February 27, 2014 marked a momentous day in the United States when President Obama approved the immediate release of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, an interagency effort to improve educational and life outcomes for boys and young men of color. While statistics President Obama presented at his speech emphasize the need for the initiative, many more of these appalling, national facts urge a call to action. Recalling his own youth of personal struggles and hardships, the President indicated the initiative will analyze current policies and efforts in effect as a basis to develop plans for positive development and improvement.

Workforce participation

Among black male high school dropouts in their late 20s in 2000, more were in prison on a given day (34%) than were working (30%).

In January 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics determined that between the ages of 16-24, only 28% of black men were employed, in comparison to 43% Hispanic men, and 44% white men in the same age range.

Among 16-24 year-old males of color not enrolled in school, less than half have jobs and about a third are in prison or jail, or on probation or parole.

Juvenile and criminal justice involvement
In 1980, 17% of black male high-school dropouts in their early 30s were incarcerated; by the year 2000, this figure more than tripled to almost 60%.

In 2007, the ratios of males in their 20s that were in jail or prison were 1 in every 8 black males, 1 in every 26 Latino males, and 1 in every 59 white males.

Should incarceration rates continue without change, 1 in 3 black males will go to prison at least once in their lifetime, in comparison to 1 in 6 Latino males and 1 in 17 white males.

60% of Black students drop out of high school and spend time in prison.

The Schott Foundation for Public Education, which has tracked graduation rates of black males from public schools since 2004, reports 52% of black males who entered ninth grade in the 2006-07 school year graduated in four years. That compared with 78% of white, non-Latino males and 58% of Latino males.

Of young males between ages 16-25 who dropped out of high school in 2007, 1 in 5 were Latino males, 1 in 8 were black males, and 1 in 17 were white males.

In 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau determined that only 19% of black males had college degrees, in comparison to 13% of Hispanic males, 30% of white males, and 56% of Asian and Pacific Islander males.

In at least 124 school districts across the United States, more than half of Black students experience suspension from school at least once, according to information associated with the PBS series, Education Under Arrest.

The state of California fails to graduate 34.7% of its black youth and 25.5% of its Latino youth, as compared to 12.2% of its white youth.

The highest graduation rates for Black youth are in states with lower Black populations: Maine: 97%; Arizona: 84%; Vermont: 82%; Utah: 76%, Idaho: 73%. In contrast, states with high Black populations graduate Black youth at the lowest rates: Ohio: 45%, Nebraska: 44%, Iowa: 41%, District of Columbia: 38%, and New York: 37%.

Guilford County Schools in North Carolina have regularly been recognized as having some of the highest graduation rates for Black males of any district in the country.

Recommendations for improving the educational experience of boys and young men of color
Support collaborative learning and teaching among school teachers.

Ensure teachers sufficient time and expert facilitation to work and learn together.

Examine teaching performance regularly with tools such as value-added measures, observations,
portfolios, and student surveys.

Encourage districts and colleges to incorporate early opportunities to earn college credit, nontraditional recruitment strategies, community service in high-need neighborhoods, and the promise of jobs to students completing the “pipeline program.”

Call for a moratorium on school suspensions, due to disproportionate use on minority children and children with disabilities.

Regulate suspensions by employing a team to analyze discipline data with the goal of reducing the suspension rate by 30% over a specified time period.

Provide support with individual plans involving tutoring, mentoring, and mental health and health care.

Offer “personal opportunity plans” which provide any student falling a year or more below their grade level with academic and social support.

Target literacy in elementary schools, with hands-on instruction to make sure Black students don’t fall behind their peers.

Amurao, C. (2013, February 21). “Fact sheet: Is the dropout problem real?” Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/education-under-arrest/fact-sheet-drop-out-rates-of-african-american-boys/

Gamboa, S. (2012, September 19). “High school graduation rate for black males trails white students.” Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/19/black-male-hs-graduation-_n_1896490.html

Glenn, T. B. (2012). Finding our way back to first; Reclaiming world leadership by educating all America’s children. Retrieved from http://www.naacp.org/blog/entry/naacp-2012-education-report

Lowrey, W. (2014, March 25). “Clogging the pipeline: Can the school to prison pipeline be solved?” Episode 6: Education Under Arrest. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/education-under-arrest/clogging-the-pipeline-can-the-schools-to-prison-pipeline-problem-be-solved/

Okpalaoka, U. (2012, September 20). “Report: Only 52 percent of black males graduate from high school in 4 years.” Retrieved from http://thegrio.com/2012/09/20/report-only-52-percent-of-black-males-graduate-from-high-school-in-4-years/