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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Report: Black male academic achievement is 'national catastrophe'



More bad news about the academic status of black males: Only 12 percent of black male fourth-graders are proficient in reading, compared to 38 percent for white males, according to NAEP scores highlighted by the Council of the Great City Schools in a new report.

Poverty alone isn’t the difference maker, says the report, which was released Tuesday: Poor white males do just as well as on reading and math tests as black males who are not poor.

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, told the New York Times in a story on the report. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Among them: “Conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”

The academic struggles of black males has been a hot topic in Tampa Bay lately, with poor graduation rates in Pinellas making news and the Council of the Great City Schools holding a national town hall meeting on the subject in Tampa last month.

The council looked at test scores for black males in a handful of big urban school districts including Miami-Dade, but Pinellas and Hillsborough were not among them.

It called for a White House conference: “This is a national catastrophe,” the report said, “and it deserves coordinated national attention.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 6:15pm]


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