Aiming Higher Together: Strategizing Better Educational Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color

by Ronald F. Ferguson

May 1, 2016

This paper is focused on racial, ethnic, and gender patterns in children's lived experiences that, based on research, seem to contribute to developmental disparities. Studies cited in the paper indicate promising ways to help address race and gender differences in home-based learning activities beginning from birth. To reveal school-related patterns and to measure students perceptions of the quality of teaching they experience, the paper uses student survey results from thousands of classrooms. The author briefly describes some school-improvement approaches that can improve educational outcomes for students of color, with examples of alternatives to out-of-schools suspensions.
  • On average, boys of color lag behind their peers in cognitive skills by age two. Three years later, skill gaps measured at the beginning of kindergarten predict all of the racial difference in special education placements by fifth grade.
  • On student surveys, boys of color rate their classroom teachers the same as their white male classmates, but there are clear racial tensions in the hallways. Compared to white males, adolescent males of color report giving and receiving less respect when interacting in the hallways with teachers who may not know them.
  • Students of color self-reported worse behavior than their classmates did. However, they were more likely than others to agree with the statement, “I do things I don’t want to do because of pressure from other students.” Hence, misbehavior is often an act of compliance and an expression of social vulnerability.
  • No matter what the racial composition of the classroom, students of color self-reported better behavior in classes that rate higher on seven components of effective teaching. Professional development helping teachers improve on basic components of effective teaching should be part of the formula for helping students of color.
  • An orderly, on-task classroom is among the strongest predictors of annual learning gains. Differential access to orderly classrooms is among the greatest disparities in educational opportunity.