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Six Myths and Two Facts about African-American Youth and Educators

By Kim Marshall, TIE columnist

This piece is reprinted from The Marshall Memo, Kim Marshall’s weekly summary of current research and best practices in the field of education. Drawing on his experience as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, consultant, and writer, Kim Marshall lightens the load of busy educators by serving as their “designated reader.”
The article: “Perception vs. Reality about Black Students and Educators” by Leslie Fenwick in Education Week, 9 October 2013 33:7, 28-32;
In this Education Week article, Leslie Fenwick (Howard University) examines some all-too common perceptions about African-American students and educators:
• Myth: black parents are not interested in their children’s education, and do not engage in school-affirming behaviors. Fact: according to a 2008 National Center for Educational Statistics report, 94 percent of black parents—the highest percentage of any subgroup of U.S. parents—set aside a special time and place for homework and ensure that an adult checks it over.
• Myth: many more white than black parents attend parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings. Fact: the same NCES report found that 78 percent of white parents and 77 percent of black parents attended parent-teacher conferences, and 90 percent of white and 87 percent of black parents attended PTA meetings.
• Myth: black parents tolerate permissive academics and discipline in their children’s schools. Fact: NCES data show that fewer black than white parents report being very satisfied with the academic standards, order, and discipline in their children’s schools.
• Myth: most urban and inner-city teachers and principals are African-American. Fact: according to 2003-2004 NCES data, about 90 percent of urban teachers and 88 percent of urban principals are white, as are 71 percent of inner-city teachers and 62 percent of inner-city principals.
• Myth: White educators are more qualified than black educators. Fact: decades of data show that African-American educators are the most credentialed and experienced subgroup in U.S. schools—they are more likely to hold a master’s or doctoral degree in education; they have more years of teaching experience before becoming principals; and they have more years as principals before becoming superintendents.
• Myth: black youth use more alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs than white youth. Fact: according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, use of these substances has consistently been less prevalent among black than white high-school seniors. A 2011 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry found the same was true for lower grades.
• Fact: fewer black than white men are employed. The employment rate is lower for black men, but not by much: 60 percent of black men and almost 70 percent of white men were employed in January 2012, according the U.S. Department of Labor.
• Fact: church attendance is higher among black Americans. The 2010 Gallup Poll found that 55 percent of African Americans reported attending church every week—the highest percentage of any U.S. racial or ethnic subgroup.
“The worst images of black culture have been manufactured and placed in broad circulation,” concludes Ms. Fenwick. “As an antidote, educators must find, consciously elevate, and celebrate the best of black culture in schools and classrooms.
“When schools put the best of black culture in broad circulation (through serious and ubiquitous curricular content and instructional materials), black students experience identity restoration, and all students learn meaningful cultural appreciation.”
Summary reprinted from Marshall Memo 507, 21 October 2013.

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