and presentations focused on convincing high school students to attend college. We need this to compete with other nations in the world or the US will not be able to maintain the edge we have had for so long.
    I see many students who are simply lazy and do not want to work hard for the grades. I see students that cannot even understand how to fix an instrument when it is a very simple fix. This means that the lower education system failed to give the students a good hands on experience. There are so many wrongs that need to be made right. I am ready to jump in to do this, but the word needs to come from the arrogant upper administration. These people are truly out of touch. They make huge salaries for what? They are clearly not able to do the job when the enrollment is failing. They would rather cut good applied programs that give the students the experience necessary to enter the work force over lazy faculty. This is the way it works at a University, when cuts are made, they usually cut the programs that actually help the students. In fact, my department has made so many cuts, that I hardly have any time to help students because we do not have enough staff to take care of regular daily operations. I already work 50-60 hours per week without being compensated, how much more can they dump on us?

    August 18, 2010 at 11:19 am |
  24. Jim S.

    Before we can address where schools, teachers and local/state government are failing to appropriately educate African-American males, don't we need to include whether there are academic expectations at home for these youths? Are they even required to show-up in the classroom? Sometimes the solution to a problem like this begins at home. Blaming someone else is not always the answer.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  25. Lynn

    As an educator, I've listened carefully to your coverage on Black males failing to graduate from high school. Your commentators wish to hold politicians, school administrators, and teachers accountable, but the key is parenting. You never talked about holding their parents accountable. Perhaps we need to teach the parents. If a students is failing, that student and his/her parent must attend a study hall. If a student drops out before graduating, the parent should be penalized. Where are the parents of these Black men? The single mother, father-missing, household is typical. The same happens to White families, but white boys are graduating at regular rates. The key is educating the Black single mother: discipline, realistic expectations, supervising homework. They must realize that they are parenting; they are in charge; they must be the first to demand respect from their sons. Hold educators accountable, of course, but let's start a conversation on poor parenting in the Black culture.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  26. Debra

    Boys will be boys,

    For those parents and others who think this epidemic does not and will not effect their children or their own lives, it will effect your adult children and the future of their adult life. Uneducated and ignorant Americans will burden the future of your bright childs ability to suceed economically, socially, and have a healthy life. Poverty, drugs, violence, inequality, and corruption are sending the U.S.A. into a tailspin with no real motivation for change to stop it. Their must be an understanding that agressive Education is key to a vibrant, healthy, and prosperous life for everyone. We have not seen the worst of it.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  27. Bill from Greensboro

    You are assuming that the problem is with the educational system. This is trying to address the problem by starting with a false premise. You have to address the cultural issues first. The young black men have to aspire to more than "a gold grille, their pants on the ground, their hats turned around." Period.
    I never hear any commentator say the obvious. Black adults are going to have to 'police' themselves and their communities and expect and require the young black men to aspire to an education and success. As long as the commentators and talking heads avoid addressing this issue, nothing will change. The black community appears unwilling to address this issue.
    It seems as if the black community is saying 'our young black men are not graduating from high school and what are we going to do about it?, but at the same time, it's alright if our young black men want to aspire to emulate a drug dealer, a pimp, or a rapper in their style of dress and behavior. Its alright if the young black men act rude, arrogant, and disruptive in the classroom.' Until expectations change, results won't change. The educational system is not broken, it just can't fix what is broken, a culture that accepts unacceptable behavior.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  28. David

    I saw you ran part of the interview regarding black men and education. I also read the comments on your web site concerning this issue. All but one of the comments state that it is not the schools or teachers fault black men do not graduate from high school. They said it is their parent’s fault these young men are not prepared for, or are required to, complete their education. Why did you not share with your audience these comments? Could it be because all but one comment contradicted your experts? If I want to find what is wrong with my life, all I need to do is look in the mirror. If I blame someone else for my problems, my life will be stuck in neutral.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  29. Easy Ed 1848

    I believe the teachers are taking the hit that belongs 85% to the parents.

    August 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  30. Dingster

    I agree with the posters who say it is the PARENTS responsibility to instill the importance of a love and desire for education in their children. I am a black single parent (widowed) raising a son. He is now in college and understands he must steer clear of those of any race that devalue an education. The gentlemen interviewed for these pieces who failed to pointedly finger the parents missed it.

    August 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  31. kat Nanton

    I think most of the blame should be placed on the parents. Does that make me a racist saying that?

    August 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  32. southron

    Ok, now, how long has this been going on, since reconstruction!!!!
    Can some finally just REALLY say what it is instead of dancing around it, that culture doesn't value an education. I

    August 18, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  33. James -

    I am an african american man that grew up in the inner-city and I am here to tell you that the problem solely rests on the shoulders of the parents and children. I attended the worst schools in the worst school district in NJ and I now have two engineering degrees from Rutgers University. Don't blame the white man... you can't blame him anymore.

    August 19, 2010 at 6:32 am |
  34. Ray

    Anyone who mentioned Parents, I have to agree 110%. Whether Black or White, the family unit has been headed on a crash course and the kids are suffering and the biproduct of disfuntional homes. Society today has been so hell bent on being Politically Correct, it's loosing sight of self responsibility and accountabilty. Disipline seems to be non-existant in household. Parent want to be buddies not parents.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  35. whotay

    This is not a new problem. The problem is there are too many parents who can not read and write. If you can't read and write you do not have a chance in learning anything else. African American students have had a disporptional dropout rate to other ethic groups for the last 125 years or longer and the reason is because of slavery and jim crow laws and not having an opportunity to learn basic skills. Reparation must be instituted to fix this problem. The government must go back and offer free schooling to all African American parents especially AA men to go back to school to bring African American up to grade level so that they are proficient in reading and writing perhaps starting as far back as grade school on how to be parents and instill in AA parents the importance of an education. An uneducated parent can not in most instances teach a child how to read, study and take pride in learning, because the parent has never been taught how to learn and the reasons to learn and to read, write and do math. Adult education is the key to all Americans sucess. If a parent dropped out of school chances are his/her children are going to drop out also, because that parent is not going to encourage that child to keep going to school against all odds. There are too many adults in America who can not read or write. This problem has to be addressed and fixed, now. This is a national disgrace. It is a matter of national defense.Until everyone in American is taught how to read and write the dropout rate will continue to rise. If you think the cost of educating all of these people is expensive, ignorance is twice as expensive and detrimental to the success of America. Success breds success.

    August 21, 2010 at 2:22 am |
  36. Orrin Checkmate Hudson

    Parents and the environment is the number one reason why our black males are dropping out .Parents need to make education their number one priority. Parents need to monitor their kids environment and friends. I am a black male who is taking positive action to solve this crisis. I took my life saving and started an education organization called Be Someone, Inc. Be Someone uses the game of chess to teach students how to be a problem solver . The bigger the problem the more you get paid. The more education you have and apply the successful you will be.
    To earn more you have to learn more.

    August 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  37. Manuel Scott

    You may not be able to make a horse drink, but you sure as hell can slap some salt in his mouth to make him thirsty! A stable home life, quality schools, undergirded by people, programs, and processes to supplement/replace any deficiencies at home or school, and exposing these young brothas to glimpses of their own possibilities via field trips and positive role models, is the salt that will cause them to make the decision to take responsibility for their own success. That's my job, and I love it!

    August 21, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  38. Rita

    I think that we point the finger at the schools too much. A big part of the problem is parenting. It always starts in the home. It isn’t the schools’ job to raise our children. Young black men need fathers who are around to tell them how important education is and to teach them how to become men. There are so many single, unwed mothers in this country. It is almost as thought the African American family doesn’t exist anymore. Mothers & grandmothers are doing the best they can, but these boys need their fathers too. I am a former middle school teacher and am now a college librarian. So many young, black men think that they don’t need an education because they believe they are going to become rap artists or basketball stars and make millions. I see this with some of my own relatives. Until African Americans start paying attention to what is going on in the home, nothing is going to change.

    August 23, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  39. Raymond

    The responsibility for this problem is twofold: (1) is the home environment. I was raised in a home environment in which we were taught the value and necessity of obtaining at least a high school diploma; (the majority of us obtained BA & MA degrees). This required discipline, love & sincerity on the part of ALL family members. Our parents made certain that we attended the best public and or private schools available. (2) over the past 43 years, America's Public School System has become dysfunctional; if a child attends classes in a public school, that individual is at a major disadvantage nationally & internationally. The African American family must: (1) properly investigate & utilize ALL education opportunities to maximize the opportunities of our children; (2) the government must accept and correct the fact that, as President Obama said, we are falling behind the rest of the world w.r.t. our public education & must make positive, radical changes in our Public School system to correct this error.

    August 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  40. Louis Zajicek

    A troubling statistic. The first thing to do is make sure the schools are adequate-decent facilities and good teachers. But the obvious problem is black students and their parent(s) need to understand the importance of education and put in the effort to graduate. After all it is free-i.e. paid for by taxpayers; and it's not that hard. It would help if special interest people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would say it is YOUR responsibility and privilege to get and education, rather than blame whites, this country, or the government.

    August 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  41. David

    It is bad that more African-Americans are not afforded adequate education. What is even more troubling is that employers are seemingly not willing to hire qualified minorities. I have a bachelor's degree in health administration and is currently working on my MBA. However, I have been looking for a job, and is finding it very difficult to secure one. I keep applying for entry level positions in the health care industry and constantly gets denied of those positions. Employers that rather hire less qualified candidates than qualified minorities are unconciously stabbing the nation on the back. How can we maintain a super system when this kind of things keep happening. I recently applied for the position of an admitting representative, an entry level position that requires high school G.E.D., but was told that I am not qualified for the job. With a certificate in medical terminology, completion of ICD-9 CM and CPT coding training, B.S degree in health administration, current enrollment in an MBA program (with emphasis in health services), how much more qualifications do I need to secure employment as an admitting representative. I would take any job, but I am concerned upon being denied for the position of an admitting representative. All the above mentioned courses extensively deal with Medicare/Medicaid and managed care. What can I do to get a job?

    August 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm |