California’s economic prosperity may lie in a dozen recommendations for helping African American, Latino, and Southeast Asian boys succeed in school. The state Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color is releasing those proposals today in Sacramento along with testimony from an all-star panel of education, health, and workforce experts.

Committee members spent the last year and a half holding hearings across the state to gather personal stories, research, and examples of successful reforms. What they learned filled 19 bills that are currently before the Legislature. Nearly half those bills address the disproportionately high rates of school suspensions and expulsions meted out to boys of color.

The panel notes that although more than 70 percent of Californians under 25 aren’t white, they continue to face extensive economic, educational, and health barriers that prevent them, and eventually the state, from thriving.

California's population projection by race and gender. Source: 2010 Census. (Click to enlarge).

California’s population projection by race and gender. Source: 2010 Census. (Click to enlarge).

The committee’s policy platform warns that “Addressing racial disparities and the systemic barriers that limit the success of Californians is not merely a matter of fairness and equality—it is essential to the economic strength and competitiveness of the state.”

Some are quantifiable obstacles, according to the committee’s policy brief. As early as third grade, Latino and African American students are half as likely as white and Asian students to score in the proficient or advanced levels on the California Standards Test in English language arts. Breaking it down further, black and Latino girls do better than black and Latino boys.

Other challenges cited in the committee reports illustrate the insidious relationship between poverty, environment, and identity. Starting in kindergarten, nearly a quarter of African-American boys “are already convinced that they lack the ability to succeed in school,” according to the committee’s draft action plan.

The committee’s twelve recommendations include:

  • Revising the state’s Academic Performance Index to reward individual student growth over schoolwide improvement in order to ensure that students who won’t change the ranking aren’t ignored,
  • Identifying students at risk of failing the high school exit exam and providing tutoring several years before they have to take the test,
  • Building out the student database, known as CALPADS, to provide a more accurate picture of the factors and school programs that impede or improve academic performance.

 

Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, an Oakland Democrat and chair of the select committee, has a sense of urgency about the work. “There is no time to waste,” said Swanson when the panel was first convened. “In the face of demographic and social realities, California must lead the way in understanding and improving opportunities for Latino, Black, Asian Pacific Islander, and Native American youth.”


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  1. Gary Ravani 4 years ago4 years ago

    "Other challenges cited in the committee reports illustrate the insidious relationship between poverty, environment, and identity." Where will we find the likely solution to this "insidious relationship?" Test scores! Ignore that elephant in the room, poverty, and look at improving the API! An "identity" (and performance on both standardized and "standards base" tests) are imbedded by 3rd grade when kids have only been in school three full years (if they attend Kindergarten. This should demonstrate that … Read More

    “Other challenges cited in the committee reports illustrate the insidious relationship between poverty, environment, and identity.”

    Where will we find the likely solution to this “insidious relationship?” Test scores! Ignore that elephant in the room, poverty, and look at improving the API!

    An “identity” (and performance on both standardized and “standards base” tests) are imbedded by 3rd grade when kids have only been in school three full years (if they attend Kindergarten. This should demonstrate that the factors primarily influencing “accountability measures” are beyond the control of those being held accountable,” that is, teachers. Kids will have spent 17% of their waking lives in school by the time they complete 12th grade and 83% in their homes and communities. Is the 17% tail going to wag the 83% dog?

    Schools can do a lot with students who come with experiences and supports provided by outside sources. Our kids who live and attend schools in affluent communities prove this out by every measure from graduation rates, to ACT scores, to SAT scores, to college attendance and completion. The kids move on to become the backbone of the workforce of the 9th strongest economy in the world. All of this should demonstrate that the self-styled reformers agendas concentrated on “academic rigor” and evaluating and firing teachers is misplaced. It’s what’s happening outside the walls of the classroom that create failure.

    The Alameda Depart of Public Health created a report, Death By Unnatural Causes, that shows kids growing up in conditions of profound poverty in the “flats” of Oakland (low indicated school achievement) have a life expectancy 15 years shorter than kids growing up in the affluent hills of Oakland (high indicated school achievement). Violence is a part of that picture, but not as large a part as the heart disease, lung ailments, and diabetes that brings them to a too early demise. Chronic absence from school is a correlate of low school achievement and poverty. Kids in povberty get sick more often and tend to stay sick. Does anyone think growing up in an environment that’s killing you 15 years earlier than your peers just a few miles away doesn’t also affect your academic achievement? Does anyone think teachers can significantly impact those environmental conditions?

    Some will suggest that citing conditions of poverty in explaining disparities in academic success is “making excuses.” Excuses don’t kill people off a decade and a half early, but living in poverty will.

  2. Kathleen Sullivan 4 years ago4 years ago

    How can I get a copy of the report? Will it be available on line or can you mail me a copy at 820 23rd Street, Richmond CA 94804.

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