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.
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.”