The nation’s young Black males are in a state of crisis. They do not have the same opportunities as their male or female counterparts across the country. Their infant mortality rates are higher, and their access to health care is more limited. They are more likely to live in single-parent homes and less likely to participate in early childcare programs. They are less likely to be raised in a household with a fully employed adult, and they are more likely to live in poverty. As adults, Black males are less likely than their peers to be employed. At almost every juncture, the odds are stacked against these young men in ways that result in too much unfulfilled potential and too many fractured lives.
Much of this story has been told before. Still, there has been little work focusing specifically on the academic attainment of Black males in our schools and how it is contributing to the destructive pattern we see. This report tackles the issues head on by conducting a first-time analysis of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) on how Black males are performing academically. We look at ourselves—the large central cities—most critically, because it is in our urban schools that nearly 30 percent of all Black males in the nation are educated.
In order to get a complete picture of the depth of the issues, we look most closely at the reading and math achievement of the fourth- and eighth-grade Black males in our large city schools. We track their progress and compare their scores, as a whole, with the scores of White males in national public schools. In various combinations, we compare the scores of Black and White males who are and are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, Black and White males with and without disabilities, and Black males in urban areas vs. Black males in national public schools among other comparisons. Also, we look at the disaggregated reading and math achievement levels of Black males in 18 big city school districts.
Finally, we look at dropout figures and school experiences. We examine college entrance examination scores and college readiness, enrollment, and graduation data. The report concludes with statistics on the postsecondary experiences of Black males, professional degrees attained, wages, and living conditions. We conclude with profiles of Black males from our Great City Schools who have thrived despite the odds and who serve as inspirations for all.
This report will not make many people feel good, even though it contains evidence that Black males attending schools in urban areas have made more progress than those living elsewhere. In fact, this report is likely to make people angry, and it should. We hope that this is a louder and more jolting wake-up call to the nation than this country is used to hearing. The fact that previous calls have fallen on so many deaf ears is not encouraging, but we are convinced that we must ring the alarms one more time and play a larger role in setting this situation right.
The issues that emerge from the statistics we present are both moral and economic. With so many of our citizens lacking access to the fruits of the richest nation on earth, our aspirations as a truly just nation are called into question. And our ability to maintain our success and leadership is jeopardized by having so much talent go to waste. This report is a call to action for America to do better.