Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Leaving Us Behind: A Political Economic Interpretation of NCLB and the Miseducation of African American Males

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Leaving Us Behind: A Political Economic Interpretation of NCLB and the Miseducation of African American Males

Article excerpt

Introduction

The educational tribulations of African American males are well documented (Clark, 1989/1965; Davis & Jordan, 1994; Harry & Anderson, 1994; Polite & Davis, 1999; Majors & Billison, 1992). According to a report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education (2004), 70% of African American males entering the ninth grade will not graduate with their cohort (p. 2). The foregoing figures are troubling considering that the overall percentage of African American students enrolled in public schools has increased from 14.8% in 1972 to 15.6% in 2006 (1) (U.S. Department of Education, 2008, p. 85). Despite this modicum of progress, the education system's ability to adequately serve African American males is worsening.

The need to address the low academic achievement of Black males is important for two reasons. The first reason is the link between low educational attainment and incarceration (Mauer & King, 2004; Justice Policy Institute, 2007; Children's Defense Fund, 2007). The second reason is the shift in the skills needed for productive participation in the global economy (Green, 2001). With regards to the relationship between low education attainment and incarceration, the Justice Policy Institute (2007) reported that "52% of African American male high school dropouts had prison records by their early thirties" in 1999 (p. 11). Incidentally, the incarceration rate per 100,000 African American men between the ages of 18-64 was 7,923 compared to 1,072 for White men (Human Rights Watch, 2008). These statistics are problematic considering that African Americans only constitute 12% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Based on the foregoing statistics, one can easily surmise that there are more African American males incarcerated than in school.

Conversely, the economic vitality of the United States in the 21st century is contingent upon the productivity of well-trained people and the steady stream of scientific and technical innovations they produce. Levy and Murnane (2004) point out that the nation's challenge is to "recognize the inexorable changes in the job distribution and to prepare young people with the skills needed in the growing number of good jobs" (p. 6). Further, expansion of international markets through globalization has contributed to the transformation of America's economy from a mass-producer of durable goods such as automobiles, to a developer and provider of information and biotechnology products and services. This economic shift has not only altered the types of products required for international competitiveness, but more importantly the requisite skills needed to ensure high-tier workforce participation has been permanently altered (Waks, 2003). In addition to access to quality scientific, mathematical, and technological learning opportunities, a "good education" in the global age includes the development of "soft-skills" (2) (Levy & Murnane, 2004; Gordon Nembhard, 2005).

For traditionally under-served students, such as African Americans males, the education policies that govern curriculum and instruction are essential to shaping the capacity of learning opportunities vital to their collective social and economic advancement. Indeed, the relationship between education and social mobility is not a recent finding; what is new, however, is that public schools more than at any other time in American history are held accountable for preparing students to serve private interests and the public good (Kliebard, 1999; Hargreaves, 2003). The purpose of this article is to discuss the misalignment between public school assessment policies and teaching practices in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), and the human capital, curricula, and soft-skill needs of the global economy. The authors suggest that changes regarding the nature of learning, how it is assessed, and the skills taught are critical to the educational and social success of African American males. …

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