In a 2009 report “Supporting African American Boys in School,” University of Wisconsin professor, Jeffrey Lewis, and his colleague Amy Hilgendorf interviewed 28 African American boys in grades 4 – 6 from two elementary schools and one middle school and determined a preliminary set of issues and ideas for “finding ways to connect African American boys’ natural mentors to their school lives.”
Based on these early findings, Lewis identified four layers of support that the boys discussed:
- Instrumental Support – This layer is for the support of the boys’ academic performance, and it includes homework help, enrichment experiences, and more practice with previously learned skills.
- Accountability, Informational, and Moral Support – The boys discussed being held accountable for their behavior, help in handling their emotions, and their parents’ meeting with school staff.
- Developing School–Oriented Attitudes, Behaviors and Habits – The boys in this study “mentioned encouragement and expectations to ‘do good’” and “the importance of ‘getting your education’ to have a happy life.”
- Support for Basic Needs – The boys were grateful for having their basic needs met and having their school supplies. They also liked the close bonds and feeling of security that they received from parents and grandparents.
The age group that Dr. Lewis interviewed is compelling since the fourth grade is when we typically “lose them.” This group of boys were at the age when they can readily recall what has worked for them in the past and what didn’t. An age range that began at fourth grade and ended with the sixth grade was a good time to find out what works in supporting African-American boys in school.