Black Male Teens: Moving to Success in the High School Years


Black Male Teens: Moving to Success in the High School Years

June 24, 2013
National Press Club
Washington, D.C.

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Black male teens express their aspirations and challenges during their high school years.


View a Statistical Profile (PDF) from CDF/ETS's Addressing Achievement Gaps Symposium.

In 2011, ETS and the Children's Defense Fund® (CDF) started a multiyear initiative, The Addressing Achievement Gaps Symposia, a four-part series to focus on improving the education and development of Black boys and young men in the United States. Presently, Black males produce some of the lowest education and career outcomes of major population groups in the country. Our goals are to raise the visibility of the plight of Black males from birth to age 24 and inform the nation about best practices to help produce more positive outcomes.

Our approach is to divide this population of Black boys and young men into four age groups, address their specific challenges and search for opportunities for improvement. We kicked off The Addressing Achievement Gaps Symposium series with "A Strong Start: Positioning Young Black Boys for Educational Success," which focused on boys under the age of nine; in 2012, we turned our attention to Black boys ages 9–13 with "Middle School Matters: Improving the Life Course of Black Boys."

This year, we focused on the potentially perilous high school years and the 1.7 million young Black men, ages 14–18, who are preparing for postsecondary education and careers. During their final years in the public K–12 education system, young Black men too often face an inequitable high school experience. They are more likely than their White counterparts to attend a low-performing or high-poverty school and less likely to be taught by experienced and certified teachers. They are more likely to be subject to school discipline policies and to be suspended or expelled and less likely to take AP® classes and gifted classes. Outside of the classroom, family responsibilities, social pressures and economic challenges may also make it difficult for some Black high school males to attend school consistently and build skills and capital for college.

Academic achievement statistics reflect these challenges. Black high school males are the furthest behind on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. They are the least likely to have met advanced curriculum guidelines upon graduation from high school and are the least likely to enroll in college. Among those who do enroll in college, they are more in need of noncredit remediation classes. At the same time, many Black males succeed brilliantly in high school and beyond. Many strategies exist to improve high school educational opportunities and outcomes for all Black males.

During the 2013 symposium, policymakers, practitioners and advocates focused on the latest research, strategies and college- and career-readiness models aimed at creating high schools where opportunities for Black males prevail. The purpose is to highlight the unique challenges facing these young men and to examine the most effective practices for schools and communities to adopt to help close achievement gaps and foster college and career success.

The symposium concentrated on three key levers that affect the success of Black males in high school:

  • Providing a rigorous high-quality curriculum and instruction for college and career readiness
  • Establishing safe, positive, supportive, and welcoming school environments
  • Building skills and capital for college and career success

Some of the questions this symposium addressed:

  • How can we maximize the success of Black male high school students?
  • How can we make schools safe, positive, supportive and welcoming?
  • How can we eliminate the most persistent obstacles to school success for young Black men?
  • How can we increase rigor and improve instruction to ensure college and career readiness?
  • How can we ensure all students have the skills and capital needed for college and career success?
  • What are the responsibilities of policymakers, officials, educators, communities and families in ensuring the success of young Black men?

Highlights from the symposium can be found in the Winter 2013 issue of ETS Policy Notes — Positioning Young Black Boys for Educational Success (PDF) (Vol. 21, No. 3).

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