New Report from the African American and Latino Male Dropout Taskforce

Posted by on September 10, 2010

Dropout report calls for overhaul of curriculum, discipline

A task force chartered by the School Reform Commission has recommended a major overhaul in school district curriculum, educational approaches and discipline in order to stem the skyrocketing dropout rate among African American and Latino boys.

The task force report noted that the four-year graduation rate is 45 percent for African American males and 43 percent for Latino males.  The rate was called “staggering” by SRC member Johnny Irizarry, who led the task force along with SRC chair Robert Archie.

The task force recommended establishing an oversight group to implement a range of reform strategies, including some single-sex classrooms, more evening school, and more paid, credit-bearing internships that connect students with real job possibilities.

The oversight committee would also try to promote “a comprehensive approach, collaboration, partnerships.”

“I don’t think the District is succeeding in engaging these young people,” Irizarry said at a press conference announcing the report. “Let me put it this way, engaging education looks different than what we have today.”

The report noted that most teachers do not understand how to relate to African American and Latino boys and no training is offered to help them.  “Strategies must take asset-based approaches, and focus on students’ skills and abilities instead of perceived deficits or shortcomings,” the report said.

The report noted that some “students claim that they are much more likely to engage in class if they felt as though they are part of the conversation and not simply being ‘talked at’….several of the formerly out-of-school youth interviewed said the schools that they left failed to keep them engaged or prepare them for college or careers.”

“Hiring practices that reflect the need for adults who are able to relate to the various life circumstances of young people are of the utmost importance,” the report said.

In addition, it called for increased peer mentoring and changing the approach to discipline to one that focuses more on restorative practices and less on punishment.   African American and Latino male students are suspended and expelled at disproportionate rates.

The report also argued that new curricula and teaching methods are needed.

“In designing interventions, it is necessary for the School District and its many partners to address differences between groups that are being served,” the report said. “Curriculum and teaching, for instance, must be tailored to young urban males. Male students in urban environments respond most to classroom activities that are energetic, hands-on, and varied rather than routine whole-class instruction.”

Mayor Michael Nutter and School District superintendent Arlene Ackerman said that they welcomes the report.  Ackerman pledged to “accelerate” the Districts efforts to “eliminate … an inequitable allocation of resources and opportunities for young people.” Neither the major nor the superintendent commented on the specific recommendations of the report, saying that they would be studying them to inform future efforts.

Teachers union president Jerry Jordan said that the report called for the District to provide more services to improve graduation rates for minority male students.  “Being born poor, minority and male, Jordan said, “shouldn’t be synonymous with a high risk of dropping out of school.”

To download the full report, go here.

More in "New Resources"

Stay Current in Philly's Higher Education and Nonprofit Sector

We compile a weekly email with local events, resources, national conferences, calls for proposals, grant, volunteer and job opportunities in the higher education and nonprofit sectors.