“I am disturbed by the number of African American males dropping out of school,” says teacher in response to Catalyst story

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Just wanted to bring your attention to one of many insightful comments made to the post about Catalyst’s latest cover story on black male students, which reveals that one in four black males was suspended at least once last year and they made up 61 percent of expulsions. The comment was written by Claire Falk.

I am a white teacher in a school that is 99% African American, with 95% of students living at or below the poverty line. I am a life-long resident of Chicago and a product of Chicago Public Schools. I spent 30 years in private industry and just finished my 5th year teaching. I teach at the high school level. There are a few thoughts I would like to put forth.

Just wanted to bring your attention to one of many insightful comments made to the post about Catalyst’s latest cover story on black male students, which reveals that one in four black males was suspended at least once last year and they made up 61 percent of expulsions. The comment was written by Claire Falk.

I am a white teacher in a school that is 99% African American, with 95% of students living at or below the poverty line. I am a life-long resident of Chicago and a product of Chicago Public Schools. I spent 30 years in private industry and just finished my 5th year teaching. I teach at the high school level. There are a few thoughts I would like to put forth.

1. Teachers, principals, and all other staff within schools should not be expected to solve serious society-wide problems regarding racism and poverty. Our job first and foremost is to teach.

2. Most of my students live in single-parent homes and many do not live with their parents. Many have parents who have died, are incarcerated, or have drug, alcohol, or gang problems that keep them from providing the parenting that children need. Many of my students live with grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, or older siblings.

3. Students in a school like mine experience a myriad of problems that students at North Side Prep or Walter Payton do not have to worry about and yet those schools receive a great deal of money while our school is always scrounging around for dollars here and there.

4. Schools in poverty neighborhoods need many more resources. We need smaller classes, more security to make sure that all students get to class in a timely manner, social services, and small medical clinics within the school.

5. We have an excellent teaching staff and all teachers are trying to keep as many of our students in school as possible. Most of us are putting in 15-20 hours every week for which we are not paid. When I have a student who consistenly disrupts class, he (and it is mostly males) is robbing all other students of their education time and that I do not allow. Suspension is the last resort. Parents are spoken to, parents are called to school for conferences, students are referred to social workers.

6. We do not have in-school suspension because a certified teacher has to run it and CPS does not allow us a position for that. When a student receives a suspension work from all teachers is sent home. It is my experience that it is very rarely completed and handed in.

7. This problem starts at birth or before. Unless we decide to spend some serious money in high quality pre-school education I do not believe this situation will change. There are mothers out there struggling mightily to keep their children safe and keep them in school but for high school males in my community the lure of the street is hard to overcome.

I am very interested in following this because I am disturbed by the number of African American males dropping out of school. The females in our school perform much better. They take school much more seriously, they study, and expect to go to college. Unless something is done quickly we will not only lose this generation but the next.