- In Minneapolis, the Office of Black Male Student Achievement has partnered with 12 schools in an attempt to close the achievement gap for the district’s 8,963 black youth.
- Education Week reports that in the U.S., black boys are “more likely than almost any other demographic slice of the school population to be suspended or expelled from school and to score at the lowest achievement level.”
- Other school districts nationwide have also opened offices dedicated specifically to helping black students achieve academic success.
Oakland, CA, was the first district to instate such an office, and it provided a model for Minneapolis' approach. “…Teachers are expected to participate in five professional-development sessions,” Education Week notes, “including ones focused on strategies to engage black male students; how to recognize unconscious bias; and how to be connected to the communities in which they teach.”
The office also works to make sure black youth have role models and engaged parents. In order to combat disciplinary disparity, the district is also eliminating suspensions for kids in grades 1-5. Additionally, 110 older students in middle and high school participate in a program called Building Lives Acquiring Cultural Knowledge (BLACK), where they’re taught African-American history, literature, and leadership development by black men. That, Education Week says, “allows black boys to see teaching as something to which they can aspire, and nonblack students get to see black men in a professional setting.”
Dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, in which students of color are disproportionately disciplined out of their schools and into the wider criminal justice system, has been an ongoing concern around the country. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for action to be taken in dismantling the pipeline. In Minneapolis, black students account for 40% of district enrollment, yet they make up a reported 74% of disciplinary incidents and 78% of out-of-school suspensions. Nationwide, black students are suspended and expelled three times more often than their white peers.
Other states have incorporated different tactics. In Maine, South Berwick's Central High School is trying to execute "positive" disciplinary actions, while Illinois is passing new laws to reduce suspensions. Seattle's school board has also eliminated suspensions for elementary school students who commit non-violent offenses.