Recently I attended my 25 year-old son’s college graduation in Bismarck, North Dakota; he received a Doctor’s degree in Physical Therapy, he was the only Black graduate of a class of 48 students.
Black Male Responsibility Mentoring Development (BMRMD) is a strength-based psycho-education model that is gender and cultural specific. Being strength-based, BMRMD assesses the inherent strengths of young African American males including their culture of Hip-Hop and builds on them. BMRMD instills spirituality and cultural pride: it uses their personal strengths along with character development to aid in resiliency, empowerment, and delinquency prevention. Through the process of psycho-education, BMRMD seeks to reframe the perception of young Black males to be positively motivated; to find good and a chance of success even in the worst situation. BMRMD is based on the 4R’s of Reality, Responsibility, Respect, and Righteousness with the learning objectives of (1) Maturing to the facts of life, (2) Accountability and Self-Control, (3) Sense of Self-Worth and the worthiness of others, and (4) Moral conduct.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Very-Very Few Black Males in the Medical Profession, Black Male Mentoring Has the Responsibility in Increasing These Numbers
Recently I attended my 25 year-old son’s college graduation in Bismarck, North Dakota; he received a Doctor’s degree in Physical Therapy, he was the only Black graduate of a class of 48 students.
Monday, March 12, 2018
“This ink pen is my weapon.” - Anonymous Teacher
Many studies note that there is an over identification of Black boys to special education. While serving as the Teach For America Vice President with Teacher Leadership Development in Greater Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to spend time in classes in Trenton, Camden, and Philadelphia.
In this role, I saw 3rd grade special education classes that were 100% Black males and 9th grade special education classes that were 93% Black males. This dynamic was unsettling and gave me reason to think more deeply about the root causes and solutions to the over representation of Black boys to special education.
Before examining root causes and potential solutions, it’s important to consider elements of history that have influenced why the education force looks the way it does. In February of 2017, USA TODAY wrote,
“The dilemma is, in part, a little-known and unintended legacy of the Brown decision. Because most white communities in the 1950s and 1960s preferred white teachers over black ones, court-ordered desegregation often ended the teaching careers of black educators. One historian, Emory University’s Vanessa Siddle Walker, has said the culture of black teaching ‘died with Brown.’ ”
Given what has happened in the 50s and 60s, the following comment from Paul Beare, Dean of California State University-Fresno’s Kremen School of Education, makes perfect sense.
“Few minorities, especially men, think about becoming teachers. Many have simply never had minority teachers themselves, and so they don’t identify with the idea.” As we consider the root causes and solutions for the over identification of Black boys to special education, let’s also think about how the teaching and education force shifted to its current demographic - because therein lies a systemic resolution. In conversations with several culturally competent special educators, they shared some root causes for the over identification of Black boys in special education:
Root cause #1: Many White American educators see Black boys’ behavior as aberrant. “They don’t know how to respond to a black boy’s behavior; so they think he is being oppositional and then label him as oppositional defiant or attention deficit and hyperactive” instead of building relationships, understanding the rationale for his behavior, and incorporating this understanding into their teaching pedagogy.
Root cause #2: “School psychologists are often White women. I’ve worked with hundreds of school psychologists, mostly White women, and they hold students up to a lens that is often deficit based.” Several special educators also noted never having worked with a school psychologist that was Black and from an urban environment, though the student population in their schools is more than 90% Black.
Root cause #3: “Educators tend to not look at the teacher’s responsibility, the time of the day, the curriculum. Instead there tends to be blame on the home and the child.”
Root cause #4: “School psychologists sometimes fluff the data to save the school money in case something happens; there is a fear of being sued. And districts get more money for special education; so the more children identified with IEPs, the more money for schools and districts.”
In an article on the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Dr. Roy Jones, the director of the Call Me MISTER program, offers a word on diversifying.
“You just have to make it a priority, it’s not hard recruiting black athletes and if you put a premium and a value on recruiting master teachers, then it won’t be hard to recruit black males who want to teach.”
Educators offered the following solutions to the over identification of Black boys to special education–but this isn’t about incremental change. This is about re-imagining and redesigning the way we think about and engage with Black boys and all the components that touch their lives. And it certainly means diversifying the body of those making the decisions about Black boys as well as doing the mindset work with those currently in front of them and with their managers.
Educators need to study the over identification of Black males in special education and apply this learning to our coaching, instructional, leadership, recruiting, and hiring frameworks. “This topic needs to be a normalized conversation in schools and school systems–not just a conversation with Black educators but with all educators. When we love our students, we think about their experience and what is best for them.”
Collect data to find out the root causes of the challenges we are seeing and ask questions like:
*With what teacher does the child have challenges?
*At what time of day?
*With what teacher does this child have the most success?
*At what time of day?
*What’s the difference between the mindset and practices of the teacher who has success and the one that doesn’t?
Recruit staff that have a passion for working with Black boys. Interview with this lens in mind. “Often the staff working with Black boys are not sincerely interested in Black boys. The typical school has about 22% of the students in special education. Though the national average for the population labeled emotionally disturbed is 3%, it’s 6% for Black boys.” Transforming how we view Black boys would decrease that number and increase the quality of education for Black boys.
Leadership matters. If you are a school, network, or district leader, and you have Black boys in your school, get passionate about them and their experience. What if you’re not passionate? What if you are simply not interested?
Identify a Black male student with whom you have a strong relationship, and imagine what it would take for you to replicate this relationship with other Black males. Then, replicate. Get feedback from Black male students about how you are doing. Be open. Listen. Engage.
Find staff that hold high expectations for Black males and interview them.Study them. Not in a creepy way, but in a vulnerable, open, permission-seeking kind of way. Embrace humility, try to see the world from the child’s perspective, and determine what you can change about your practices and mindsets. Then, commit to changing.
Engage in significant mindset work that will shift your perspective so that you become more passionate. This isn’t about perfection; this is about evolution; it’s about transformation. It’s about us facing our real selves and engaging in the work to shift the parts of us that don’t serve children well. It’s about committing to the reality that this evolution is a never-ending thing. That can feel exhausting. But as the children say, “It is what it is.” So let’s accept that and do the work.
Be honest with yourself. If you simply are not interested in doing the self-work necessary to serve Black boys, consider stepping down from your role. Yeah, this option is a hard one to swallow. But I firmly believe that every school year, before we recommit to another year, we need to ask ourselves if we are in the right position to serve - if the work we are doing is what we are called to do at that moment. Sometimes we are. Sometimes we aren’t.
Be honest with families. Let’s be transparent about the options parents have and help them think through the pros and cons. Let’s invite parent advocates to the table to help us serve parents best.
One educator said, “I had my son evaluated because I am an informed educator. I knew the tests I wanted them to administer and those that I did not. And I knew when I wanted him out of special education, which was the 8th grade. I did not want him going to high school with an IEP. High school teachers wouldn’t read his IEP, and because he is a Black boy, they would assume he was emotionally disturbed and treat him as if he could not learn. In the IEP meeting, I was very clear about what I expected. And I made sure the team didn’t penalize him for things connected to his disability.”
What about families that aren’t as experienced with special education? While serving as a principal, there were a few times when we engaged in litigious conversations with parents about special education issues. After one particular series of conversations, I remember thinking, “What if we treated all families as if they had the means, interest, and commitment to sue us and win? What might we do differently?”
Honestly, I think the entire school system would be revolutionized if every educator treated children and families with this notion of being sued (and losing the suit) in mind. But this isn’t not about fear, it’s about service and responsibility. It’s about honoring our commitment to families even if they don’t know how much they can expect of us.
Let’s imagine something for a moment. There is a Black father, Randy, who struggles to maintain employment. He was born and raised in an urban area. He moves outside of the city and hopes for a safer school for his children. Randy is not certified in special education. He does not know his parental rights; nor does he know what to ask or demand. He is 27-years-old and has a 5-year old son. Randy did not finish high school, nor did his father or his grandfather.
Imagine Randy at an IEP meeting, sitting at a conference table with 5 educators, all women - 4 of them White. Imagine his nervousness as he tries to simply follow the conversation. Imagine that this father feels as lost as if he were in a dark, windowless room in the middle of the desert, this father who is at the school and who wants to offer his son more than he had.
When you read about Randy, what do you feel? Compassion? Empathy? Disgust? What do you think? Are you judging him for not knowing? Blaming him for his ignorance? Are you thinking about the father’s responsibility or about your own responsibility as an educator? Are you wanting to do something? Do nothing? What are you noticing about your own thoughts and assumptions?
If your thoughts could be transformed into actions, and you were the son’s teacher, principal, or superintendent, what might that 5-year-old child be experiencing? Love? Disdain? Impatience? Understanding? Prejudice? And in what direction might those actions propel the child? Toward shame or success? Healing or humiliation?
To be clear, I am not saying that Randy is void of strengths or that we need to pity him. In fact, Randy is resilient, courageous, and visionary. He is also yet another Black father who isn’t receiving the best customer service from his son’s school.
There are folks out there who say that special education is the pipeline to prison. I believe them, especially for Black boys from lower income backgrounds whose parents have no experience navigating the nuances of special education.
Black boys, education, and prison - it’s really an embarrassment to this country. The thing is, to change what is happening with Black boys we need training and coaching and frameworks for sure.
We also need to develop a deeper empathy for those experiencing oppression in their everyday experience, simply because they are Black and male and live in America, even when that experience is not our own.
Friday, December 22, 2017
Like many Black boys growing up in Cincinnati, Wesley Gallaher had dreams of becoming a star basketball player. However, soon after he entered the University of Cincinnati, he was contacted by members of a group called the Hearts and Minds Pipeline Program, which has teamed up with Mercy Health to provide minority students with exposure to medical professions.
Favors worked closely with Gallaher, encouraging him to enter the medical field. Gallaher said, “A medical career was never in our scope growing up. It was never about being a doctor or engineer. It was all about being the next LeBron.”
In a study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program published in Sage Journal, researchers Jean Grossman and Joseph Tierney stated: “Over the 18-month follow-up period, youths participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters Programs were significantly less likely to have started using illegal drugs or alcohol, hit someone, or skipped school. They were also more confident about their school performance and got along better with their families” (Grossman and Tierney 1998).
Other studies have turned up similar results. For example, Yolanda Barbier Gibson writes in the Journal of Mason Graduate Research
At its best, mentoring redirects the focus from sports, music, and video games, giving Black boys support for intellectual pursuit they often lack at home or among their peers.
Do you think that providing Black boys with mentors will help them diversify their career options, as opposed to blindly choosing sports or entertainment?
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Most people like to think that American K-12 schools, workplaces and courthouses are pillars of fairness, but statistic after statistic all point to a crisis among the young, Black men of the nation.
This crisis begins in homes, stretches to K-12 educational experiences, and leads straight to the cycle of incarceration in increasingly high numbers.
In America's prison systems, black citizens are incarcerated at six times the rates of white ones - and the NAACP predicts that one in three of this generation of Black men will spend some time locked up.
Decreasing the rates of incarceration for black men may actually be a matter of improving educational outcomes for black boys in America. In his piece "A Broken Windows Approach to Education Reform," Forbes writer James Marshall Crotty makes a direct connection between drop-out and crime rates.
Crotty argues that if educators will simply take a highly organized approach to keeping kids in school, it will make a difference in the crime statistics of the future.
While there are many areas of improvement that we could look at changing for more successful outcomes for black men, I will discuss just four indicators that illustrate the current situation for black boys in the U.S., with the hope of starting a conversation about what we can do to produce a stronger generation of Black young men in our society.
1. Black boys are more likely to be placed in special education
While it is true that Black boys often arrive in Kindergarten classrooms with inherent disadvantages, they continue to experience a "behind the 8-ball" mentality as their school careers progress.
Black boys are more likely than any other group to be placed in special education classes, with 80 percent of all special education students being Black or Hispanic males.
Learning disabilities are just a part of the whole picture. Black students (and particularly boys) experience disconnection when it comes to the authority figures in their classrooms.
The K-12 teaching profession is dominated by white women, many of whom are very qualified and very interested in helping all their students succeed but lack the first-hand experience needed to connect with their Black male students.
2. Black boys are more likely to attend schools without the adequate resources to educate them.
Schools with majority Black students tend to have lower numbers of teachers who are certified in their degree areas. A U.S. Department of Education report found that in schools with at least 50 percent Black students, only 48 percent were certified in the subject, compared with 65 percent in majority white schools. In English, the numbers were 59 and 68 percent, respectively and in science, they were 57 percent and 73 percent.
3. Black boys are not reading at an adequate level.
In 2014, the Black Star Project published findings that just 10 percent of eighth-grade Black boys in the U.S. are considered "proficient" in reading. In urban areas like Chicago and Detroit, that number was even lower.
By contrast, the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress found that 46 percent of white students are adequate readers by eighth grade, and 17 percent of Black students as a whole are too.
The achievement gap between the two races is startling, but the difference between the NAEP report on Black students as a whole and the Black Star findings of just Black boys is troubling too. It is not simply Black children in general who appear to be failing in the basics - like literacy; it is the boys.
Reading is only one piece of the school puzzle, of course, but it is a foundational one. If the eighth graders in our schools cannot read, how will they ever learn other subjects and make it to a college education (or, in reality, to a high school diploma)?
Reading scores tell us so much more than the confines of their statistics. I believe these numbers are key to understanding the plight of young Black men in our society as a whole.
4. Punishment for black boys is harsher than for any other demographic.
Punishment for Black boys - even first-time offenders - in schools is harsher than any other demographic. Consider these facts:
*Black students make up just 18 percent of children in U.S. preschools, but make up half of those youngsters who are suspended.
*Black boys receive two-thirds of all school suspensions nationwide - all demographics and both genders considered.
*In Chicago, 75 percent of all students arrested in public schools are Black
What's most troubling is that not all of the Black boys taken from their schools in handcuffs are violent, or even criminals.
Increasingly, school-assigned law enforcement officers are leading these students from their schools hallways for minor offenses, including class disruption, tardiness and even non-violent arguments with other students.
It seems that it is easier to remove these students from class through the stigma of suspension or arrest than to look for in-school solutions.
School suspension, and certainly arrest, is just the beginning of a life considered on the wrong side of the law for many Black boys. By 18 years of age, 30 percent of Black males have been arrested at least once, compared to just 22 percent of white males.
Those numbers rise to 49 percent for Black men by the age of 23, and 38 percent of white males. Researchers from several universities concluded earlier this year that arrests early in life often set the course for more crimes and incarceration throughout the rest of the offender's lifetime.
No wonder young black men aren't in college!
These trends are not conducive to improving the numbers of young black men who are able to attend college. In fact, the numbers are dismal when it comes to black young men who attend and graduate from colleges in the U.S.
Statistically speaking, black men have the lowest test scores, the worst grades and the highest dropout rates - in K-12 education, and in college too.
The recognition of this educational crisis has led to some strong initiatives targeted at young black men with the intention of guiding them through the college years and to successful, productive lives that follow.
This is why college motivation within and outside the black community is so vital for these young men. At this point in the nation's history, they are in the greatest need for the lifestyle change that higher education can provide, and not just for individual growth, but also for the benefit of the entire nation.
But in order to get there, black boys must experience the motivation to succeed well before college.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Monday, August 7, 2017
There is a crisis in America in the Black community, because it seems no one cares that black boys and young black men are failing in school. Way too many of them expect to fail and too many of them are preoccupied with being professional basketball and football players, rap stars, or gangsters.
Seventy percent of black families are run by single women, and young brothers have no idea of how to be a man. As blacks it is time to tell the truth about street-life and Black on Black violence that is claiming hundreds of thousands of young black men’s lives in our communities.
”Since 1980 to 2013, more than 260,000 black men have been killed in America” says Mich Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans. America has given up on black boys and young men and the majority of them see no way out of their circumstances.
In 2017, too many black boys and young men cannot read. This impacts them in everything they do, and their mothers are too busy working and paying bills to educate them.
A good friend of mine who has a college degree and a good job in Maryland, mentors a group of 20 Black young men every Tuesday from the community. After talking to them for five weeks about the importance of education, no one in the group had a report card with a GPA higher than 2.0. The young men thought it was funny, and it appeared that they were satisfied with their results.
In many major cities across the country such as Newark, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and Washington D.C., the schools are not working and there aren’t enough decent-paying jobs in the community. The unemployment rate is over 50% in most cities, and young black men are killing each other because they can’t envision anything better for themselves.
“What you’re going to see is a huge governing failure on the part of our society. This country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. That’s failure” says Mayor Landrieu.
Within the black community in every major city across the country, you will find the same pattern. 1 out of 3 Black men will go to prison, and 80% of murder victims are believed to have known their killer. Buying a gun is cheaper than buying a pair of sneakers, and too many young Black men have one.
In Chicago in 2016, the city leads the country with over 500 deaths, and this is directly related to drugs and gang street warfare. Black boys as young as 8 to 10 years old are running and selling guns and drugs. They have already decided how they plan to make their money, and no parent (mostly the woman) is going to stop them.
Black boys and young men are dying for lack of respect from others on the street, and they are out of control, but where are the solutions? It’s more than just institutional racism, poor neighborhoods, police brutality, the hip-hop culture, drugs, and guns, it’s systemic specific genocide that’s the fundamental reason so many Black boys and men are dying in America.
The criminal justice system is the civil rights issue in 2017 in the Black community. “Right now, blacks make up 12% of the population but almost 60% of those doing time are drug related – and according to the Sentencing Project, these Black prisoners are serving almost as much time for their drug offenses as Whites are for actual violent crimes” says reporter Wilbert Cooper. 1.5 million prime-aged black men are missing in America; they’re either behind bars or pushing up daisies.
There is a lost generation of young Black boys and young men in America, there must be crucial conversations and ‘right now’ interventions to save them. Young black men are dying in the streets and/or jails/prisons, and there appears to be no hope.
When it comes to saving young black males it seems the black community has become apathetic, defeatist, and fatalistic. It’s unfortunate it seems that too many young black men feel that “the day they were born, there was a pine box and a prison cell built with their names on it” says reporter Wilbert Cooper.
by Matthew Lynch Most people like to think that American K-12 schools, workplaces and courthouses are pillars of fairness, but statistic a...
Very-Very Few Black Males in the Medical Profession, Black Male Mentoring Has the Responsibility in Increasing These Numbersby Kenny Anderson Recently I attended my 25 year-old son’s college graduation in Bismarck, North Dakota; he received a Doctor’s degree in ...
by Matthew Lynch Like many Black boys growing up in Cincinnati, Wesley Gallaher had dreams of becoming a star basketball player. However, s...