Black Boys in Oakland Bucking Low Expectations

Black Boys in Oakland Bucking Low Expectations

23 African-American boys in Oakland have scored perfectly on a state-sponsored test. Is a project aimed at their success working?

Published April 13, 2011

In the Black community, especially as of late, there are often not a lot of great successes to celebrate. Statistics show that we lag in areas of health, incarceration, and education, and other statistics show that many things are getting worse, not better. But while we can’t run from that reality, that reality is also not the whole story.

As many African-Americans know, though life is far from perfect for many of us, it’s certainly not misery all the time. And a group of young students in Oakland, California, are showing their classmates and the world that it would be foolish to believe blacks parents and their children are beyond repair.

Enter Amir Ealy, an eight-year-old boy who earned a perfect score on the 2010 California Standards Test last spring. Ealy was only one of 400 students in the whole Oakland Unified School District to get a perfect score on math or reading. Even better, 22 of Ealy’s Black male counterparts around the district scored perfectly like him. The point: Undoubtedly, many black kids struggle in school, but many others are doing wonderfully.

Marco Franco, principal of Sobrante Park Elementary, where Ealy goes to school, was so proud of Ealy that he held an assembly in the boy’s honor. "You all know Amir," Franco told the other students. "He's popular. He loves sports. He does very well in sports. But today, we are honoring him because last year on the state test, the California Standards Test, he scored a perfect score on his math.”

The students cheered, and Franco added: “I want you to reach for that.”

Teachers hope Ealy’s ambition will rub off on his schoolmates, and other school officials believe Ealy’s success, as well as the successes of the 22 other Black boys who did well on the test, is a sign that a learning program aimed at young Black boys is working.

Called the African-American Male Achievement Initiative, the Oakland Unified program is a new privately funded project to help African-American boys do well in school—which, as it turns out, many are. And while 23 out of 400 isn’t perfect, it certainly isn’t bad.

Related video: Oakland Student Aces State Test


(Photo:Wang Yanan /Xinhua /Landov)


Written by Cord Jefferson


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