Reshaping academic achievement for Black children


As summer lingers on, many Black youths are enjoying their breaks from school. The two-to-three-month break from school has been linked to many Black children falling behind their peers. The summer break can lead to a stagnation of academic development.

However, this is not the core reason for the academic struggles of Black youth. According to the California State Department of Education, 75 percent of Black male students is not proficient in reading and writing standards set by the state. More than half of Black boys scored in the lowest category on the English portion of the test, trailing their female counterparts.

This is not a concern that is isolated to Black youth in California. In fact, Black children in the Twin Cities have some of the worst educational disparities in the nation. The educational system is not working for Black children, and the community will never prosper if we continue to have a majority of our children unable to read and write at proficient levels.

Historical trauma elements of education

The educational development of Black people has a traumatic historical past. As slaves, it was against the law for Black to read and write. Being caught reading and writing could lead to serious consequences such as being sold, assaulted, or physically mutilated.

The exposure to this level of trauma leads to a detrimental degree of psychological impact. This exposure can create a tremendous amount of fear, shame and guilt for attempting to acquire such essential tools for survival as reading and writing.

There have been several other historical factors contributing to the struggle for academic progress for Black children. We must remain honest: We live in a system that by design has not benefited the collective of Black children to advance socially.

Since the social design of education is functionally in opposition to the Black community, we must respond differently. As a community, it is our responsibility to socialize and educate our children. We cannot leave it to others outside of the Black community to be the main influences on Black children’s wellbeing.

The nature of school systems

The socialization of children is heavily influenced by the schools. The school system as we know it today has not been a benefit. The common idea of school is that it prepares students for life beyond high school. As we see the outcomes for African American children, the research and data show that we are not being prepared to have healthy and thriving lives.

When the community is not in charge of the primary socialization of little Black children and this is left to the school system, it is hard to have faith that anything will change for the better. We are also in the information age, where literally at our fingertips we can gain access to information that can change the trajectory of a Black life. Within our own culture, we must be able to utilize the tools of technology for the community. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.


Black children must grow up in a culture that solves their problems. In order to solve problems, reading, writing and arithmetic have to be a core focus. What would the Black community look like if we focused the education, programs, projects and family activities around developing economic sustainability, healthy food production, informational technology, and healthy relationships?

What could our communities look like with a focus on just these four areas alone? What would happen in a 10-, 20-, or 30-year span for the Black community?

These are the kinds of concepts we much begin to implement for our children. They deserve a more intentional effort to develop a better future for them. Many of our children do not hold a concept or vision of the future.

Many of our children just don’t want to die young and/or broke. That is the extent of their concept of a future. This is why we must be intentional about solving our problems in the present and developing now our young people for the future.


Brandon Jones M.A. is a mental health practitioner. He welcomes reader responses to or follow him on twitter @UniversalJones.