"Mentoring is part of the answer. Increased parental involvement is another."
Though we live in a society that espouses equal opportunity, equality is a forlorn dream without an adequate education. In the years since Brown v. Education, the Supreme Court decision overturning the doctrine of separate but equal, African Americans have made substantial progress in education. The illiteracy rate for blacks, 5% at emancipation, 33% in 1910, is now negligible. In 1959, only 20.7 percent of blacks ages 25 and older held a high school diploma, compared to 78.9 percent in 2000 -- only slightly less than the 84.1 percent of the overall population. Martin Luther King lamented in 1965 one-twentieth as many blacks as whites attend college. No longer. Today, the college participation rates for blacks is 40%, only six percentage points behind whites. Still, African American students, particularly African American male students, constitute the largest racially identifiable group of educational have-nots. Our children are not learning enough in our public schools. Their depressingly poor performance is the most important source of ongoing racial inequality in America today. African American students drop out of school at a higher rate than white students and those who remain to graduation are frequently ill prepared for either college or the job market. In a society that is growingly increasingly competitive, many of our children cannot compete. Their opportunities in life will inevitably be limited by their inadequate education.One published report has suggested that in most subjects, the majority of twelfth-grade black students do not have even a "partial mastery" of the skills and knowledge that are considered "fundamental for proficient work" at their grade.The picture for African American male students is even bleaker. College or some form of post graduate training is essential to gainful employment. African American women represent 62 percent of Black undergraduate college enrollment (in 1997, the last year for which data is available from the National Center for Educational Statistics) while African American men represent just 38 percent of the enrollment. The gap has widened since 1990, when men were 39 percent of African American enrollment, and women were 61 percent. Mentoring is part of the answer. Increased parental involvement is another. Motivating administrators and teachers to expect more of Black students and provide more to them is yet another pressing need.The 100 Black Men of Sacramento chapter, through coalitions with other interested groups and in cooperation with local school districts, is committed to the development of programs and initiatives that aim to increase the performance of African American students and thereby enhance the quality of education for all students.