Experts Discuss African-American Male Initiative

This week, national education experts and teachers from nine Guilford County Schools (GCS) will gather at two symposiums to discuss issues contributing to the achievement gap for African-American males.

Data gathered in GCS, as well as state and national trends, show that African-American male students have disproportionately lower literacy rates and higher suspension rates. By launching a committee to study African-American male achievement in 2011 and now providing teachers with classroom strategies at symposiums this week, GCS is among the first school districts to recognize the issues and respond in a tangible way.

One of the symposiums will focus on early literacy for African-American males and will be held Tuesday through Thursday at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Education. GCS data from the 2010-11 school year shows that only 47.6 percent of African-American males could read on grade level in the third grade while 64.3 percent of third-graders district-wide were proficient in reading.

Experts such as Alfred Tatum, Crystal Kuykendall and Anne Charity Hundley will instruct teachers in ways they can use students' cultural backgrounds, motivation techniques, analysis of student achievement data and assessment of implicit bias in the curriculum to inform their teaching, and in turn, improve the literacy rate.

The second symposium will examine disproportionality in discipline and will be held Wednesday and Thursday at High Point University. GCS data shows that African-American male students lost 19,577 days of instruction in 2009 due to suspensions. In 2010, 2,670 out of the 4,129 male students receiving out-of-school suspensions were African-American. The suspension rate is recognized as a contributing factor in the achievement gap for these students. Experts Daniel Losen, Wesley Carter, Norma Day-Vines and David Miller will discuss the data with teachers.

After the symposiums, teachers from the participating schools will put what they learn in place in their classrooms starting this school year.

Six schools are a part of the early literacy pilot -- Irving Park Elementary, Montlieu Academy of Technology, Peck Elementary, Fairview Elementary, Allen Jay Elementary and Sedgefield Elementary. Three schools -- Parkview Elementary, Ferndale Middle and High Point Central High - are participating in the disproportionality in discipline pilot program.