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Why Black Learners Need Supplemental College and Career Readiness Materials

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

First things first: not all Black children will or are going through the exact same things, and many Black communities (contrary to some common opinions) have a vast array of diverse experiences and challenges. However, there are a TON of similarities that contribute to the problem of Black students' unequal access to high-quality education. These are complex, multidimensional problems with structural, historical, social, and economic components.

Here are a few crucial elements:

Historical Context: In many Black communities, prejudice and racial discrimination exist despite efforts to downplay, disregard, and erase them. Since the beginning of time, Black people have had limited access to quality education due to historical segregation, discriminatory laws, and the legacy of slavery. This includes disparities in school funding, resources, and facilities.

Funding Disparities: Let's say you looked up the local schools connected to the worst zip codes in (insert city name) on Google. You are sure to find the most underfunded in this case. Since property taxes fund many school systems, there are large financial gaps between rich and economically disadvantaged communities. Many Black communities, often facing economic challenges, are zoned for schools with limited resources.

Allocation of Resources: Speaking of resources, schools in low-income communities are more likely to have trouble recruiting and keeping highly skilled teachers. The general quality of education and student assistance may suffer from a shortage of qualified teachers.

Discriminatory Practices: According to statistics, Black students often face more severe punishments than their white counterparts, which raises the likelihood of suspension and expulsion. Furthermore, we know that each day of missed school contributes to greater learning loss and is detrimental to their long-term academic performance.

Curriculum and Cultural Relevance: Alright, so not every Black kid lives in underfunded districts, in the hood, or is experiencing hardship. Nonetheless, there are some Black kids attending schools where they are the minority and are susceptible to having lower levels of engagement and connection because some schools' curricula and teaching methods are not culturally relevant. Cultural insensitivity also occurs in schools with little funding. Therefore, it is crucial to have representation in the curriculum, textbooks, and other teaching resources. Students identify and connect easier with characters, scenarios, and stories familiar to their lives.

Standardized Testing: Reiterating what I said before about the importance of curriculum and culture, standardized testing has generated a lot of discussion because some have been proven to include cultural biases that negatively impact Black children's academic potential. Consider some of the language, semantics, English standards, and phrasing of test questions, which produce different interpretations of meaning based on differing cultures and academic exposures. With this in mind, high-stakes testing may also facilitate monitoring and restrict access to advanced courses.

Economic Inequality: While we talked about funding disparities, addressing economic inequalities regarding poverty and limited resources is also important. Economic disparities disproportionately affect Black communities, leading to limited access to educational resources outside the classroom, such as tutoring, test prep services, extracurricular activities, and educational technology.

Systemic Racism: I open this post by briefly mentioning some historical context associated with disparities in access to quality education for Black learners. To elaborate on institutional discrimination, systemic racism, on the other hand, is a part of many different institutions and usually plays a role in the persistence of educational disparities. This includes laws like school zoning and the previously stated disciplinary procedures that disproportionately impact Black students.

Parental Engagement and Advocacy: I briefly discussed my life story in the first blog post, emphasizing how few resources, advocacy, and involvement from parents I had. Check it out here. Parents in disadvantaged communities sometimes face various barriers to actively advocating for their children. I've seen some families facing obstacles because of financial difficulties (they couldn't afford to pay for uniforms, student fees, college waivers, or transportation) or time limits (if they're working two or three jobs); others parents were just absent, refusing to prioritize their students' academics. In contrast, others had restricted access to information or lacked the abilities, knowledge, and skills necessary to assist their children academically. I saw a little bit of everything, and sadly, the students were gravely impacted.

Stereotypes and Biases: My goodness, the negative impacts of implicit bias run rampant for many learners. Teachers and administrators holding implicit biases are affected gravely. Their expectations and impressions of students often result in unfair treatment and a lack of empathy in the classroom. As an educator and student advocate, I've experienced this so many times firsthand. Where teachers couldn't provide an explanation or account for their cold or harsh treatment of specific students over others (often Black students on the negative receiving end).

These disparities help shed light on why Black learners need supplemental materials.

What's the solution?

A comprehensive and multifaceted approach is needed to address these disparities. This approach should include equitable funding, community engagement, policy changes, and culturally responsive teaching practices. Additionally, ensuring these learners receive additional support and that ongoing efforts to combat systemic racism are made. Then again, it's really simple: if you're in the educational arena or have influence and can impact bias laws, discriminatory practices, or a Black student's learning experience in any way, advocate for them. Play your part.

For all children to benefit from a more fair and equal educational system, these problems must be acknowledged and addressed. My part was the founding of Black Girl College Prep. What role are you able to play?

How can you support Black Girl College Prep in realizing its goal of giving every student (in your sphere of influence) access to top-notch learning, life, and career readiness opportunities and resources so they feel equipped, empowered, and ready to use their individual voices and skills to contribute to the creation of a more diverse and equitable world?

You may begin by assisting us in spreading the news!

Forward this article to a friend.

Until next time, be the change you want to see in the world.


Coach Rahk


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