My Thoughts on What African American Students Need

I’m not sure how I got an invite. But in the morning I, along with a few other educators, will participate in a listening session with city and education officials in Long Beach. They are listening and we are speaking about how to address the needs of African-American students.

It is likely they will ask, “What should the Long Beach educational system do to address the needs of its African-American students?” In this entry I will attempt to answer this complex and challenging question with simplicity.  None of these answers are sufficient by themselves but taken together they along with other proposals might help African American students grow in their social, emotional, cultural, and academic experiences in the public education system in Long Beach. 

#1 Hire more African American teachers 

When people have role models with whom they can racially identify their success rate increases. In my experience, as a young African-American, I graduated high school without seeing any African-American teachers. In part because of this, I left high school with a low impression of myself and a low vision of what I could accomplish. I think if I had more African American role models in the classroom, I could have connected with them increasing my possibility of success. I do not mean to suggest that people of other ethnicities could not play a major role in my success but an experience of having African American role models would have helped my esteem as a young man. 

In a research project by Tom Dee states: 

Among black children, the results indicate that having a black teacher for a year was associated with a statistically significant 3 to 5 percentile-point increase in math scores. On the reading test, the scores of black pupils with black teachers were 3 to 6 percentile points higher. Meanwhile, white pupils of both genders placed with a white teacher scored 4 to 5 percentile points higher in math. In reading, white boys had scores 2 to 6 points higher when learning from a teacher of their own race, but for white girls, no significant differences could be detected.

When students have a teacher with whom they can identify racially, they do better. Black students do better with black teachers. Therefore, If we want black students to succeed we must hire and retain more black teachers.

#2  Create a team of faculty on each campus to focus on working with African American students 

There should be a team of faculty (a committee) who works with a focus on African American students. Their focus should be on cultivating a thriving African-American student body tending to cultural, social, emotional, and academical needs. Their job would be to monitor African American students’ academics, assist  African-American students with counseling support, help  African-American students to transition out of high school, and teach African American culture to African-American students and the entire student body.  This will help African American students to live in a society that values them and they will learn to value  themselves as African-Americans.

#3 Create mentorship processes

I work as a coordinator for a program called Male Leadership Academy. This academy is designed to help students at promised also known as students at risk and provide them with mentorship and field excursions broadening their experiences leading to the transformation of their social, emotional, academic, and cultural lives. There’s also a Female Leadership Academy which has the same goal. These types of programs should be pervasive on public school campuses and include large numbers of African American students with African American faculty involvement. The mentorships should focus on job training and business ownership.

#4 Name schools after people who worked toward equality for all  

Some will pass this off as a non-issue. Those who do lack empathy. Districts everywhere should change school names if the school bears the name of a person who worked against equality and diversity. It is psychologically irresponsible and an example of systemic racism to have the names of demonstrably racist people as the names of schools. Living in another person’s shoes quickly helps you to quickly draw the conclusion that a school with the name of someone who does not want your race to survive or thrive does not belong. 

I live in Long Beach. I love Long Beach. My children attend Long Beach schools. I teach at a school my cousins attend and other cousins have graduated. These matters are not just theoretical to me, they’re personal. We will know Long Beach has become what it needs to be when people we love, students and family, teachers and administrators, and all of Long Beach thrives socially, emotionally, culturally, and academically.

Featured image by Michael Henry on Unsplash

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