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Grades


    Black Boys and 4th Grade Failure Syndrome
    Jeffrey Van Brown


    Important topic:

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    Black Boys and 4th Grade Failure Syndrome

    By tamara

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    It is no secret that Black men are disproportionately
    uneducated, unemployed and incarcerated. Articles I’ve read
    in Noteworthy News and The Black Scholar toss out statistics
    that say that a six year old Black boy has a one in three
    chance of going to prison in his lifetime and the
    unemployment rate among young Black men is forty percent. To
    understand the issues affecting Black men, we have to
    understand the life experiences of Black boys which shape
    the attitudes and behaviors of Black men. These statistics
    say one thing to me: Black men are becoming more and more
    disconnected from society each day.

    Where does this start? How can we prevent this? Is it a
    preventable phenomenon?

    The author of Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black
    Boys (an old book but one that I recommend nonetheless)
    tried to explain this phenomenon by performing a
    longitudinal study of test scores, general attitude toward
    school and self-image in a group of 80 boys, all in the same
    school, and all in the same class. What he found was
    alarming. Through first grade, the Black boys in his study
    express positive feelings about themselves and school. These
    feelings make a shift for the worse in second grade and by
    fifth grade the boys are outright cynical about the
    schooling process and their sense of self has degraded
    correspondingly. This shift in attitude correlates with a
    shift in performance. The author refers to this drop in
    enthusiasm and academic performance as Fourth Grade Failure
    Syndrome, the “poor transition boys make between the primary
    and intermediate division”.

    The causes can be identified as teachers not understanding
    “Black Male Culture” which leads to boys feeling as if they
    are marginalized in class, that they exist outside of the
    culture of the classroom. The teachers in the study became
    less encouraging academically and more inclined to pushing
    Black boys disproportionately toward athletics. This is
    reinforced by the media and the fact that Black boys have
    limited access to positive images of Black men.

    Second through fifth grade is a crucial time in any of our
    lives. We are building ideas of self at this time while
    trying to reconcile the different ways that people view us.
    If teachers positively reinforce athletic achievement in
    Black males more than academic achievement and the idea that
    academic achievement being akin to “acting White” among
    Black schoolchildren, then we have a confluence of pressure
    from teachers and peers to find success outside of the
    schoolbooks at an early age. To achieve academically then is
    to reconfigure ideas of self that are not consistent with
    those that society tends to impose on Black males.

    By the time young Black men enter the intermediate stage of
    their schooling, they are left confused by notions of
    success and have constructed negative images of self. And if
    you ask me, that is the real Fourth Grade Failure Syndrome.
    The fact that Black boys enter the school system on par with
    their peers shows that there are no at risk kids, just at
    risk situations. If we can remedy the situations, then
    perhaps we can take a step toward improving the current
    condition of Black males.

    Black Boys and 4th Grade Failure Syndrome