Black Students, Making the Grade the Hard Way



While the news was briefly all abuzz with the $100 million donation from one of the Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg to help bolster the New Jersey school system, the plight of the Black students, in many of the poorest performing schools districts continues to take a back seat in the discussion.  

Whether to pay more in salaries to recruit more qualified teachers, increase funding for much needed supplies or to repair and upgrade outdated buildings are definitely important items to consider, Black students who are not meeting the requirements to graduate and thus are dropping out in record numbers continues to ride under the radar.

According to the report “Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott Foundation 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education,” the overall graduation rate for Black students who are male in the United States is less than 50 percent. 

The report further states that the educational system in this country is “systematically failing Black males.” Also, the report highlights many places including New York, Philadelphia and Dade County, Fla. that have graduation rates for Black male students below 30 percent.  

There are many factors that have impacted the role of education and the high attrition rate among Black students. Socio-economic factors continue to play a role as well as misdiagnosis of learning disorders such as dyslexia that causes problems for many Black students.

Also, a number of researchers have used the phrase “anti-intellectualism” as a reason for the decline. It seems that it is “un-cool” for Black students, especially males, to be smart thus causing many Black males to “play the role” that they do not care about school or to actually fail intentionally to be accepted by their peers. 

Parents have also taken a back seat in large measure in advancing Black students, many being high school drop-outs themselves or relegating their responsibilities solely to the schools and not taking part as an active partner.

Considering in 1957, when officers from the United States Army had to escort a group of Black students, known as the “Little Rock Nine,” into Little Rock Central High School, it is difficult to comprehend how the role of education has changed in the Black community.  In addition, where are the current support systems to encourage Black students to strive for excellence?

Geography and fund distribution also plays a role as most inner cities have larger minority populations and the educational funding generally favors the more affluent and politically connected suburbs. 

According to, many of the families in urban areas cannot pick up and move to the suburbs and those in the suburbs are least likely to make accommodations that will undermine local control.

As the article further states, minority students from urban areas can outperform their suburban peers if provided the right educational opportunities close to home.

So, the $100 million donation to education is a good start towards helping inner city students, particularly Black students, to level the playing field regarding their educational pursuits.  It will also require a renewed commitment by Black students toward education and more involvement by parents and the community to support and to promote the “cool in achieving at school.”

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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