Nearly 10 years ago, school leaders in Oakland, California, launched the first district-level initiative of its kind in the nation: a program targeted exclusively to Black male high schoolers that was a part of their regular classes during the school day.
Taught by Black male instructors, the “Manhood Development” course emphasizes social-emotional learning, African and African American history and academic mentoring, drawing on culturally relevant teaching methods to counter stereotypes and create a stronger sense of community and belonging in school. The classes, which meet daily, include units such as “The Emotional Character of Manhood,” “The Struggle for Liberation and Dignity” and “The Black Male Image in American Media.” Students also participate in community-based projects, such as oral histories of Black residents in Oakland, and field trips that expose them to colleges and careers.
Now a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research and led by Thomas S. Dee, the Barnett Family Professor of Education in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, shows that the Oakland program has had a significant positive impact on lowering the high school dropout rates of young Black males. The study found that the Black male student dropout rate dropped by 43 percent in the years following the program’s introduction in the Oakland schools. Furthermore, between the graduating classes of 2010 and 2018, the high school graduation rate for Black males in Oakland schools increased from 46 to 69 percent
“Many historically marginalized students experience schools as highly alienating spaces,” said Professor Dee. “The targeted design of this program, and the evidence of its impact, challenges us to radically reconsider how we think about promoting equity in education.”
The study, “My Brother’s Keeper? The Impact of Targeted Educational Supports,” was co-authored by Emily K. Penner, an assistant professor of education at the University of California, Irvine. The study may be accessed here.