By Roger Caldwell
In the Black community in 2018, the overall academic achievement of African American males is appallingly low, and there should be a call to action nationwide. It is time to restore an appreciation of the role of education with young Black men and women in our community.
Michael Casserly, executive director of the Great City Schools, states that Black males now make up only 5 percent of college enrollment nationally, but 36 percent of the prison population. This is a crisis in the Black com-munity, and “The problem can’t be quarantined” says Michael Eric Dy-son, a professor at Georgetown University.
It is very easy to bury our heads in the sand, or put the blame on the educational system and claim America is racist. But by 4th grade, only 12% of Black male students read at or above grade level, and by 8th grade, the achievement gap falls to just 9% for Black males.
So when the experts talk about a prison pipeline in poor Black neighborhoods, it is a result of many Black males dropping out of school. “Black male students are almost twice as likely as white males to drop out of school. And in some big American cities, the dropout rate is around 50% percent” according to Bill Whitaker of CBS News.
In Orange County [FL] Public Schools (OCPS), there is a department dedicated to narrowing the achievement gap for underperforming minority students. The office is entitled the Minority Achievement Office (MAO), and it is committed to improving student’s efforts by the development of initiatives and projects that accelerate their learning.
Under the leadership of James Lawson (MAO-Officer), Dr. Ella Thompson, Dr. Brian Agard, and their mentoring team, they held their first mentoring recruitment event at the Ron Blocker Educational Leadership Center on Thursday August 9, 2018, with about one hundred past and new mentors attending. The goal this year is to attract 1,000 mentors with a focus in the underperforming schools in the system.
The Orange County Public School Mentoring program is connected to President Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ national program. Without a good education, many of our young males of color are disappearing, and dropping out of school. The Minority Achievement Office needs business professionals, parents, community leaders, college students, and all stakeholders to assist our young males in building their strength to succeed.
Serving as a mentor brings many challenges and rewards, and can offer life and career-changing benefits to both parties. The mentor becomes a source of wisdom, support, and offers encouragement. Time and trust are essential to building a strong relationship as a mentor.
There is an emergency and a crisis in the Black community and communities of color when it comes to young males. There are positive things happening in the Minority Achievement Office, but this initiative must become a movement, and more leaders must begin the conversation starting at the county level to become engaged.
This year the Minority Achievement Office will focus on six milestones of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative: 1) entering school ready to learn, 2) reading at grade level by third grade, 3) graduating from high school ready for college and career, 4) completing post-secondary education or training, 5) successfully entering the workforce, and 6) reduce youth violence and provide a second chance.
OCPS’s vision and mission is to be the top producer of successful students in the nation, leading our students to success with the support of families, teachers, and the community. For more information, please call Minority Achievement Office at (407) 317-3470.