Academic Achievement

Combating White Skepticism of Black Teachers Teaching Black Students

While most White people involved in the field of Education will say that they support improving Black male academic achievement, some of them become skeptical when Black teachers play a significant role in helping Black students to ameliorate their academic achievement.  It’s natural for Black teachers to have a special passion for boosting the academic achievement of Black students.  Because of the impact of slavery and Jim Crow and their residual effects, many Black people understand the need to passionately advocate for other Black people.  Most Black teachers, if not all, want to provide all students with the highest quality education possible, regardless of their students’ race and ethnicity.  Unfortunately, some White people situated in the education sector do not truly want to see Black students succeed.

Some White people in Education do not trust Black teachers to be able to increase the academic achievement of Black students without cheating for them.  Now, most of the White people who cannot believe that Black students’ academic achievement can be increased without cheating for them will not directly tell the Black teachers that they think they cheated for their Black students.  It is fallacious to think that just because a Black teacher teaches Black students he or she will cheat for those Black students.  Now, you don’t hear a significant number of Black people running around saying that White teachers are cheating for White students just because they are White.

Some Whites’ skepticism toward the improved academic achievement of Black students that has resulted from the teaching of Black teachers dramatically intensifies when it is a Black male teacher helping Black male students to ameliorate their academic achievement.  It seems like some Whites think that Black male teachers are not only going to cheat for Black male students, but also cheat so much for them that their grades end up being astonishingly higher than they have ever been.  When Black male students are making tremendously high grades, it offers a serious counternarrative to the lies and negativity that some Whites like to propagate about Black male students and Black male academic achievement.

Black parents and White parents who are committed to the improved academic achievement of all students need to strengthen their support for Black male teachers who evince a zeal for enhancing the academic achievement of Black male students.  When one truly understands that extensive research has proven that Black male students at every level of the educational pipeline academically underperform all of their peers, then it becomes reasonable to understand why a Black male teacher would develop a special passion for improving the academic achievement of Black male students.  With such vexing academic underachievement at all levels of the educational pipeline, Black male students need everyone who is truly concerned about education in America to give them greater support and attention.

You cannot be seriously committed to education reform in America when you’re not devoted to the improvement of Black male academic achievement.  We should view Black male academic underachievement as a national crisis.  If White male students at every level of the educational pipeline were academically underperforming all of their peers, we would have been declared their academic problems a national crisis.  For some reason, Black male students have not been privileged enough to have their academic struggles be promulgated as a national priority.

Although the Black community must make the improvement of Black male academic achievement a serious national priority, stronger efforts to involve more Whites in this effort is necessary.  We have to think critically about ways to engage more Whites in the effort to ameliorate Black male academic achievement.  Moreover, we have to think more deeply about how make strengthening Black male academic achievement a national priority for Black people.  While some Whites will always remain skeptical of Black teachers working with Black male students to enhance their academic achievement, there must be larger efforts to support the continual efforts of Black teachers to improve Black male academic achievement.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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The Key to Black Male Academic Success: Mentorship

A significant body of empirical research has demonstrated that Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline (Hawkins, 2010; Jackson, 2003). One has to wonder how this can be a reality when there are so many successful Black men in America. Unfortunately, many Black men are not taking Black male academic underachievement as serious as they need to take it. Imagine if White male students academically lagged behind all students throughout the educational pipeline—it would be declared a national emergency. Why will we not declare Black male academic underachievement in the Black community to be a national emergency? Do Black people not really care about Black male academic underachievement? Of course, we do! The challenge for members in the Black community is to resolve the best way to lead a coordinated national effort to begin to tackle this critical problem. This article contends that mentorship is crucial to dramatically ameliorating Black male academic achievement.

Mentorship is the most immediate, practical, and effective tool that we have in the Black community to tremendously improve Black male academic achievement. Yes, there are many important factors that contribute to the national academic underachievement of Black males, but we, Black men, have the power to address this problem ourselves. We cannot depend on others outside of the Black community to educate our children—we have to do it ourselves!

When we are discussing community development and building, we need to include improving Black male academic achievement as a part of this conversation. Community organizers need to organize Black men and women around helping Black male students to experience higher academic achievement. Those discourses about Black male students do not have to be inundated with examples about Black male students who are academically underperforming. Harper (2005) offers us an opportunity to focus on those factors that contribute to high-achieving Black male students. Instead of us always concentrating on what is not working for Black male students, let’s start devoting more of our attention to what is working for Black male students who are experiencing academic success. Harper’s study provides us with critical insights into what factors have enabled high-achieving Black male students to be academically successful.

Discourses about Black male students that only involve the negative dimensions about them ultimately lead to them being viewed as “problems.” When one perceives Black males as “problems,” he or she reifies them. Black male students are human beings—don’t treat them like objects. Let’s work to engender the factors that have contributed to the academic success of the Black male students that Harper’s (2005) work promulgates.

I mentor 50 students across the United States, mostly Black males. For most of them, I only need to send them an email, text, or call them once a month just to make sure that everything is going okay. They may ask me for advice about certain problems they are confronting, to look over a paper for them, pen a recommendation, and/or etc. This does not take much of my time. Some of my mentees, however, consume much more of my time and this is quite fine. I may have to tutor them weekly, heavily critique their papers often, give them lengthy advice frequently, and/or etc. Now, I’m just one person and I’m mentoring 50 students. If I could only get every capable Black man to mentor just one Black male, then we would not have to witness so many of our Black males dropping out of school, experiencing academic failure, and/or being incarcerated or put in juvenile detention centers.

At “The Think Tank for African American Progress” in 2008, a scholarly national conference held in Memphis, Tennessee, I served as a panelist and presenter of a scholarly paper about ameliorating Black male academic achievement. As both a panelist and scholarly paper presenter, I posited that one of the most important reasons why Black male academic achievement is not being improved is we don’t have enough Black people evincing the will to aid with bolstering their academic achievement. At first, many people at the conference thought my argument about not enough people in the Black people having the will to assist Black male students with improving their academic performances was too simplistic. However, as they begin to offer their solutions and positions about Black male academic achievement, they were able to see that everything they were saying came back to my argument about the importance of having more people exhibiting the will to augment Black male academic achievement.

We don’t have to wait for a government program to help Black male students to ameliorate their academic achievement. Capable Black men need to start mentoring Black male students so that they can be on a path for academic success. Even if mentoring a Black male student does not amplify his academic achievement, you will have given him a true chance to improve his academic performance. You probably will help in many other ways. The key thing is to act. Act now!

References

Harper, S.R. (2005). Leading the way: Inside the experiences of high-achieving African American students. About Campus, 10(1), 8-15.

Hawkins, B. (2010). The new plantation: Black athletes, college sports, and predominantly White NCAA institutions. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Jackson, J.F.L. (2003). Toward administrative diversity: An analysis of the African-American male educational pipeline. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 12(1), 43-60.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Form A Black Parents Association

Increased and improved parental involvement is unquestionably a crucial dimension of true education reform. As I continue to think about solutions to remedying the significant academic underachievement of Black males throughout the educational pipeline, I cannot help but think about how vital their parents are to improving their academic achievement. In every county in America, there needs to be the creation of a Black Parents Association. What do I mean by Black Parents Association? I’m referring to Black parents federate in every county to meet often about local and national issues pertaining to education, to discuss strategies for improving the academic achievement of their children, to work together to help their children with homework problems, to share resources with one another, to organize with one another to protest injustices in their local schools, and etc.

Now, there is certainly not anything wrong with this newly formed organization of Black parents joining and working with non-Black parents. Since Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline, Black parents are going to have to unite first to tackle this problem. After all, it’s their children who are experiencing this academic achievement problem. I think that the formation of a group like this in every county in the nation has great potential to energize Black parents and result in dramatic improvements in the academic achievement of Black students. When educators, school board members, administrators, and legislators begin to see Black parents more organized, more involved, and more committed to ameliorating the academic achievement of their children, schools will have to become more responsive to the needs of Black students.

Just like many Blacks organized to protest the Jena 6 injustice because many Blacks saw this situation as a crisis, we also have to see Black education as in crisis. Whenever you have Black male students throughout every level of the educational pipeline, including higher education, academically underperforming all students this is a real crisis. By creating a Black Parents Association, Black parents begin to become change agents and facilitators in the change we want to see in our children’s academic achievement. Our people have had a history of organizing to engender change to respond to crises. We have a crisis in Black education today and we need to respond to it.

Social media, newspapers, local publications, television, radio, word of mouth, churches, schools, local stores, and etc. can be used as vehicles for promulgating interest meetings about the construction of a local Black Parents Association. I would recommend that this new organization be guided and governed by democratic principles. Make the organization a formal organization.

Black parents, you have the power to increase wealth in the Black community by making stronger investments in your children’s education. We have to tackle the problems our children are having with their studies to bring in greater wealth into our community. We have to face it—improved academic achievement is central to ushering in more wealth into our community. Our economic and social conditions will not be meaningfully improved until we do a better job of buttressing our children’s education.

Black parents unite!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison