The African American Male Achievement Initiative aims to reverse the current inequities facing African American boys in seven key goal areas. Each of these areas has major implications for the well-being of African American boys throughout their lives.
1) ACHIEVEMENT GAP: Why the Achievement Gap Matters
The achievement gap between African American males and other students limits the life chances of African American boys, and has long-term implications for the health, economic well-being, and participation of African American men in society. Low levels of academic achievement are linked to lower educational attainment (e.g. rates of graduation from high school and college), which in turn are linked to lower earnings in adulthood, poor adult health and reduced life expectancy, higher rates of incarceration, and lower levels of civic engagement (and thus, political power). Raising the achievement levels of African American males has the potential to alter the life course of the next generation of African American children as well, because greater parental education is correlated with better child outcomes. Society as a whole stands to benefit from raising the achievement of African American male students. A recent study of the economic impact of the achievement gap between Black and Latino students and their White peers estimated that in 2008, the gross domestic product of the U.S. would have been 2-4% higher ($310 to $525 billion) if that gap had not existed, comparing the effect of the achievement gap to a permanent national recession.
2) GRADUATION: Why Graduation Matters
The alarmingly low graduation rate of African American males nationally and in Oakland has catastrophic consequences for the lives of African American men, their children, and their communities. People who do not complete high school have poorer health, shorter lives, a greater likelihood of incarceration, lower earnings, and are less likely to vote than high school graduates. Households headed by high school graduates accumulate, on average, ten times more wealth (assets) than those headed by high school dropouts. Higher levels of educational attainment are associated with greater rates of employment and better working conditions as well as higher earnings. Health increases with educational attainment, both for adults and for their children. Children of high school graduates are less likely to have poor or fair health than children whose parents did not finish high school. This pattern holds true for college education as well, and high school graduates are more likely to enroll in college. One estimate of the public benefit of a single high school graduate is $209,000 in reduced public spending on health, social support programs, and incarceration; and increased revenue due to higher earnings.
3) LITERACY: Why Literacy Matters
Literacy in early elementary school makes possible future academic achievement, including graduation from high school, and therefore is linked to the intergenerational health and economic outcomes noted above in the achievement gap and graduation sections. Low literacy in the early grades is predictive of behavior problems, repeating a grade, high school dropout, and future earnings. Part of the link between educational attainment and health likely is due to the increases in literacy that come with education. Adults with low literacy levels are more likely to be poor and to be incarcerated. Increasing early literacy, therefore, has the potential to increase overall economic productivity by increasing educational attainment.
4) SUSPENSION: Why Suspension Matters
Suspending students from school results in loss of instructional time, often increasing alienation from school, and is associated with lower academic achievement and increased high school dropout. Overreliance on suspension as a school discipline tool, combined with racial disparities in suspension rates, can lead to the pervasive sense that students of color, and African American male students in particular, are being pushed out of school and into the juvenile justice system. There is evidence that students who are suspended in middle school are particularly likely to drop out of school. If reducing suspension rates for African American boys were to make them less likely to drop out of school, more likely to achieve academically, and less likely to be incarcerated, their economic well-being and health in adulthood would improve, affecting their children's health and education, and increasing overall economic productivity.
5) ATTENDANCE: Why Attendance Matters
Students must be present in school to learn. Whether absences are excused or not, missing large amounts of school (in this case, 10% of school days or more) puts students at risk of falling behind academically and eventually dropping out. This is particularly true of low-income children and children in early elementary school. Through the link to increased likelihood of eventual dropout, chronic absence may be connected to long-term outcomes including health, income, life expectancy, and benefits to society.
6) MIDDLE SCHOOL HOLDING POWER: Why Middle School Matters
The middle school years are a period of rapid physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development; how students fare during this period has a powerful effect on their life chances. A substantial body of research indicates that, particularly for young people in low-income communities, academic trouble, behavior problems, and chronic absence in middle school are predictive of dropping out of high school. Through the link to increased likelihood of eventual dropout, well-being in middle school may be connected to long-term outcomes including health, income, and life expectancy. Intervention during this critical period can turn around a student's prospects and create lasting economic benefits to society.
7) JUVENILE DETENTION (INCARCERATION): Why Incarceration Matters
The incarceration of young people is an indication of systemic failure to meet their needs. This is particularly true for young African Americans, who have the highest rates of placement into custody in California. Inequities in education, housing, and lack of access to necessary services (such as mental health services) contribute to their disproportionate involvement in the juvenile justice system. Being incarcerated may increase a young person's vulnerability to multiple risks including deterioration in mental and physical health, dropping out of school, recidivism, and future unemployment. Some research suggests that half or more of those who are incarcerated as juveniles are incarcerated as adults. Incarceration is far more costly than alternatives. Given that many of those alternatives are more effective, reducing incarceration rates can save money in the short run as well as the long run, making scarce public resources available for other priorities.
To read a briefer goal list and to see updated statistics on each, see this article.