In a recent report entitled, “Breaking Barriers: Plotting the Path to Academic Success for School-Age African-American Males,” Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Foundation, Inc., identifies salient factors that improve educational outcomes for Black males. He uses data from four nationally recognized databases, such as Health Behavior in School-Age Children, National Crime Victimization Survey: School Crime Supplement, National Survey of America’s Families, and National Survey on Drug Use and Health to develop the research policy report. More specifically, Dr. Toldson uses these databases to explore personal and emotional factors, family factors, social and environmental factors, and school factors. These are the common domains thought to impact educational outcomes for students in general and Black males in particular.
In summation, Dr. Toldson found strong correlations between academic achievement and the aforementioned factors. Regarding personal and emotional factors, he also found that academically successful Black males were almost two times as likely to report feeling happy about their life, when compared to their Black male counterparts who were failing. Consistent with past studies, he also discovered that Black males who hoped to attend college were more likely to do better in school. Additionally, Dr. Toldson found that high-achieving Black males had more positive experiences with classmates and less involvement with bullying and fighting compared to their peers.
Regarding family factors, Black males, with a father in the home, had higher levels of academic success. Father’s educational level also had more impact on Black males’ school outcomes than mother’s education. However, this was not true for their Black female counterparts. Regarding social and environmental factors, Black males — who resided in homes with more financial resources — did better in school than those who did not have such resources. Additionally, participation in sports positively influenced these students’ academic achievement.
Consistent with current research literature, Dr. Toldson also found that the teacher played a tremendous role in the Black males’ education. For example, the students tended do better in school and were engaged, when they had teachers who were interested in them. Additionally, regarding school factors, Dr. Toldson found that the students did better in school, when they felt safe and were less likely to carry a weapon.
This report was both timely and insightful. I strongly recommend that the readers of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education review this report. It provides a fresh perspective on Black male students at the secondary level. In my opinion, Dr. Toldson does a great job linking his findings to public policy. Hopefully, such work, as well mine, will find its way in the hands of policy makers, practitioners, and the Black community at-large.
Like I always, I look forward to having intimate dialogue and exchange on the findings of the report and its many implications to policy and practice. If you would like to retrieve the report, I recommend that you click on the following website: http://www.cbcfinc.org/Newsroom/black_males.html .
Dr. James L. Moore III is a tenured associate professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology and is the inaugural director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male at The Ohio State University.