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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Research: Cutting Suspensions and Absences Key to Improving Education of African American Boys in Oakland
African American Boys Suspended at Six Times the Rate of Whites
(Oakland, CA) – May 21, 2012 – Three new studies released today by the Urban Strategies Council in partnership with OUSD demonstrate that efforts to improve the education of African American boys in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) must focus on improving attendance and cutting the shockingly high suspension rate for these students. Nearly one in five OUSD students is an African American boy, and improving their educational experience is essential to achieving the District's ambitious goals for all students. The reports are posted on www.urbanstrategies.org/aamai.
Using records from OUSD, Urban Strategies Council found that African American boys were suspended at a rate six times higher than that of white males. In 2010-2011, 18 percent of African American males were suspended at least once, compared to just three percent of white males. For those African American students with multiple suspensions, almost half (44%) of these students were suspended solely for "willful defiance or disruption," a highly subjective offense.
Urban Strategies Council's local analysis is consistent with work by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and the New York Times. Both of these organizations have highlighted district-level disparities in suspension rates among racial/ethnic groups; Urban Strategies Council's research adds further depth by highlighting disparities between schools and neighborhoods, by using a gender lens to look at African American boys in particular, and by identifying the types of offenses where disparities are most evident.
Urban Strategies' analysis also found that in 2010-11, almost one in five African American males was chronically absent, missing more than 10 percent of the school year – a rate double the OUSD average. Further, not a single middle school in the district in 2010-2011 achieved the district's goal of less than six percent of African American males chronically absent. National research shows that students who are chronically absent at any grade level are less likely to graduate or experience academic success. Improving attendance among African American boys, particularly in the earliest grades, has the potential to boost dramatically their chances of succeeding academically.
"This report demonstrates the critical importance of Oakland Unified School District's decision to begin regularly calculating and monitoring chronic absence and using disaggregated data to unpack the challenges and realities for particular populations of students," said Hedy Chang of the non-profit Attendance Works. "The results illustrate the troubling and harsh reality that poor achievement and dropout for African American male students can be traced back to especially high levels of chronic absence in kindergarten and first grade."
Dropout Risk Research
Using well-established warning signs that a student faces increased risk of not graduating from high school, Urban Strategies Council found that in 2010-11, one-third of African American boys in grades K-12 (34%) were off course for graduating from high school, compared to 20% of all students in OUSD. The warning signs were most pronounced among African American boys in middle school, 55% of whom displayed one or more signs of dropout risk. The warning signs vary by school level, but fall into the categories of poor academic performance, chronic absence, and suspensions.
The reports make multiple recommendations including:
• OUSD should adopt school-level goals for suspension rates that complement the district-wide goals, with a focus on eliminating disparities.
• To understand what disciplinary efforts precede out-of-school suspensions, the district should require the reporting of in-school suspensions and classroom suspensions, whose frequency currently is unknown.
• Attendance of every student should be tracked in real time, and OUSD should develop systems that allow for timely interventions for students heading off course before they miss a critical mass of school days each year.
Efforts already are underway in OUSD to improve educational outcomes for African American boys and young men, including: the formation of the African American Male Achievement office which works across the district on the key issues for African American boys; the adoption of a restorative justice policy (a conflict resolution process that provides an alternative to suspension); a board resolution rejecting the zero-tolerance policies shown to exacerbate racial disparities in suspensions in many other districts; reviewing patterns and rates of suspension for African American boys; innovative work in tracking and intervention of chronic absence among all students and among African American boys in particular; and exploring strategies for improving school climate for staff and students. OUSD is also developing an early warning system to identify and support students at high risk of dropping out of school.
The full set of reports, data, and maps are now publicly available on: www.urbanstrategies.org/aamai
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On May 30th at 10am Pacific, Urban Strategies Council and the Oakland Unified School District will be hosting the first of four webinars focusing on this insightful new research on the inequities faced by African American Males and the efforts underway to eliminate these disparities in education outcomes. This first webinar will walk you through the District's initiative, why it was formed and what work has begun to address systemic, policy and practice based inequities for African American Male students. We will provide an overview of the three major reports released focusing on suspension, absenteeism and graduation as well as the goals established for this initiative to ensure the work is data driven and the impact can be objectively measured.
Please read or download the reports ahead of the webinar at www.urbanstrategies.org/aamai
We look forward to having you join this conversation!
The following three webinars will cover each of the major reports, the first focussing on suspensions, the second on chronic absenteeism and the third on the graduation outcomes and indicators. We will publish sign up links to each as the dates are confirmed very soon!
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To hear our CEO, Junious Williams, speak about what the AAMAI means watch this interview of the first AAMAI Task Force event.