Black male educators are working hard to ensure that more Black boys are walking across graduation stages and not leaving high school without a diploma. The school-to-prison pipeline is a sad reality for many Black and brown youth targeted by the criminal justice system.
Yet, for the last several years, it seems the roadblocks are prevailing. Black boys aren’t earning their high school diploma but building license plates in prisons. In Metro Atlanta, several high schools continue to drop the ball in how they engage Black families in the process of preparing Black boys for graduation.
And this crisis is not limited to Atlanta. While many fight to implement more ‘progressive values’ in cities across the country, a new report shows that black children still get left behind. The report from brightbeam, “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunities for All,” shows how progressive cities around the country are failing black children, having even larger opportunity gaps than conservative cities.
If we can’t get Black boys in the doors of high schools, then how are we ensuring they are college and career ready?
That’s why graduation for Black boys is more than a milestone! Many Black boys who have experienced challenges in school academically, behaviorally, and socially are oftentimes the same children who are given the runaround when it comes to graduation. “It’s like being punished after being told you can pass the class, master the test, and recover from past mistakes only to still be short-changed,” said one Atlanta Black male student who is still waiting on clearance from his school to graduate.
We get stuck on playing the “blame game” when it comes to why Black boys aren’t succeeding and graduating from public schools!
Public school leaders would argue that Black parents should take advantage of the meetings they offer or how Black boys should be more responsible and that families should be more engaged. Black parents and families would counter and say schools need to do their job starting with effectively communicating with them and Black boys in their schools.
At the end of the day, the feud between school leaders and Black parents won’t change the reality that too many Black boys are not walking across the stage to receive their high school diploma because we failed them.
Here are some ways we can effectively ensure Black boys complete their high school programs:
- School districts should create college & career readiness success plans for all students that track yearly progress, 9th – 12th, as well as indicates what classes are required and by when before students enter 9th grade.
- The staff that work in the support areas i.e. registration, attendance, counseling, family engagement, behavior and graduation support should ensure students and families are kept in the loop about items needed for graduation.
- The graduation clearance process should begin a month in advance to give students who lack the required items enough time to complete requirements. A part of this should be a mandatory meeting with the student, parents, teachers, and administration.
- The Student/School Compact or Contract that all stakeholders i.e. administrators/school rep, parents, and students sign should be followed. This is a tool already in place to help ensure accountability measures for student success are met.
- Family coaching and mentoring for students who are 1st generation college-bound or who have families that have experienced challenges with reaching graduation milestones should be offered.
As the school to prison pipeline is growing in rural and urban communities across America, it’s going to take more adults to work effectively together to ensure Black boys reach success in and out of school.
We must be empowered to make changes in public education so Black boys can succeed!
Preventative measures that cause Black boys not to graduate include missing books, unpaid for lunch fees, past-due library books, missing school uniforms, etc.should be reformed and removed. These small barriers to graduation can change the course of success for Black boys and their families.
My charge to families, educators, and community stakeholders is to help ensure that more of our Black boys find success by walking across the stage, completing high school, and being job-ready. There are too many Black boys being incarcerated or involved in a tragedies that prevent them from reaching success.
We must remember, if we’re not working together to push Black boys through the graduation pathway, we’re pushing them into the prison pipeline.