We strongly support the efforts of The California Endowment to reverse the disparity of educational opportunities for boys and young men of color in California.
Our state’s prosperity and health depend on all Californians having a fair chance to thrive and succeed. To this end, one of the best investments that we can make is to be certain that we are doing everything possible to help young people get the quality education they deserve and become healthy, productive adults. As California continues to be increasingly diverse, it will be especially critical to nurture and harness the talent, skills and hope of young people of color – boys and young men of color in particular. Young people are one of our greatest assets and the best indicator of our state’s future. Yet too many of our assets are growing up without a fair shot to be healthy and to succeed. This is especially true of boys and young men of color who are more likely to confront significant barriers on the road to adulthood.
Disparity data related to the academic underachievement, poverty, female head of household, health outcomes, economic conditions and involvement in the criminal justice system for African American and Latino males has been well documented. CTA members witness the devastating effects of what African American and Latino male students come to school with every day:
- Young men of color are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods where they confront challenges to their safety and well-being. In their neighborhoods, they are 5 times more likely to be murdered than girls and young women and 7 times more likely to die from gun violence.
- Young men of color are also more likely to go to schools where they don’t have the tools and help they need to learn, including experienced and qualified teachers. For instance, during the 2008-2009 school year, the California middle schools that served more than 90% Latino, African American and American Indian students were almost 10 times more likely than majority white and Asian schools to experience severe shortages of qualified teachers.
- The proliferation of severe school disciplinary measures disproportionately pushes boys and young men of color out of our public education system. Even though African American students represented eight percent of the state’s public school enrollment, they represented 19% of out-of-school suspensions in the 2002-2003 school year.
As a result of these barriers, young men of color are more likely to start their adult life without a high school diploma. Those young men of color who do graduate from high school are less likely to be prepared for college. Only 14% of Latino high school graduates and 15% of African American high school graduates have completed the courses that are required to seek admission to California’s 4-year colleges and universities.
Certainly girls and young women of color face their own set of barriers and are deserving of help. However, the numbers in California and the nation tell the story of an especially harsh reality for many boys and young men of color as they attempt to move from childhood to adulthood.
Despite the overwhelming data, it is important to recognize the resilience and strengths of African American and Latino communities to combat these disparities, by working with CTA and other organizations.
For the past 2 years, the California Endowment has provided CTA with a grant to execute positive strategies in the hopes that it will help African American and Latino males close the achievement gap in their respective schools. The program is designed to demonstrate positive possibilities for Latino and African American male students that might not be apparent otherwise. Through the use of student specific presentations and interactive programs the goal of the CTA Boys and Men of Color (BMoC) Program is to assist African American and Latino male students with a successful school year experience. The BMoC program in Oakland and Los Angeles has served to build a foundation for resilience and school connectedness with the boys. Focus has been around having caring adults address the young men with care and nurturing while being role models. BMoC has engaged the young men in presentations and field trips that affect their everyday lives, while building a critical cornerstone based on the theme of respect and responsibility. And lastly, the program was designed to enable the youth to see additional trajectories for their lives and define steps to achieve meaningful jobs and careers.
Even though the program is in its beginning stages, we are witnessing a change in the boys. Their grades are getting better, attendance is up and inappropriate behavior is less.
Though the disparities are large and the challenges are great, CTA will continue to partner with The California Endowment to assist our young men and boys of color. We anticipate our BMoC program will be the catalyst to bring critical thinking, resilience and responsibility into the lives of all young men and boys we have encountered.
CTA will continue working with the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in California, The California Endowment, community organizations, and parents and families as we move to the create positive partnerships in support of our young men and boys of color.