Dr. Shaun R. Harper, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity at the University of Pennsylvania, recently published the results of a study of academically successful male students of color from 40 high schools in New York City.  Rather than dwell on the negative stereotypes that are promoted about the urban Black male, his research focused on the strategies that the successful ones in this demographic used to succeed in high school and beyond.

The full report provides an overview of the study, the historical backdrop, and the research process, but what did he find are some of the specific strategies of successful Black and Latino adolescent males?  The conclusion of the report suggests several specific actions for each of the stakeholder groups, but this post will focus on what parents and families can do to foster success in school for Black boys:

  • Parents must consistently reinforce the value of education to their sons.  They need to share their high expectations.  “Almost all the students we interviewed said attending school, performing well, and going to college were never optional.”  Often, it helps for parents to share their difficulty finding employment opportunities if they had not attended college, or they did have college degrees, they explained how the degree opened doors of employment that would have been unavailable without it.  Members of the extended family also reinforced the value of education as well.
  • Parents of successful boys were strict with them, but they were not “mean or abusive.”  These parents restricted the amount of time their sons spent outside—especially in urban settings.  Harper suggests that since outdoor plat is important, parents might enroll their sons in urban youth sports leagues or supervised outdoor playtime; however, he recommends that boys not be allowed outside for several hours after dark.
  • Parents can prepare their sons for college in the following ways:
    • Enroll your son in SAT prep courses and pre-college prep courses that include Saturday workshops, college tours, financial aid counseling, standardized test prep, and academic skills development.
    • Emphasize the need to finish college.  Since the following activities improve students’ chances of academic success, parents of college students need to check in with them frequently to learn…
      • …how well they are performing academically,
      • …the organizations that they have joined,
      • …the leadership roles that they want to have,
      • …the “meaningful” relationships that they’ve developed with campus administrators and professors outside of class, and
      • …the internships and summer research programs to which they have applied.