African American Males and the Education System by Dr. Tamika Thomas and Dr. Ella Macklin

Part 1 of a 3 Part Series-The Problem: There is a disproportionate number of African American males (*16%) placed in special education. Many are mistakenly labeled as having:

    • Intellectual disabilities
    • Specific learning disabilities
    • Emotional Disturbance

Sometimes, this contributes to the school to prison pipeline factor. African American males are negatively perceived at early ages by society at large. Responses to dismantling these false perceptions and myths surrounding African American males are rooted in various researched-based theories:

Culturally Reciprocal Relationships (Harry et al., 1999)

    • Cultural reciprocity helps build relationships with schools, families, teacher, and community.
    • Cultural reciprocity requires explicit dialogue with families about values and practices at home and school.

Critical Race Theory (Ladson-Billings, 1999)

    • Critical race theory employs storytelling in order to integrate the voice of those who have been oppressed. This voice brings power to the viewpoints and stance of the oppressed.
    • Critical race theorists acknowledge racism is a normal part of American society that needs to be exposed.
    • Critical race theory argues racism requires immediate sweeping changes.

We need these responses to permeate throughout school systems across the United States. It can begin in classrooms by considering the following recommendations by scholars:

    • Create critical cultural consciousness.
    • Teachers need to be aware of how their culture affects how they respond to students from other ethnic backgrounds.
    • Teachers should be aware of learning styles and communication styles of their students.
    • Teachers need to analyze and reflect on how their personal cultural values shape the decisions they make in the classroom each day.

*NCES 2019-2020

We welcome your questions and comments to engage in a dialogue about how together, we can better support African American male students and their families!

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