Academic journal article Education Next

Educating African American Boys: Our Schools Deserve an "F"

Academic journal article Education Next

Educating African American Boys: Our Schools Deserve an "F"

Article excerpt

In 1989, my dream of attending college on a football and track scholarship was shattered when I graduated high school with a 1.56 GPA, a ranking of 413 out of 435 students in my senior class, an 820 on the SAT, a 19 on the ACT, a dismal attendance record, and absolutely no idea about what I wanted to do with my life. Two years later, on December 24, 1991, I was sitting behind bars in the prison at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, awaiting notice of the numerous charges being brought against me for an altercation I had with a naval officer.

Fortunately, after spending just a few days instead of a few years in lockup, I was exonerated. Two weeks later, I met my wife, Lisa, dedicated myself to reading two books a week to improve my speaking and writing skills, changed my peer group, and moved on with my life.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In 1993 I returned home to Madison, Wisconsin, from Hampton, Virginia, having spent three years in the U.S. Navy and one year attending Hampton University. I immediately went to my old neighborhood to check in with everyone, to see my guys and the girls on the block where I'd spent so much time as an adolescent. I was shocked and dismayed to find that so many of the young men I grew up with had succumbed to the crack cocaine trade and were either addicted to it or selling it, died or were killed for it, or were in jail because of it. Most of those still around were not in the labor force, were not attending any education or training program, and expressed little optimism about their future or their value to society.

I switched my academic major at the University of Wisconsin from pre-medicine and nutritional sciences to urban education and spent the next decade working with city youth. I soon became determined to expose how unproductive our education system was at graduating students and preparing them for college. I enlisted the support of a then up-and-coming researcher named Jay Greene to help me identify a reliable formula for calculating high school graduation rates and secured the support of the organization I was then presiding over to spend $15,000 on a study. …

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