Raising the Academic Achievement Levels of Black Students

| 12/02/2010 | Comments (5)

A recent New York Times article by Trip Gabriel entitled “Proficiency of Black Students is Found to be far Lower Than Expected” exposed bleak statistics on the academic test scores of African American children in the United States.

An achievement gap separating black from white students has long been documented — a social divide extremely vexing to policy makers and the target of one blast of school reform after another.

But a new report focusing on black males suggests that the picture is even bleaker than generally known.

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Educators are scrambling to figure out WHY, while inner-city black parents often point to the dearth of solid, caring teachers in their neighborhood public schools, or the negative influence of hip hop music. Though the school environment can certainly hinder or support and advance a child’s academic success, it is my belief that school is NOT where the foundation for learning and future academic achievement should be established.  That process must begin at home.

With an estimated 70% or more of Black children being raised in single parent homes by a financially strapped, hard working single Mom, opportunities for learning time are fewer than in a home with two parents.  Yet if African Americans are to move forward and remain competitive in the future job market, a change in mentality about educating our children is mandatory, and the changes must be made immediately.

Before the age of five a child’s mind is like a sponge and it soaks up all the knowledge and information a parent can provide. Whether the information provided is learning the latest dance, memorizing the lyrics of Soulja Boy’s new cut, or learning to read, comprehend and write English is up to the parent.

I believe most Moms and Dads want the best for their children, but perhaps they weren’t the smartest in school themselves and don’t have the ability to help their child achieve academically.  Some parents want the best for their child, but their “best” focuses on designer clothing labels and fancy cars – not on high SAT scores and college degrees.

That is the reality of the Black community – some of us care about education and some of us don’t.

But for those parents that are looking for ideas on what they can do to create opportunities for learning and achievement for their children, I have some thoughts to share:

#1 Black parents need to throw away all televisions except ONE in a central location in the home that can be monitored. Not only is television expensive, the programming coming across the screen these days is becoming more ignorant and mind-numbing by the day.  Statistically, Black people watch more of that Idiot Box than any other segment of the U.S. population, and it makes your children stupid. Television is often used as a babysitter when instead children should be reading a book to Mom while she cooks dinner, doing math and spelling flash cards, or practicing writing their ABC’s and name. Children should not have televisions in their room, nor their own computers until they are in high school and have a job.

reading improves intellect for young black students academically

#2 Black parents need to take their children to the library more and the movies less. Libraries are free, movies cost a fortune. Books open your child’s mind and imagination, enabling them to envision all sorts of wonderful things and places that you may never see in real life.  A creative mind can create a “movie” from the written word.

Choose from classic literature, children’s books written that feature Black and other minorities  in starring roles, or fun and silly age appropriate stories that you and your child can share.  Read to your children from birth. They may not understand the words, but hearing them and having you close  improves a child’s security and verbal skills.  Give books as gifts instead of clothes or toys.

#3 Black parents must monitor what their children listen to on the radio, what music they download onto their MP3 players or phones, and what music they buy on CDs. Talking with your child about violence, sexism, inappropriate behavior towards other people (especially women) is mandatory. Set the example for your children by not calling your spouse foul names or displaying violent tendencies towards your children or others. When you explain negative influences to your child so that they can understand WHY certain songs are harmful to them and their developing mind, they’ll learn to respect themselves and others, and be much less likely to adopt an attitude which emulates rap stars.

#4 Teach your children how to articulately express themselves in both written and verbal forms. Do not use  “baby talk” when you speak to young children. They can learn English, Spanish and French at the same time you are teaching them to say “pee pee” and “wah wah” instead of urinate and water. Take your children to museums and art exhibits and then have them write a paper that YOU (or a trusted academically proficient friend/family member) grades. You can do the same with a trip to the zoo – children love animals, and researching then writing about the natural habitat, foods and lifestyle of various animals fascinates young minds. Do the same with the books they read, as knowing how to write a proper book report is mandatory.  Get your children accustomed to producing structured, grammatically correct writings early in life so that it becomes second nature.

#5 Have “Word of the Day” for the entire family. Each of you can learn the definition of the new word, how to correctly use the word in a sentence, how to spell the word, and a few synonyms.  A vast vocabulary enables your child to sustain verbal discourse intelligently and to speak eloquently and professionally with a wide variety of people.

black students successful education black children academics

#6 Play games with your child that require personal interaction and thinking. Stop letting them go off alone to play those damn video games… mindless expensive nonsense that makes your child stupid and exposes them to unnecessary violence.  Through mathematical, scientific and logical reasoning games, your child will develop academically and learn critical thinking skills that will carry your baby far in life.

A great way to teach your black student fractions, the metric system and the U.S. unit measurement system is through cooking.  Halving or doubling cookie recipes is a simple, fun and tasty way to teach these concepts.  Teacher supply stores sell speciality educational products, games and toys all over the country and probably online as well. Many games and educational materials are also available for reasonable prices at mass market retailers such as Walmart and Costco.

#7 If you see that your child is lagging in a specific subject and you don’t have money to hire a professional tutor, look into hiring a high school student. As long as the kid is about 3 years older than your child and has done well in the subjects in which they will be tutoring, you are good to go! That $20-40 per week for a month or two will pay huge dividends when your child actually grasps concepts that he or she is struggling with in math, english or science.  Don’t ignore the areas in which your grade school child is weak, as you set him or her up for failure in middle and high school.

With a solid foundation of spelling, writing, reading, math and critical reasoning, there is nothing that would keep a black student  from competing academically with any other race of child in America. All that is required is a shift in direction for black parents that may be headed down the wrong path.

Let this post be your map.

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Veteran social researcher, relationship advice columnist, author and radio host. Author of hundreds of articles on American and black culture, gender issues, singles, dating and relationships. Author of "Sucka Free Love!" , "The 24 Types of Suckas to Avoid," "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Pray," and "Why Vegan is the New Black" all available on Amazon.Com. Her unique voice and insightful commentary have delighted fans and riled haters for 20 years. Read her stuff on SurvivingDating.Com and AskHeartBeat.Com.

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  1. Erica says:

    I so agree with this. My five year old Goddaughter started 1st Grade two weeks ago. The reason she is in that grade is all on her mother. From the time she was a baby books were all around her.She can read, write her name,count. Just because her mother took the time to sit with her and do educational stuff.Nothing irks me like those video games. I don’t have any children but I swear if any future boy child of mine ever ask me for one of them. I better stop now. Seriously some black people need to get their act together when it comes to their children. Being educated DOES NOT equal white!

  2. Simon says:

    Good article Ms. Cooper, although, the study was awful.

    Education is valued by some and is not by others. This situation has to change in Black communities.

    I recall my aunt arguing with my cousin’s father about education. That idiot, clamored, I don’t want her in all that book learning, she will like them-white people…cringing. Yet, only she has an associates degree, the other 5 are losers, one is in jail.

  3. Raz says:

    Another excellent article! This should be blasted out to all these minority community centers, and other places that feature advocating education for minority children. Excellent!

    This is going to require some commitment from the parents. However sadly most parents have these kids but they are too impatient, too busy too, something to actually ‘actively parent’ the kids they brought into the world. And some of these folks bring more than one and can’t half raise the one child. Too many stupid folks having kids and not taking up time with their own kids and looking to the school to pick up the slack.

    Parents are the child’s first teacher and parents have been slacking. Get with it parents stop being lazy and sluggish about educating your own child.

    • carolin andrews says:

      An excellent article. I am going to take heed- not only am I gong to talk the talk, I will walk it too. I vow to work harder and smarter educating mine and whatever child I come into contact with !!!!

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