Wednesday: Researchers, Oakland district staff, to discuss the recent reports on black male achievement

An earlier thread about African American male achievement elicited some thoughtful comments and ideas. Want to learn more about what the district is doing in response to this data, or to share your ideas with the researchers and the head of OUSD’s black male achievement office, Chris Chatmon?

Urban Strategies Council is hosting an hour-long webinar on the subject at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). You can register here.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • http://www.thrivingstudents.org/47 Troy Flint

    Just wanted to point out that Wednesday’s session is the second in a series of four Urban Strategies-hosted webinars on “disproportionate outcomes” for black males (basically why black males fare more poorly, on average, than other demographic groups) in OUSD.

    The first webinar, on May 30, provided an overview of the work of the Office of African-American Male Achievement (AAMA). This Wednesday’s presentation is focused more closely on the topic of discipline and suspensions, so while it will touch on a number of AAMA initiatives, it’s not an overview of the program, per se.

    If you’re interested in more information about OUSD’s efforts to improve performance and outcomes for black males, please visit http://www.thrivingstudents.org/47. If you prefer, video to text, you can go straight to this link to hear staff discuss the subject in their own words http://www.thrivingstudents.org/47/interviews-ousd-leaders

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for the additional info, Troy.

  • Nextset

    I looked at some of the propaganda.

    What they are planning will increase black boy failure. If we want things to change for the better we need to listen very carefully to what is planned and do the exact opposite.

  • Catherine

    I want to hear from administrators what they are planning to do to help these young men develop the self-discipline they are often lacking in the classrooms today that causes suspensions for “non-violent” aggressive behavior toward adults and other students.

    I see there will be a school “100 Black Men” however, what are other schools doing to change things so that black male students, particularly struggling students whose self-esteem is suffering from lack of confidence and competence at grade-level education achievement.

    Perhaps I missed it in the report, however, I did not see the issues addressed and the principals of the flatland schools – particularly those with ratings of 3 or lower do not interact with the black male students at all. They leave it to the classroom teachers to handle. (Experience in six elementary schools)

  • Nextset

    Catherine: Remember what I said about doing the opposite of what is being talked here….

    The last thing the black boys need is anybody building up their self-esteem. That’s the problem, they have way too much of it, unearned. The minute these feel-good-waste-of-times start yammering about how they are going to build these boys “esteem” up, I’m gone. They just don’t get it.

    In fact these efforts will make the black boys worse. Funny, that’s just what has happened since this nonsense came into vogue in the mid-60s. And I was there.

    Amazing how nobody is worried about building up the self esteem of the Asian & Jewish kids. Half of the jewish kids seem to have psychiatrists on speedial. I’ve booked a Jewish (late adolescent) kid into a psychiatrist myself – good thing, too. He needed to start an Rx just to function. And then there’s the Asian Boys. We don’t see these kids committing all the crime because of insufficient self esteem.

    So back to the point. Black boys in puberty are pretty well loaded on testosterone. Self Esteem is not the problem. Their mothers might be the big problem. That’s another post.

    Well meaning (or not) programs like these are only going to get you more of the same. This is how we got in the mess in the first place. Keep this up and you will get more dead and jailed Black Boys. But then we already know that, don’t we?

    Working the (at risk) black boys – who are for the most part the products of goofy black mothers – is not a difficult thing to do. We see it done in boot camps and football teams everywhere. As I write this I have a friend’s nephew in boot camp – he is ROTC/College and ended up in boot camp this summer prior to the next college year. Foster home product – Daddy on drugs/prison – Mommy abandoned the children in early teens to run off across the country with a lover. You know the risk factors. No one let him have “self-esteem” until after his chores were done, and then in very small doses. He lived on the charity of others and only now for the first time does he have his own household (courtesy of money from the military for living expenses while he’s in their college program pre-induction).

    He does not have a surplus of self esteem. That’s how he made it. I can go on about people and what I’ve seen across my life – but you get the point.

    You want to help the black boys, get rid of the women authority figures in their lives. Put them under an Alpha Male. Knock the smart out of them, break them down and then build them up using a mold or model you select. End of problem. It works for all races of boys, tried and tested for thousands of years.

    And yes, you can do this in a public school setting. It was once the norm.

  • Jerry Heverly

    I’ve been fascinated by your comments over the past year or so. I’d like to ask you….
    I have black students who probably fit your description. They have bravado, if that is what you mean by an excess of self esteem. But I remember at least one kid from last year who fit the model, but he had two college educated parents at home. Many of my black students have just a mother at home, though, I’ll stipulate to that.
    I’m a white, elderly, male. I can’t be an Alpha Male, I’m just not constituted that way.
    We have a black female principal who might be able to take on that role but she is tied down with meetings and administrative duties. I seldom see her, though I respect her quite a bit. She relates to black boys very well, from what little I’ve seen, but she has only a small role in discipline. A white, female, assistant principal handles all of that.
    I’m certain that I’m not much of a role model for my black students–too old, too white, too cerebral, too uncool. But I also know that I don’t have the talent to be the hardass that might fit what you seem to be recommending. I don’t think I feel ‘guilty’ about what I haven’t been able to do, I just feel lost. And every time I read one of your comments that piques my interest I read another comment that suggests just the opposite, and that seems reasonable, too.

  • Nextset

    The alpha male thing can be a football coach, an Army Drill instructor, or a man in a wheelchair.

    When I was 18 I was particularly impressed by an elderly Jewish Man who was VP/Controller in a large company (100s of employees). I’d have to compare him to Hyman Rickover who by the way was involved on a project with my older brother. l can also mention Edward Teller who in his 80s ran a high school class at Lawrence Livermore Lab.

    While brawn can serve in the alpha male thing there are plenty of examples where brawn was not the selling point. Maybe it’s an attitude.

    As a lawyer one of the most important figures I worked for starting out was a WWII Japanese POW who when he was released (supposedly long after the surrender) returned to the states and went to night law school. He was not tall and not heavy. He was fierce beyond anything else in town though. He ran his section of the organization like Stalag 13. He had the back of his people. He also had the best information flow in town.

    All these people were authoritarian, dealt with technology and information flows, had to deal with a lot of strife and constant dealings with strangers and politics. They also dealt with recruitment and hiring, firing and discipline.

    I once had a student working for me who was an Indian Immigrant. She mentioned her people were generations of army officers. Her parents wanted her to be a housewife and mother – she wanted a career. I accused her of looking for an army to join. She thought about that and agreed that that was what seemed to be happening.

    Black boys just love football teams. Gee, wonder why?

    So give them a football team, one way or another. Romper Room isn’t going to work.

    They’ll quit Romper Room.

  • Nextset

    I probably left too much out in the above. You can capture the interest of your black boys by giving them a struggle, a conflict, even if it’s artificially created. Create a contest, a competition to prepare for. Create a hierarchy, create lines of authority, create responsibilities even if they are tokens.

    Like in boot camp, the factions are artificial and upon completion they are dissolved leaving the troops with only the corps or each other to be loyal to. Like Delancey Street – you work them (addicts in their case) to the point of exhaustion so they will sleep at night when you let them go down at 1am. It keeps the students/inmates busy enough to stay out of trouble and off heroin.

    Good schools do this with homework or class projects. Even busywork or easy projects can be used to manipulate the students into the finished products the school wants.

    And never underestimate the value of class speakers brought in from industry, military and higher ed to talk about how they got their careers and what they do in them. You can mix entertainment with inculcation of values.

    A good was to diminish the urge to drop out is to have something going on at school individuals don’t want to be the one to miss. Hard work – as in football practice – doesn’t run the kiddies off. Boredom does run them off. You don’t get bored hanging on for dear life on a roller coaster. You brag about doing it and surviving.

    A good teacher/principal creates a program that may intimidate but creates an esprit de corps. For example the Oakland Tech Demonstration Summer School that UC Berkeley used to run.

    Cognition is nice but not required for the hard work and esprit de corps. A student should not be in a class with no reasonable expectation of being able to do the work. That’s why IQ testing and tracking is so important. For each band of cognition there should be a program that grabs their attention. One size does not fit all unless you want the dulls to drop out – in OUSD’s case half the blacks.

    OUSD has done much better previously (5 decades ago) and the problems they have today with the black students are purely of the school’s creation.

    And they will not fix it with touchy feely feel-good self esteem building nonsense. That is just a fraud designed to fool stupid people into thinking the program means well or is trying to improve. Stupid people stick around for more failure. Smart people get their children out of these schools.

  • Nextset

    In a nutshell you will be able to control, direct and educate the black boys & girls when you get them WAY out of their comfort zone. So forget the self esteem building and create a program that tears down their comfort leaving you as the lifeline and tour guide. Arrange for structured conflict (red and blue teams, boys vs girls, artificial teams) and a series of minor achievable successes. These can be called a quiz. Keep things unpredictable but move towards a climax. Foster a covert sense of superiority by sub rosa political incorrectness.

    You know, like football.

    If they can’t function transfer them elsewhere until they do find a home.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Here is a question that the researchers on this project should investigate: When African-American males attend a school other than the school in their attendance area, do their test scores, grades, attendance, and discipline records improve, get worse, or stay the same.

    Oakland Unified has made school choice the centerpiece of its educational program, but I don’t believe it has ever examined the results of that policy.

  • Nextet

    Today I bumped into an old friend who teaches at a very well known vocational “college”. I asked what’s up at work. What I was told was that the Cal Grants are gone so the student body has halved. The average incoming student is 25 and unemployable. He/she has spent the last several years lounging around their parent’s (singular) house. Many have GED’s having failed to graduate their high schools. The blacks are in the worse shape – the girls as a rule have multiple children by various different baby daddies who do not (& never did) support the children. The incoming class is largely female and minority – few whites.

    I was surprised to hear the observation that the incoming students are unable to read cursive handwriting. They only read printed English. They are made to work on that. They are unable to write a letter, a memo or anything else even slightly formal. They communicate within their Caste by Texting with heavy use of jargon.

    In 18 months these poor creatures have to be made employable. It starts with a strict dress code (including hair). The school regulates everything down to the shoes, nails and all jewelery. The complete appearance of the students is subject to daily inspection with people being sent home. They have to be taught how to dress and grooming. Visible tattoos are not allowed. They have to cover them at all times. Flesh band-aids are used.

    The students are being trained for office work for the most part so they are drilled in software commonly used in offices as well as typing, form and style (what I had in high school typing class), and terminology specific to various industries. There is math bookkeeping/accounting and a number of things to make them suitable for entry level jobs in industry and commerce. I didn’t ask about tuition or how that is paid (loans?).

    The Vocational School coaches it’s students on what discourse is unsafe for work and what not to talk about with a co-worker. How to maintain boundaries, how to navigate office politics. The school is run as a business environment with similar rules about deportment.

    18 months later they have an 80% plus placement rate at $12-$19 an hour.

    I continue to call out the refusal of the government secondary schools to enforce grooming, dress, deportment and decorum in their “schools”. Their products are carefully placed in a fantasy land of permissiveness to help keep them in their Caste and unemployed. It seems to me that for the bulk of the black students – OUSD and LAUSD and districts like them are deliberately turning out Untouchables.

    And if they are going to turn out an Untouchable Caste – even on the pretext that court decisions prevent discipline (which I don’t accept at all) – there is no reason or rule that keeps the schools from at least telling the Untouchables what is happening to them and what they are being groomed for. Just maybe an Untouchable Caste student and their family might want to opt out to a better and voluntary public school program…

    I believe OUSD used to have such programs in high school. Now, like driver’s ed and training, you have to pay $$ to get this training privately. The Jr. Colleges are functioning as 13th grades and are not inclined to impose the discipline described above in their programs.

    Poor kids have to pay for what I took for granted in public high school.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Nextset, are you sure you weren’t being given a sales pitch? An 80% placement rate does not match the kind of statistics I have seen for private vocation colleges, though many claim that kind of success. The federal government is cutting off student loans for some of these colleges because they have such a low success rate.

  • Ann

    I wish Tony Smith would take a personal interest in African American male youth. Toni always has some spokeperson or other representative speak to this issue. African American male youth won’t be a OUSD priority until Toni Smith takes a personal interest. Toni doesn’t send Troy(token minority)or other staffers to the high performing white or Asian schools, he goes himself.

    Toni Smith and the Oakland school Board should be forced to have meetings and work at the poorly managed Oakland middle and High Schools where he expects success from these young men.

    Toni’s Smith’s failure to improve Oakland’s Middle and High Schools hurt all Oaklanders not just African American men.

  • Nextset

    Steven Weinberg: I agree with you that the number sounds too good. This is a Vocational School. Like all the schools they use the word College – which is pretty pretentious. You could call it a finishing school the covers what should have been covered in high school. Still, I know this person for over 30 years. If the numbers are false insiders believe them.

    The products of this school are being placed in large bureaucracies that are growing. I suppose they crowd out black and brown applicants who have not been to such a vocational school. I would not consider hiring a public school graduate for such work (without the voc school credential) because there would be no reason to consider them sufficiently housebroken. Getting an entry level job now in a big employer requires more than a High School Diploma.

    40 years ago it required a typing certificate among other things. I think that requirement has been done away with.

    It is a sorry state of affairs that the public schools fail and neglect to make proletariat children ready for an entry level job – beyond McDonalds (minimum wage clerk). I don’t think it takes that much to do that much for these kids. The vocational school is actually spending time and money undoing the damage the high schools have done with these students.

    Another point. You do not need ANY black teachers to teach the black/brown students. It’s nice if you have them, it’s optional. So that’s another thing the wanna savem types have wrong. Deliberately using race opposites actually might help the process along. You are not teaching for their comfort zone.

    Now having said that the few black faculty I experienced were tougher, more demanding and more professional than the rest. They had to be. I doubt there are enough of such paragons available for the high schools.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm

    I wish that the resources being focused on African American males in middle and high school were focused on the same demographic in kindergarten through fourth grade. I started working with a boy in sixth grade who, when I met him, could not multiply 2 x 8. I was able to teach him math, so his ability to learn was not the problem.

    He continually got kicked out of schools for cussing out his teachers. But having gotten to know him, it seemed mostly a response to the frustration of not being at grade level. He was capable of learning the material when it was first presented — I don’t know why he did not. And while I do not excuse his behavior, if I went to school and learned nothing for six years, I’d be tempted to cuss somebody out, too.

    I understand the conversation about personal resonsibility. We are all responsible for the consequences of our actions. I’m just saying, it would be more effective for us and better for them, to make sure these boys learn in the early grades. If we did, there would be many fewer “problem boys” when they got older. In fact, what’s most interesting to me, is you wouldn’t even know which are the ones that would have been in trouble.

  • J.R.

    You are right these kids are not learning to be proficient in the core subjects, but yet are getting passed ahead and almost never being able to catch up. This is widespread because the problems are :
    1. Policy – no retention is causing kids to be further and further behind.
    2. Focus – the early elementary years should focus on mastery of the basics.
    3. Home life, parental support,Student attitude and teacher ability – one or all of these things may be deficient, and present the student with undue hurdles and hardship in their education life.

    We are not preparing students well enough in the early years, and that is where the real problem is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm


    You have concisely and clearly stated the case. And items 1. and 2. are not unique to OUSD. The same policy and focus problems are true in the Tri-Valley and given their nature, may be true across the country. It is interesting that if the Policy were restated as “have no atudents who need to be retained”, Focus on mastery of the basics would achieve it. By second grade (three years), if mastery were the focus, all students — except true special ed kids — could learn to add up to 9 + 9, even with weak home or parental support.

  • Catherine

    Steven: I think the case you have stated about mixing black boys in normally high performing schools is an interesting one. My sons went to a “slope” school in which the white students scored an average of 200 points higher on both ELA and math and in science the gap was even wider.

    The homework with its extra practice made a big difference, yet the majority of the black boys did not complete the homework. (I volunteered 1.5 days in each of my son’s classrooms). The black boys were significantly more disruptive in class regardless of whether the teacher was black, Asian or white, younger or older.

    The black boys (and girls) were tardy more often and had more absences.

    I would love to see the district figures on black boys who transferred to hills schools to see if the trend was the same.

  • Nextset

    Interesting article on Fox about high paying careers that do not require a college degree:


    Too bad OUSD and such districts are busy teaching Blacks how to be Untouchables instead of how to get such a job. Understand, the Blacks are competing nationwide with Mexicans and other Third Worlders brought in by the government and handed work permits. It will be very increasingly difficult to get Blacks employed. That is intended, it’s what we are fighting.

    Most Blacks are not college material. Cry about it all you want. You can’t make people do something because YOU might decide to do it. For whatever reason (there are several), blacks typically do not want to be Doctors, Lawyers, CPAs, CEOs, or anything else that requires the time, work, discipline, planning and debt required of a four year and graduate degree. You cannot beat people into the careers they don’t want.

    They may want to be Entertainers. Without a better foundation, all their money will be taken from them if they even get off the ground.

    OUSD being (for the moment) a black dominated district – should have a concentration on non-college occupational preparation. College bounds can be identified and spun off into a program of their own on their own campus. The bulk of the OUSD program should be in getting the students on the path to the best living possible within the scope of the education they will take.

    The high school years are also the crucial period for development of deportment needed to gain admission to vocational entry level jobs. Every time OUSD allows a black student to be vulgar, disruptive, and to speak Bad English a further nail is driven into their coffins. Above all else – all “education”, getting control of deportment is key. This should be posted as a mission statement of OUSD and every similar school.