When dire statistics lose their shock value

Worse than the dire academic and achievement statistics for our nation's male students of color is the notion that those dismal numbers (graduation rates, drop out rates, testing scores, etc.) are repeated so often that they may be losing their shock value and, consequently, their ability to inspire action. In the February issue of Phi Delta Kappa Magazine, Pedro Noguera, the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education New York University, criticizes education reform efforts that seek to "save" young male students of color by separating them from the rest of the population in single-sex schools or classrooms.

On all of the indicators of academic achievement, educational attainment, and school success, African-American and Latino males are noticeably distinguished from other segments of the American population by their consistent clustering at the bottom (Schott, 2010). With few exceptions, these dismal patterns exist in urban, suburban, and rural school districts throughout the United States. Nationally, African-American and Latino males are more likely than any other group to be suspended and expelled from school (Fergus & Noguera, 2010). In most American cities, dropout rates for African-American and Latino males are well above 50%, and they’re less likely to enroll or graduate from college than any other group (Schott, 2010).

"The need to act on the problems confronting black and Latino males is apparent," Noguera continues, "But no research supports the notion that separating young men is the best way to meet their academic and social needs."

What's more important is acknowledging and doing something about the myriad factors preventing male students from achieving their full potential - higher rates of poverty and lack of adequate healthcare, housing or social supports. Rather than separating students, let's work to ensure that students have access to the same resources and opportunities wherever they live, regardless of zip code.

"We must address this issue with urgency and treat it as an American problem, rather than as a problem that only those who directly experience it should be concerned about," Noguera concludes. "The continued failure of so many young men not only increases the likelihood that they’ll end up in prison, permanently unemployed, or dead at an early age, but that our society will accept such conditions as normal. As that begins to occur, all of us are endangered."

You can read Noguera's full piece here. Also worth reading is Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, a report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education that examines how the majority of states fail to provide the necessary resources to close opportunity and achievement gaps for students of color.