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California’s black and Latino boys aren’t getting the support they need to get to college, new report finds

Sarah Favot | June 14, 2017

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With only 76 percent of California’s Latino boys and 67 percent of black boys graduating from high school, a new report calls for systemic changes to help this population get to and succeed in college.

Key changes should be setting high expectations for young men of color and making college preparation classes the default for all high school students.

California’s leaders are not listening to what these students say they need nor prioritizing tailored services for them, the report’s author found.

The report — released Wednesday by The Education Trust-West and called “Hear My Voice: Strengthening the College Pipeline for Young Men of Color in California” — is based on qualitative research including a review of current data and literature, interviews, and site visits to high schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges.

“In addition to ensuring all students have access to the core elements that make a school great for all students, practitioners and policymakers must develop more specific programs, services, and supports that meet the unique needs and speak to the dynamic and countless assets of young men of color,” the report says.

Each year, close to 40,000 young men of color don’t graduate with their high school class — enough to fill the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles almost twice, the report finds. Only 10 percent of Latino men earn a bachelor’s degree in California.

And 3 out of 4 black boys do not meet state reading standards, according to a recent data analysis by the nonprofit news organization CALmatters. Nearly 1 of  3 California K-12 students is a Latino, black, Native American, or Pacific Islander male.

This is the second report Ed Trust-West has recently released about young men of color. In October 2015, the report called “Black Minds Matter: Supporting the Educational Success of Black Children in California” revealed disparities black youth face throughout their entire educational career and highlighted best practices to reverse the trend.

The latest report found that barriers for young men of color include institutional racism and implicit biases, and they may be more likely to succumb to peer pressure and negative stereotypes. Young men of color are more likely to attend schools lacking in basic resources like science labs, extracurricular activities, and counselors. They are less likely to be enrolled in college-prep courses and more likely to be suspended and expelled. Black students are more harshly punished for the same behavior as white students.

During the study, the report’s author, Leni Wolf, did not find many examples of institutional leaders prioritizing individualized supports for boys and young men of color. And leaders were not capitalizing on assets that young men of color bring, including leadership, tenacity, the ability to build strong personal relationships and networks, and connections to community and family.

“Hear My Voice tells us that it’s time for educators and policymakers to walk the talk of assisting California’s young men of color,” Executive Director Ryan J. Smith said in a news release. “Now’s the time to have institutional leaders from across the state listen to the voices of these young men and commit to providing the academic supports necessary to get these students to and through college.”

 The report’s recommendations for K-12 education are:

  • Fostering a welcoming environment with high expectations
  • Connect families to financial aid
  • Analyze data
  • Confront implicit and explicit biases
  • Improve staff diversity
  • Make college prep coursework the default curriculum
  • Build a college-going culture.

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