A report regarding the disturbing racial gap in education was released recently from the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy organization for urban education. Sadly, facts like, “Black males were nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school as white males,” or “Black male students nationally scored an average of 104 points lower than white males on SAT reading exam” are not new issues.
Brutal statistics like these have been in the headlines for many years, making it all too apparent that our school systems, our nation, and our traditional teaching methods are failing large portions of our population, especially African American males. But AVID changes that. Since its inception in 1980, the AVID system has recognized that equity does not mean treating all students the same; it means providing appropriate challenges and support for each individual student, while making sure college is the endgame.
Take Dewan Woods for example, an African American male who never knew his father, and was separated from his mother and brother. Dewan’s fifth grade teacher told him he would never be anything more than a “burger flipper.” Expectations for his future were grim, and he knew it. But Dewan’s enrollment in AVID changed that prediction, in a big way. After five years in the AVID elective class, Dewan graduated at the top of his class last spring (2010), receiving the Jackie Robinson scholarship, both the Dell and Gates Foundation scholarships, and a scholarship from Boston College, where he is currently a freshman. Dewan is double majoring in physics and math, plans to earn a PhD in physics and then move to Switzerland to work on the famous particle collider project. His story is exceptional, but he is not an exception among AVID students.
Recognizing that ethnicity and culture are important factors influencing the way students learn, AVID developed its own African American Male Initiative(AAMI) three years ago to specifically recruit black males into the AVID program and address the issue of equity and black male academic achievement. AAMI incorporates culturally relevant teaching to make learning connections for students, sets high expectations for their achievement, and provides the support necessary to realize academic success. The program also creates a culture where it becomes “cool” to do well in school and attending college is the expectation.
AVID’s AAMI is working. At Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas, the young men in AAMI established the “BAD” club. They wanted their peers and others to know they were indeed “BAD,” Black And Determined. In other AAMI schools, like Mojave High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, Maryland, young black men in their AVID cohorts support each other in what the students call “A Brotherhood.” With help from their AAMI teachers, these black young men are determined to do what it takes to be admitted to the college or university of their choice – despite the obstacles they may face.
Changes to the way we educate students are pivotal to altering the bleak statistics that are a reality for most black male students today. At AVID, we know what works: rigorous academics, positive encouragement, high expectations, and teachers who care about their students. Black male success stories like Dewan Woods’ or the young men in the “BAD” or “Brotherhood” clubs prove that with the right teaching strategies, we can dramatically improve those statistics. We just need to stop talking about it, and start doing what works.
SNAPSHOT - 2010 AVID African American male seniors
- 99% reported they would graduate from high school by the close of the 2009-2010 academic year
- 92% reported that they would graduate having completed requirements four-year college entrance requirements
- 85% reported they planned to attend a postsecondary institution after high school
- 62% at a four-year college or university
- 23% at a two-year college
- 62% took at least one AP or IB course
- 91% took the SAT, ACT or both