A federal investigation into racially-biased discipline ended with a voluntary agreement in 2012 between the U.S. Department of Education and Oakland Unified School District. The probe examined whether Oakland schools disciplined Black students more frequently and harsher than White students for the same misbehavior. Under the agreement, the school district promised to try a range of alternatives to traditional discipline.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there’s now something positive going on in Oakland schools that caught the White House’s attention.
In fact, one of the school district’s tools—the Manhood Development Program—is also drawing the national spotlight.
The school district’s Office of African-American Male Achievement oversees the program tasked with guiding Black students toward success and curbing disciplinary problems.
Christopher P. Chatmon, who heads the office, told the New York Times that schools are quick to punish Black students for misbehavior that’s common among children of racial and ethnic groups.
“The number one strategy to reduce discipline issues is engaged instruction,” he stated to the Times. Pointing to the manhood development course, he explained: “We’re talking about how to elevate their game academically through the lens of brotherhood.”
Chatmon’s office launched the Manhood Development Program in 2010 with the mission of decreasing suspensions, incarceration and the achievement gap—all while increasing attendance, graduation rates and literacy.
The Manhood Development Program is now the department’s “flagship program,” according to the Times. Twenty schools in the district offer the program from the third-grade to the 12th grade.
The program’s full-credit elective, “Mastering Our Cultural Identity: African-American Male Image,” is part of the daily curriculum at 20 schools throughout the district.
It focuses on developing a positive image of Black men and learning about African-American history. Black male instructors teach all the courses and serve as positive role models.
The New York Times says it’s too soon to access the program, but there are indications of success. Some of those indicators include a reduction in chronic absenteeism and suspensions for Black boys. Also, more than half the inaugural class graduated and are in college, with scholarships from the local nonprofit East Bay College Fund.
Participants are also closing the achievement gap. The percentage of them with at least a 3.0 grade-point average increased from 16 percent to 25 percent over the past three years.
SOURCE: New York Times | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty