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African American Grad Rates Remain Flat

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By Cynthia E. Griffin
Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly

While the graduation rates of most student groups in the state rose in 2014, the numbers for African American pupils stayed flat, at 68.1 percent, unchanged from the year before.

This compares with the graduation rate among English learners, which increased 2.2 percentage points from the year before and is now at 65.3 percent, and for Hispanic/Latino students, who had a rate of 76.4 percent, up 0.7 percent the year before.

The new data was released by Superintendent of California Public Instruction Tom Torlakson for students who started high school in 2010-11. Overall, 80.8 percent graduated with their class in 2014, up 0.4 of a percentage point from the year before. The California graduation rate has increased substantially since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate, said the state department of education.

“Our record high graduation rate is great news, especially since it is occurring at the same time we are raising academic standards,” said Torlakson. “This is more evidence that the dramatic changes taking place in our schools are gradually helping to improve teaching and learning in every classroom. We have raised academic standards, started online testing, given local districts more flexibility in spending, and provided more resources to students who need it most.”

Torlakson also said he believes the extra resources flowing into schools have helped schools add staff and reinvigorate many programs intended to help students graduate. In addition, he said, the collection of more precise data has put a spotlight on graduation rates, helping teachers and administrators adjust instruction for all students, but particularly for those most in danger of failing or dropping out.

The cohort data track graduation rates, dropout rates, and students in a third category: Those still working toward graduation who have not graduated or dropped out. Along with the rise in the graduation rate, the state’s dropout rate also rose slightly to 11.6 percent in 2014, up 0.2 of a percentage point. By comparison, the percentage of students still in school but who have not graduated declined 0.5 of a percentage point from the year before and stands at 6.9 percent.

The drop out rate for Black students edged up slightly from 19.7 in 2012-13 to 20.3 percent in 2013-2014.

The new graduation and drop out rate results came one day after the announcement that California finished sixth in the nation in the percentage of high school graduates from the class of 2014 who passed an advanced placement exam with a score of three or better (the lowest score needed to obtain college credit.)

Although Torlakson is touting the overall upward trend in graduation rates, the numbers for African American students remain problematic. They are slightly ahead of English Language learners with a rate of 65.3 percent and special education pupils who hit 62.2 percent. However, their numbers trail most other student subgroups including migrants (75.8 percent).

For one African American educator, the answer ‘why’ requires a look inward.

Chris Hickey Sr., Ph.D., director of Each One Teach One for Academic Access, suggests what African American students need is a success-going culture that encompasses school, home and the community. This collaborative effort requires parents to go to their child’s school and rather than blame them for the problems, and ask “What can I do to help?”

Hickey, whose educational organization offers free S.A.T. prep classes and parenting workshops, believes that parents need to go to their offspring’s schools to volunteer in a way that does not directly involve their child. “Maybe you can go and help the theater department prepare for a play or help the athletic department even though your child does not play a sport or act.”

When parents do this, Hickey says, school becomes part of the home and parents become part of the school community and students begin to feel an obligation to do well in school. This makes the relationship between parents and schools become much less adversarial, said the educator, who remembers as a student in the second graduating class of Locke High how the school and the community were strongly connected.

Hickey is convinced that teachers and schools want students to meet high expectations, and students want to feel good about their accomplishments at school. He also stresses the need for parents to lead the charge to help schools where African American pupils go, reconnect with the community.

NFL Draft Week: How Does it Impact Black Chicago?

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By Mary L. Datcher
Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Defender

The prospect of a child developing his or her talent and potential is the dream of most parents. It is the glue that can hold not only a household together, but also a community. In African-American history, the dreams of many young Black youth center on athletics and entertainment. The goals of achieving fame in athletics or entertainment often overshadows dreams about other important professions such as becoming a teacher, an attorney, a physician, an engineer or a sports agent. Many of these professions lay the foundation for building a solid base.

The estimated revenue of the NFL Association is $327 million; however, in real numbers, overall among the 32 league teams, the combined total is an estimated $10 billion dollars. Players’ salaries can range from the minimum of $400,000 to over $22 million driving the league to produce much more revenue than the other professional athletic associations. Often, young men become overnight millionaires, catapulting their careers and lifestyles in a world that is inaccessible to their peers.

This week, Chicago will host for the NFL Draft week festivities. The city hasn’t had this honor since the 1964 draft was held here. Back in the day, the draft was a simple 24-hour process between rival team owners selecting collegiate stars for their team rosters. Now, it has become a major week-long production that rivals the same media production as Super Bowl but without the quirky, high priced commercials and half-time fanfare. How does the local economy benefit outside of the hospitality industry centralized in the immediate downtown and Michigan Avenue shopping district? The better question is how does the business economy benefit in the same communities that some of the Black athletes are from?

This major task of solidifying the tourism and attraction business is led by Choose Chicago, the nonprofit organization that is responsible for raising funds and private donations under the close management of the City of Chicago. Chicago Defender reached out to Choose Chicago to request an estimated dollar amount that is projected from the NFL Draft week festivities going to local businesses and the hospitality industry, but the request has gone unanswered. Since the Defender couldn’t nail down any projections on ROI (return of investment) from them, the next concern is how does this event benefit the young Black student players from the inner-city community?

In negotiation with the NFL Association, one of the main attractions was the city’s eagerness to offer up parkland to build ‘Draft Town’ – the beautifully decorated tent housing situated on prime property in Grant Park. This location is a wonderful way for the public to connect to the activities surrounding draft week and it’s free for those who attend. There are youth clinics that have invited key youth football programs and their top young players to participate, but how many of these camps are based in the inner-city versus suburban area camps?

Chicago Jokers Football Camp is a program that has groomed young players from ages 8-14 years old for the past 14 years on the West Side. The program is run by Eric McClendon, affectionately known as Coach Mac, who utilizes the St. Lutheran Church gym every Saturday for the Spring and Summer camp schedule. With close to 100 students in the football camp, he makes sure his players are treated with just as much respect and priority as more high profile youth football camps.

“You have your suburban Blacks and you have Black people based in the city. The majority of the professional athletes are from the suburbs. They really won’t go to the city areas or the agents won’t allow them to pursue the inner city programs. If there is someone who can reach out to the professional athletes or to the NFL to let the players know about the inner city kids, it would benefit players and the parents. Even though the kids are from the inner city, they do look up to the professional ball players,” said McClendon.

There hasn’t been much of an outreach initiative from the NFL Association or the City of Chicago to involve inner city football camps such as the Chicago Jokers. With basketball being the focus and direction to help curve some of the violence that has plagued Black communities, football can sometimes take a backseat. Coach McClendon feels that some of the city’s best young high school basketball players had their initial athletic beginnings playing in youth football camps.

Coach McClendon explains, “A lot of our kids play basketball when they move on to high school. The number one high school basketball player last year was Cliff Alexander from Curie High School. He was one of our lineman on offense and defense when he played for us.”

Demetrius Lewis, a parent and athletic director of a South Suburban program, takes a similar approach to working with the players in his program. He started out coaching his son’s team when his son was four years old and took a committed role for the next eight years. Now his son attends Mt. Carmel High School, ranks as one of the top high school football players in Illinois and recently was inducted in the National Honor Society with a 4.0 GPA. Although, he feels the high schools and camps are there for young players, it is ultimately the responsibility of the parents to assist their talented kids with the challenges of facing key business decisions because those decisions will follow them into the hustle of the NFL.

“The role models have to be in the household and we need to educate ourselves– especially in the Black communities. A lot of minorities are behind the eight ball because we really don’t know.

Outstanding athletes have scholarship offers all day, but their ACT scores are barely 15 or 16. They don’t know how important it is. They don’t realize they can take the test more than once. They have ACT prep programs out there, but instead they are buying Air Jordans. They can put the monies into an ACT prep program for the same price,” said Lewis.

Many in the business feel that although the NFL draft makes up a high percentage of African American collegiate athletes, it is the responsibility of the NFL Association and the City of Chicago to coordinate community outreach to the football youth camps and inner city programs. Many of the draft hopefuls will be in town from all of over the country for a few days and after a short break, they will soon be adjusting to their new home teams.

No one understands this process better than sports agent Tory Dandy of Relativity Sports which represents both professional and collegiate draft picks. One of his professional clients includes Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey.

“I hold myself accountable in regards to doing the business with not only the client but anybody who is considered in his inner circle – that is knowledgeable about the NFL draft process. Knowledgeable about the business side of the NFL, the financial side and the blessings of what it brings. I believe in reaching further in-depth about being aware of what’s going on,” explains Dandy.

Dandy has steadily become one of the leading NFL sports agents representing seven NFL draftees in this week’s ceremonies, including #7 ranked Kevin White (West Virginia), #27 ranked Eddie Goldman (Florida State), #30 ranked Ronald Darby (Florida State), #34 ranked Nelson Agholor (Southern California), #84 ranked Paul Dawson (Texas Christian University), #116 ranked Jamison Crowder and #121 ranked Mike Davis (South Carolina); according to CBS Sports the latest draft prospects.

Being one of the few African American agents in the field, Dandy makes no secret that his mentors include sports agent veteran, Eugene Parker.

Dandy adds, “We want to empower them, we want to give them the information and resources to truly make informed business decisions. Our philosophy is a lot different from others in this industry.”

The lives of the young collegiate players that Dandy represents will change before they depart Chicago with the weight on their shoulders to do their best for their new team and for those they are depending on to make them successful. Many of them will not know that approximately 1.5 miles west of the NFL “Draft Town” and 2.5 miles west of the structure are African American communities that will not have the opportunity to celebrate in their achievements.

The City of Chicago and Choose Chicago won’t reveal the amount of expenses involved in bringing the NFL Draft to town or how it will impact the revenue streams. Choose Chicago and the Chicago Sports Commission had to raise between $3 to 4 million to complete commitments to covering the demands that the league has requested. They have made assurances that Chicago taxpayers will not be burdened with the week-long production.

The Mayor’s efforts to secure high profile events such as the NFL Draft week for the beautiful City of Chicago are to be commended, but Black communities and other neighboring communities would also like to feel the unique economic benefits that downtown businesses will experience. When the opportunity arises to secure the NFL Association for the following year’s Draft Week, the “ROI or return on investment” should also include the African American communities from which many of the young players have come.

Teachers with Subconscious Bias Punish Blacks More Severely

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When teachers harbor subconscious racial bias, they are far more likely to discipline White students less severely than African Americans, according to a new study.

As early as kindergarten, Black girls are being suspended at six times the rate of White girls, and more than all boys except fellow African Americans. Black boys are being suspended at three times the rate of White boys. According to 2010 figures from the Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection, 44 percent of those suspended more than once that year, and 36 percent of those expelled were Black – despite being less than 20 percent of the student population.

“Stereotypes serve as sort of a glue that sticks separate encounters together in our mind and lead us to then respond more negatively,” says Jason Okonofua, doctoral student at Stanford University and co-author of the study, “Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students.”

“In the study we have…the stereotype that the student is a ‘troublemaker’ leads the teacher to see two separate instances of misbehavior as constituting a pattern. Therefore following the second misbehavior there’s a sharp escalation in how severely the teacher wants to discipline a Black child.”

This is known as the “Black escalation effect.” As the number of behavioral issues increases, it is perceived as more of a threat to the classroom if the doer is Black. Black escalation leads teachers to discipline Black students faster and more harshly than their White counterparts, even when the students have the same number and types of offenses.

In the study, which appears in the April issue of Psychological Science, 53 teachers, all women, mostly White, were given a school record for a hypothetical student. Each record detailed two minor misbehaviors (classroom disruption and insubordination) – some for a hypothetical child named Darnell or Deshawn, others for a hypothetical child named Jake or Greg.

On average, teachers responded the same way to Darnell, Deshawn, Greg, and Jake on their first misbehaviors. But on the second offense, they were more likely to punish the boys they perceived as Black, more likely to issue harsher punishments to them, and more likely to label them “troublemakers.”

All of the participants were current K-12 teachers with an average of 14 years of experience.

“We discovered, the more likely teachers thought a student was Black, the more harshly they wanted to punish them,” Okonofua says. “That’s surprising because all we manipulated in the study was the names. But it’s not just the student’s name, it’s the level of Blackness teachers think the student is.”

The teachers in the study also reported feeling “more troubled” over second offenses when they perceived the student as Black (also by their own report). Further, when the students were perceived as Black, the teachers were more likely to report that they could see themselves suspending him in the future.

Stereotypes largely drive the Black escalation effect. Black children are more likely to be stereotyped as aggressive, defiant, and learning-disabled; when Black children misbehave and are disciplined, these stereotypes can kick in and result in harsher reactions.

Okonofua says, “Most school teachers work hard at treating their students equally. And yet, even among these well-intentioned and hardworking people, we find that cultural stereotypes about Black people are bending people’s perceptions toward less favorable interpretations of Black students’ behavior.”

The Department of Education estimates that 2014 was the first year students of color and White students reached equal numbers in the nation’s elementary and middle schools. Among kids under 5 years old, children of color are already the majority.

Most teacher training programs are not equipped to prepare future teachers for the realities of multiracial classrooms. But some programs have begun to recognize the impact this has on educational outcomes for the nation’s students of color.

“Part of the challenge of this is, for racial bias to even be brought to the table it requires a certain level of racial consciousness on the part of the teacher educator,” said Tyrone Howard, professor of education at University of California, Los Angeles.

“Ninety percent of all teacher educators are White. And by and large, most White people don’t think about issues of race.”

In addition to training teachers, Howard serves as the founding director of UCLA’s Black Male Institute to improve educational outcomes for Black boys, as well as the faculty director of UCLA Center X, a program that cultivates social justice-minded teachers for low-income Los Angeles public schools.

In his experience, White aspiring teachers tend to be uncomfortable or annoyed when he brings racism, stereotypes, and bias into his instruction. Meanwhile, he says, aspiring teachers of color often feel marginalized and unprepared for classrooms when their training programs avoid discussions on race. “When I was in the Midwest, where the majority of my [education] students were White, there’s oftentimes a reticence to engage in that work while they’re in the program,” he says, adding that he was often told he made White people uncomfortable. “But once they’ve had the opportunity to understand that race is ever-present and that students of color are always watchful of what they say, what they do, and how they act…then [teachers] begin to see ‘Wow, I didn’t realize these issues were real.’”

Another challenge is that few programs have a system in place to verify whether their anti-bias training is effective once education students enter real classrooms.

But such programs are the exception. Most teachers receive little to no discussion or training on these issues – and in most states, this has no bearing on the requirements for earning teaching credentials.

For teachers who lack access to adequate anti-bias, anti-racist training, Okonofua has found through other research that refocusing on maintaining warm relationships with each student weakens the effect of subconscious biases.

Howard believes that without formal interventions, the effort to make teachers more culturally competent and will be too little, too late.

He says: “As long as states and credentialing commissions don’t make this a staple of what is required for credentials, it will always be looked at as optional or it will always be on the fringes.”

‘Right-to-work’ Laws Depress Union and Non-Union Wages

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Despite what the defenders of “right-to-work” laws claim, those policies offer less protection for employees and depress the wages of non-union and union workers, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute.

The report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a progressive research and advocacy group focused on low- and middle-income workers, said that, “right-to-work (RTW) laws seek to hamstring unions’ ability to help employees bargain with their employers for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.”

In 11 out of the 25 right-to-work states, Blacks account for a higher share of the state population than the national average (13.2 percent). Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. African Americans are also more likely to live in RTW states than non-RTW states.

The EPI report said that Blacks account for 7.1 percent of workers in non-right-to-work states and 14 percent of workers in right to work states, compared to Whites who make up for 70.3 percent of workers in non-RTW states and 62.6 percent of workers in RTW states.

Opponents of right-to-work laws also argue that workers don’t need such laws to protect them from being forced to join unions because that’s already illegal.

In a blog post originally published in the New York Times, EPI senior economist Elise Gould wrote: “Right-to-work goes one step further and entitles employees to the benefits of a union contract – including the right to have the union take up their grievance if their employer abuses them – without paying any of the cost.”

That means that non-union members are entitled to help from unions when they run afoul of employers, even though they don’t support them by paying dues.

As union membership dips to historic lows, economists say that those RTW work laws have contributed to the decline of unions nationwide.

But when employees don’t have to contend with RTW laws, employers find ways to pay more.

“Average hourly wages, the primary variable of interest, are 15.8 percent higher in non-RTW states ($23.93 in non-RTW states versus $20.66 in RTW states),” stated the report.

Workers earn about $1,500 less per year in RTW states compared to non-RTW states and employees. “It’s abundantly clear that right-to-work laws are negatively correlated with workers’ wages,” said Gould.

And because Blacks lean on unions more to promote wage equality, their paychecks are also more dependent on strong unions.

According to a report on Black union membership by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley, in the top 10 metropolitan areas, a higher concentration of Black workers participate in unions than Whites (16 percent for Black workers vs. 12.4 percent for White workers).

The report said that workers in non-RTW states are more than twice as likely to be in a union or protected by a union contract.

In an online blog post on collective bargaining Lawrence Mishel, the president of EPI and Lee Saunders, the president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest public service employee union in the U.S., said that, collective bargaining helps to reduce wage inequality and benefits the most for the lowest-wage workers.

“And it works to reduce other forms of inequality as well. African-American, Asian, Hispanic and immigrant workers who are union members are more likely to receive equitable pay,” the post read. “It also helps to close the wage gap between men and women.”

Mishel and Saunders wrote that even as Republican presidential primary candidates are positioning themselves as union busters, “growing support for collective bargaining combined with the pressing concerns middle-class voters feel every day when it comes to their wages that haven’t kept up with the cost of living,” should make them reconsider that stance.

EPI research assistant Will Kimball said that policymakers who are concerned by the three-and-a-half decades of wage stagnation that have plagued American workers should be trying to strengthen unions.

Kimball added: “Collective bargaining is a clear way to raise wages, and right to work laws undercut it.”

In Health, Income has Greater Impact than Race

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Being poor can have a bigger impact on your health than your race, according to a recent report by the Urban Institute.

“Income is a driving force behind the striking health disparities that many minorities experience,” stated a recent report by the Urban Institute, a research group originally founded in 1968 to study the programs associated with the War on Poverty.

And even though Blacks have higher rates of disease than Whites, “these differences are dwarfed by the disparities identified between high- and low-income populations within each racial/ethnic group,” the report said.

“Poor adults are almost five times as likely to report being in fair or poor health as adults with family incomes at or above 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or FPL, (in 2014, the FPL was $23,850 for a family of four) and they are more than three times as likely to have activity limitations due to chronic illness,” stated the report.

In 2010, Whites “had twice the income of Blacks and Hispanics, but six times the wealth,” the report said.

“In 2011, almost one-quarter (23.3 percent) of adults with family incomes under $35,000 per year had no usual place of medical care, compared with 6.0 percent of those with incomes of $100,000 or higher,” stated the report. “Similarly, 22.6 percent reported not having seen a dentist in more than five years, compared with 4.3 percent of adults with family incomes over $100,000.”

The effects of poverty on low-income families are often inescapable.

“Public transportation is often inadequate to enable residents to commute to employment, to find a better job, or to reach a supermarket, a reliable childcare provider, or health care services,” stated the report. Poor families also live in neighborhoods plagued by environmental pollution and live near busy highways and industrial factories.

Poor families often lack access to fresh produce and live in communities super-saturated by fast food restaurants, carry-outs and liquor stores. Safe places for children to play can be scarce.

Families with yearly incomes below $35,000 were “four times more likely to report being nervous and five times more likely to report sadness ‘all or most of the time,’” compared to families that made more than $100,000.

Children who live in low-income households are at greater risk for childhood obesity and experience higher rates of asthma than middle- and high-income families.

According to a 2010 American Lung Association report, the prevalence of asthma is 35 percent higher among African Americans compared to Whites. In 2012, the Center for American Progress said that asthma costs the country about $14 billion annually because of lost wages and missed schooldays.

And instead of saving employers money, low-income workers often cost their employers more, the report said, because of higher health care expenses and diminished productivity, as a result of missing more days at work and coming to work sick.

Adults who have suffered adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which can include oral, physical or sexual abuse or family dysfunction, are twice as likely to have heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes and four times as likely to have chronic lung disease, the report said.

“Policies that reduce adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or that promote improved educational outcomes can translate into improved economic well-being, better health outcomes, and lower health care costs,” the report explained. “Similarly, the effects of unemployment on health may be buffered by unemployment assistance and other resources (e.g., savings, family resources, and social or business contacts).”

The report also recommended making stronger investments in early childhood education and expanding community-based programs and improving service provider networks.

Citing a British study, the Urban Institute researchers noted that adults (60 to 64 years-old) who had grown up in the wealthiest households often “had 7 to 20 percent better cognitive performance” than adults who had grown up in the poorest households.

“People and interest groups working to solve these problems are doing more than improving income and wealth: they are ultimately benefiting population health for all age groups,” said the report.

“Improving the economic conditions of Americans at many income levels—from those who are poor to those in the middle class—could improve health and help control the rising costs of health care. Jobs, education, and other drivers of economic prosperity matter to public health.”

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