U-46 panel to discuss black male experience in schools
Not everyone has the same experience in school. Just how different is it for minority students in the suburbs?
That's a question Elgin-area school officials hope to answer for a small segment of their student population -- black males.
Elgin Area School District U-46 educators, parents and students will join in a panel discussion on the black male experience in public education Saturday.
The "Brother 2 Brother" symposium is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Larkin High School, 1475 Larkin Ave., Elgin.
The panel comprises black men, some who are products of U-46, and prominent community members.
"The purpose is to make sure the experience of black males is visible," said Ronald Raglin, U-46 assistant superintendent of educational support programs and alignment.
"We know what unintentional, or maybe intentional, barriers we have erected that prevent them from progress in the educational process. Sometimes you have to isolate gender and race to get at the issue. There is an assumption that everybody's at the same place, so you have to differentiate not to divide, but to show where the need is in order to respond. There are challenges when it comes to being a black male in America."
Among the speakers is Gilman Whiting, associate professor of African American and diaspora studies at Vanderbilt University, who will share local and national data on black male students in public schools.
About 2 percent of U-46 teachers are black and roughly 6 percent of the student population is black.
"This is not a uniquely U-46 experience," said April Wells, U-46 coordinator of academies, Advanced Placement, gifted, and world languages. "There is really a national cry (for more black teachers)."
According to the Consortium for Policy Research and Education, there is a nationwide shortage of minority teachers with black men representing about 2 percent of the nation's teachers.
How U-46 teachers -- 75 percent white women and 25 percent people of color -- can better understand and connect with black students is part of the discussion.
"We have a pretty robust local population of black males who have gone through our school system," Wells said. "What we hope this leads to is ... a real picture of what those barriers look like from that experience."
The presentation also will address strategies that support engagement, barriers to academic attainment, student discipline, and setting instructional outcomes, plus a question-and-answer session.
Once officials identify the systemic challenges for black males, they hope to continue the conversation with black female students.
They also plan to highlight positive efforts toward catering to the needs of black students, such as a recent college fair at Elgin Community College with historically black colleges and universities. More than 200 students and families from the area attended.
"We are trying to look at closing the achievement gap and opportunity gap," Raglin said. "We are expecting ... people speaking their truths. Expect some discomfort."