African American students are driving positive academic change in some public schools nationwide, says Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, national education consultant and author of the newly released There Is Nothing Wrong With Black Students. In fact, Black students in more than 3,000 schools are performing well above the national average.
There are eight million African American students nationwide: 7.5 million attend public schools, 400,000 attend private schools, and 100,000 are homeschooled. Of the 7.5 million public school students, 90 percent (6.75 million) attend regular schools, and ten percent attend accelerated magnet schools. Kunjufu spotlights the great strides being made in some regular public schools because he says, "This marginalized population has been the most neglected. I want all children to succeed, but I focus on the 6.75 million African American children in regular public schools because they lack both choice and a voice."
Kunjufu, who logs several days a week working with schools in some of the most underserved communities nationwide, says educators at the forefront of change are modeling innovative approaches, including:
• Culturally relevant curriculum design and Africentric charter schools
• Single gender classrooms and schools
• Improved teacher quality
• Pedagogy adapted to the learning styles of students
• Strong academic leadership from principals
• Block scheduling and attention to time on task.
Illustrating the goal of academic parity, Kunjufu says there is virtually no racial gap between Black and White homeschooled students. In grades K-12, both groups scored, on average, in the 87th percentile in reading. In math, Whites scored in the 82nd percentile while Blacks scored in the 77th percentile.
Two of the great turnaround stories in African American male education have occurred in single gender schools. Kunjufu says Eagles Academy (New York) and Urban Prep (Chicago) are outstanding schools that bring out the full potential of this population. Eagles students consistently outperform their peers in state-wide exams. Urban Prep has the distinction of all of their graduates being accepted into four-year colleges.
African American charter schools, notable for their use of Africentric curricula, have produced a 1.5 percent or greater annual increase in academic achievement. An 80 percent or higher graduation rate is the norm at these schools.
"When they have the same access to a quality education as their peers in private schools, home schools, and wealthy public schools, Black students are well able to overcome any challenge," says Kunjufu.
There Is Nothing Wrong offers educational models of excellence, resources, best practices, and hope for educators who are dedicated to improving academic outcomes for Black students.