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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Education should be priority No. 1

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I recently stumbled upon a new study by the American Council on Education which detailed a finding that, unfortunately, wasn’t too surprising.

The finding? That the Black male population is not only declining on America’s college campuses, but their graduation rates are also the lowest of any other group.

The study noted that 20 years ago, 30 percent of Black male high school graduates were enrolled in college. Their female counterparts weren’t far behind with 28 percent. Over the past 20 years, there has been a dismal increase in the number of Black males entering college after graduation; today’s data only show 37 percent.

While the bleak increase over the past two decades is disheartening, it gets worse.

Only 35 percent of Black males who enter college graduate in six years. This is in stark contrast to the 59 percent of white males, 46 percent of Hispanic men, and 45 percent of Black females who entered college the same year.

While the American Council on Education’s study focused on college-aged Black males, the National Council for the Education of Black Children (NCEBC) recently implemented the Black Male Action Plan that centered on finding solutions to educational challenges for African-American male children and youth. The great thing about the NCEBC plan is that it was localized for Indiana. Volunteer teams from 20 cities reviewed school and community data, identified challenges, suggested solutions and developed local community and school action plans. The plans were analyzed by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ African American Male Equity Project, which found that while each city’s plans were unique, there were some common denominators relative to the challenges Black males faced. The pressing issues and challenges were: parental and community support, issues of diversity, data and dissemination, advocacy and policy, and literacy.

Whether it’s the American Council on Education’s study or NCEBC’s detailed research, the fact is ever clear: our Black children (specifically males) are in need of severe education enhancement.

While I’m a firm believer that everything should start with the parents, I also know that the education crisis the nation is facing has many more components that serve as contributing factors, including underachieving schools, overcrowded classrooms, and underpaid teachers. The latter results in reduced moral, thus subpar teaching.

This is where President Barack Obama comes in. Obama developed the Race to the Top initiative which provides funding to schools under the stipulation that the schools agree to certain standards and improvements. This effort allows the federal government to be more engaged with how states run their various school systems.

Surprisingly, there are some states who oppose the Race to the Top initiative because they feel that such an effort gives the current administration too much control. Despite the naysayers, most states have agreed to the strict criteria and are in line to receive Race to the Top funds.

The great thing about Race to the Top is that it holds states accountable for all schools, not just the ones that perform well. Interested states have to produce a plan that shows that they are going to the most underachieving schools and putting policies in place designed to improve that school’s academic success. Thus far Race to the Top participants seem eager to enhance their school systems as 48 states have agreed to develop higher standards for reading and math.

Education must be a top priority for us. It’s disheartening to know how wide the education gap truly is, but such a realization should also be motivation – particularly for Blacks. As a people we’ve come so far, but we still have a long way to go. It’s time for us to reassess and determine what’s really important. Buying our children the newest Jordan shoes or Phat Farm outfit shouldn’t be the priority. However, helping with homework and stressing the importance of them earning an A should be the main concern.

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