For decades, Black male youths have experienced serious achievement gaps in nationwide public schools, a trend that contributes to high young Black men’s permanent unemployment and incarceration rates.
Often called “the school-to-prison pipeline,” Black juveniles are frequently subject to the blunt force of court referrals to discipline kids and throw them into a perpetual cycle of the juvenile correction system. The message becomes, “you don’t matter; we don’t see you.”
While Kent schools don’t follow State and national trends for law enforcement interventions and suspensions, last year’s student assessment showed that “Black boys were being sent to the principal or having parent conferences called at higher rates than other groups.”
The reasons for this achievement gap are many, including lack of social, emotional, and behavioral support, an absence of Black male teachers, and no clear policy to address the disparities in the educational experience of Black male students.
In May of 2021, the Maryland Board of Education came up with a strategic plan to counter the achievement gaps in Maryland schools: Transforming the Culture of Maryland’s Schools for Black Boys, for Maryland educators while also initiating “The Task Force on Achieving Academic Equity and Excellence for Black Boys (AAEEBB),” a study group who sought “national and local best practices to inform actionable recommendations and solutions to any potential barriers.
These studies resulted in the creation of a pilot program offered to Maryland counties that wanted to participate. Currently, 14 county pilot programs are part of the initiative, including Kent Middle School and High School.
Organized initially by Dr. Angela Holocker, coordinator of student services for Kent County Public Schools and interim principal at Kent Middle School, Kent schools are fully implementing the grant-funded program and have partnered with Minary’s Dream Alliance along with mentors Harold Somerville and Antoine Reed Sr., both of whom participated in last year’s Kent mentoring program funded by the AAEEBB grant.
Currently, about 36 students at KCHS and Middle School are enrolled in the program.
The coordination between Kent school pilot programs and Minary’s Dream Alliance is a natural fit. Their missions overlap, each fostering a positive academic experience to counter the historical disparities Black males experience in education by providing mentorships, study hall areas, book club activities and other shared events.
The Spy recently attended one of the KCHS mentoring meetings where Paul Tue, Harold Somerville, Antoine Reid Sr., Tilise Brown, and student Jamarcus Downs talked about the program, passed out books, discussed Black history, and prepared for an AAEEBB convention in Baltimore in April, complete with session measuring the boys for suits for the occasion.
This video is approximately seven minutes in length. For more about the Transforming the Culture of Maryland’s Schools for Black Boys initiative, please go here.