Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

PROJECT 2000: An Educational Mentoring and Academic Support Model for Inner-City African American Boys

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

PROJECT 2000: An Educational Mentoring and Academic Support Model for Inner-City African American Boys

Article excerpt

School failure appears to be a major risk factor and harbinger of the crime, violence, and other disasters that often characterize the experiences of African American boys in urban America. Starting with the first grade and continuing throughout secondary school, PROJECT 2000 is one approach aimed at addressing this problem. With the support of civic and corporate sponsors and volunteers, this community-based program provides Black boys with adult male role models who offer assistance with academic subjects, comradery, and guidance. This article outlines the scope and vision of the program, and its impact on the education of Black male youth.

The model for black male child development is broken, and we must fix it. (Bridges, 1988)

The above statement, made by an African American educator and former superintendent of the Wake County (Raleigh, NC) Public School System in the late 1980s, is as true today as it was nearly a decade ago. The evidence that the two major societal institutions responsible for child development in the United States-the family and the school-have failed this segment of the nation's offspring is everywhere. Violence, crime, and mayhem of seemingly endless and increasingly alarming variety-perpetrated by or involving Black males in our nation's urban centers-are reported almost daily in newspapers and on television. Within the African American community, it is widely accepted that many, if not most, of the single-parent, female-headed, poor households from which today's inner-city Black male youth come have not and perhaps cannot provide them with the psychosocial skills these youth need to avoid involvement in violent activity, much less to succeed in society's mainstream. Common knowledge too is the fact that a large percentage of the urban schools these boys attend fail to provide them with the educational tools they will need to survive in the technologically oriented 21st century.

Key among those tools are the abilities to read, to write, and to perform computer operations at ever more rigorous levels of proficiency. The new world order, with its "global village" dimensions, demands individuals who are literate in many areas of comprehension-from reading, writing, and mathematics to computer skills, electronic data processing, and critical thinking skills. Never before in our nation's history has the depth and extent of one's literacy determined one's fate as obviously as it does today and in the future, yet failure in school remains a salient characteristic of inner-city African American boys. The academic fate of these youth often serves as a harbinger of the violence and crime that has become endemic in urban communities.

The epidemic of academic failure witnessed among African American boys from urban environments was documented by several school systems during the 1980s. The most comprehensive of these studies was conducted by the Committee to Study the Status of the Black Male in the New Orleans Public Schools (Garibaldi,1988). This study reports that during the 1986-87 academic year, Black males represented 43% of the New Orleans public school population yet accounted for 57.5% of the nonpromotions, 65% of the suspensions, 80% of the expulsions, and 45% of the dropouts. Nonpromotions in the primary grades during that same year reflected the following: of 1,470 first-graders retained, 817 were Black males; of 768 second-graders retained, 440 were Black males, and of 716 third-graders retained, 438 were Black males. For grades 4 through 11, Black males constituted more than 50% of the total number of students retained at each grade level. Not until the 12th grade did these figures fall below 50% for New Orleans's Black male students. Unfortunately, these findings can easily be generalized to almost every urban school district in the United States.

A vast array of intervention strategies have been tried to bring about academic success for America's inner-city children. …

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