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Recent Report Identifies Factors That Improve Educational Outcomes for Black Males

By James Moore III

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: .

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.

Ph.d.’s in African American Studies at HBCUs: A Response to Where are They?

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman

This week Diverse: Issues in Higher Education ran a story entitled “Black Colleges Still Lacking Ph.D. African American Studies Program.”  The article rightly told the story of the development and expansion of doctoral programs in African American studies at historically White institutions and chastised Black colleges for having no programs — none at all.

According to a must-read book by Delores Aldridge and Carlene Young entitled Out of the Revolution: The Development of Africana Studies, the first courses that truly addressed the African American experience can be traced back to W. E. B. Du Bois’s teaching students at Atlanta University (now part of Clark-Atlanta University) in the early 1900s.  Although courses, like those  Du Bois taught, spread to some other Black colleges, the momentum never caught on.  According to Aldridge and Young, to date, no Black college has “required institution-wide a course with the black experience as its exclusive or primary focus” (p. 299).  Without this commitment, it seems unlikely that Black colleges would consider establishing a Ph.D. program in African American studies.

Of course, there are other reasons that make it difficult for Black colleges to create an African American studies Ph.D.  First, many leaders of HBCUs argue that all of the classes at an HBCU are taught with an Afrocentric perspective given that the focus of the institution overall is dedicated to the racial uplift of African Americans.  Critics of HBCUs would argue that Black college curricula is not Afrocentric and relies too heavily on Western perspectives.  Still other critics would argue that many HBCUs are often too conservative and unwilling to take risks with their curricula.

Second, very few HBCUs have doctoral programs.  In fact, out of 103 HBCUs, only 23 offer doctoral degrees.  Most Black colleges are just that — colleges and are focused on undergraduate education.  As such, it would make sense that there would be few doctoral programs in African American studies — but none is hard to justify!

Third, and this is perhaps the most convincing argument on the part of Black college leaders, doctoral programs are expensive to run.  They are especially expensive because most elite institutions (where the majority of African American studies doctoral programs are housed) can offer large fellowship packages to students — packages with which HBCUs cannot compete. 

Regardless of these reasons, Black colleges should aim to establish doctoral programs in African American studies.  They should lead the nation in providing a doctoral experience that focuses on the African Diaspora.  And, more importantly, they should produce future scholars and faculty members who will shape and challenge the minds of African American students.  In the words of Alan Colon, “HBCUs have the obligation to help change assumptions that have prevailed about the sanctity of Western civilization and the conventional ideologies that emanate from it” (p. 304, Out of the Revolution).


An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions (SUNY Press, 2008).

New Books Related To Black Colleges

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman

Recently, there have been several new books published related to historically Black colleges and universities.  I suggest that you check them out.  They include:

Joy is a dynamic professor at the University of Washington, Seattle.  She is also the author of Black Power on Campus: The University of Illinois, 1965-1975.  Joy’s work is thorough and her writing will entice you to want to know more about the history of African Americans in higher education.

Michael Bieze is the Chair of the Art Department at the Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia.  His work on Booker T. Washington, the leader of Tuskegee Institute, is innovative and brave.

Writing with two of his students, Charles Willie includes both an historical and current examination of Black colleges in his newest book.  For a classic on Black colleges, see Charles Willie and Ronald Edmonds’ Black Colleges in America: Challenge, Development, Survival.

Love and responsibility are keys to the Covenant

By James Ewers


 Tavis Smiley’s “The Covenant With Black America” has been out a couple of years and it, along with the the companion book entitled “The Covenant in Action,” is a must read if you are interested in grass roots change.  As many of you will recall, Tavis Smiley had a talk show with Black Entertainment Television some years ago.  He parted ways with BET and went on to distinguish himself in public television and public radio along with being a regular contributor to the Tom Joyner Morning Show.  It is my thinking that this book, The Covenant, rose out of The State of The Black Union, of which Smiley is keenly involved. This day long program had its beginning in 2000 and has been going strong ever since that time. The premise of the program is to extol black people to take responsibility for their lives in all areas. 


Many African Americans like me grew up in an unequal South yet we never felt unequal.  Growing up in Winston-Salem, N.C., I always thought that I would be successful at something; I just didn’t know what that would be.  This attitude and belief of success that I had I must firmly attribute to my mom and dad.  I have no doubt in my mind that had it not been for God and for my parents, I would have been a statistic, a bad one. 


Early on in The Covenant, we are issued a clarion call by Marian Wright Edelman, leader of the Children’s Defense Fund.  She writes, “Black children are disproportionately denied a fair chance and are disproportionately poor. An un-level playing field from birth contributes to many black children getting pulled into a cradle-to-prison-to-death pipeline that we must dismantle if the clock of racial and social progress is to not turn backwards.”  Some will argue with the veracity of Wright Edelman’s statements.  However the question for many of us is, how do we prepare our children to face this world?  Marian Wright Edelman in her statement of purpose says, “The Covenant With Black America calls upon all parents, educators, preachers, social service providers, community leaders and policy-makers to act now and create a brighter future for our children.”  If you are in the aforementioned group, you are on call 365 days a year.


This book has ten specific covenants and they are as follows:  Covenant I: Securing The Right To Healthcare and Well-Being, Covenant II: Establishing A System Of Public Education In Which All Children Achieve At High Levels and Reach Their Full Potential, Covenant III: Correcting The System of Unequal Justice, Covenant IV: Fostering Accountable Community-Centered Policing, Covenant V: Ensuring Broad Access To Affordable Neighborhoods That Connect to Opportunity, Covenant VI: Claiming Our Democracy, Covenant VII: Strengthening Our Rural Roots, Covenant VIII: Accessing Good Jobs, Wealth, and Economic Prosperity, Covenant IX: Assuring Environmental Justice For All and Covenant X: Closing The Racial Digital Divide.  My reasoning for going to great length to list each covenant is simply that it may compel you to go out and purchase this book or to check it out at your local library.  My hope is that there will be such a groundswell that library officials will have to order several copies of the book.  Please prove me right!


There are throughout the book some themes that resonate, self-love and personal responsibility chief among them. Loving yourself is the key to loving others.  It is impossible to give love when you don’t have love.  While it may sound simplistic, self-love leads to a healthy self-concept which then brings on a can-do attitude.  One of the most over-used expressions at least since I have been around is “your attitude determines your altitude.”  Attitude and love go together. While some may disagree, we cannot wallow and fester in blame as this mindset has already destroyed many of us.  We use it as an excuse not to achieve our goals and our dreams.  We can do better and we must! 


In Covenant II, Edmund G. Gordon says, “Education starts at home, in neighborhoods, and in communities. Reading to children, creating time and space for homework and demonstrating through words and deeds that education is important are the key building blocks for high education attainment.”  It is hard to disagree with this statement.  There are many school systems across the country that are becoming more parent-friendly.  Parents, love providers and schools need one another.  When all of us get that message we will be better off.  As parents, we must make ourselves viable, visible and valuable in our schools.


So as you get ready for summer, pick up this book because it does provide you with a blueprint for what needs to be done.  Pass this message on, and as Tavis Smiley always says, “keep the faith.”