raceAhead: June 29, 2016

Jun 29, 2016

For smart companies, talent -- and the talent pipeline -- is a preoccupation bordering on obsession. But companies looking to diversify their future ranks are going to be facing some serious headwinds, if the ongoing racial divides in the public school system aren't fixed.

In the fall of 2014, the nation’s public school population was, for the first time, “majority-minority,” a phrase that should finally call into question the definition of minority once and for all. And kids of color are not faring as well they should.

Since then, schools have made little progress either re-training white teachers or recruiting ones who look more like the populations they serve. (Latino and Asian students are among the fastest growing parts of the population.) It makes a difference. One example: New Department of Ed data confirms that black pre-schoolers are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts, starting them on a track to failure early.

And low expectations persist. Another recent study from Johns Hopkins showed that when evaluating the same black student, white teachers were about 40% less likely to think that the student would finish high school than black teachers.

“The vast majority of K-12 teachers are white women, under pressure to provide an orderly classroom,” says Dr. J. Luke Wood, an associate professor and researcher who runs a doctoral program that helps train professionals to lead at the community college level. He is an expert on the issues facing boys and young men in the education system. “It’s important to realize how unprepared teachers are for the complicated lives of boys of color.”

Black and brown boys who do stay in school report feeling invisible to teachers and alienated from outdated curricula that doesn’t seem to include their experience. And, the pressure to police the parts of their identities that trigger anxiety in their white teachers, leaves all kids of color feeling conflicted and drained. “It’s important to shift the narrative around to what these kids need,” he says.

The issue only gets more extreme as students reach the university level and find teachers who are subject matter experts but who “may never have taken a class in teaching.” Relationships first, pedagogy second, when facing a diverse student body, says Wood. “We have to get to know each other," he says. “It doesn’t matter how good your lesson plan is, if you can’t relate to your students.”

Part of his advocacy and research work is in association with RISE Boys and Men of Color, a $10 million interdisciplinary effort to study and disseminate best practices for improving the lives of black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian boys and men in the U.S. at every level of their lives, from education to workplace.

But he says, more data is needed, and stat.

“Academia doesn’t value work on black males, for example, and that’s a challenge,” he says. “They tend to do work on white populations.”

But he has one proven practice that can be useful to anyone who mentors students, interns or first time employees, immediately: Be intrusive. “Boys and men in this population are reluctant to seek out help or show any weakness at all,” he says. Check in, often. “And if something is important to their success, like meeting with a faculty member or attending an orientation," don't assume they're comfortable enough to join in on their own, he says. "Make it mandatory.”

On Point

Google now home to a coding non-profit

The New York City office of Google will also be headquarters to Black Girls Code, a non-profit that teaches girls of color how to code through various programs like workshops and camps. The move should provide a chance for mentorship and cross-inspiration between the tech giant and the future engineering stars.

Fortune

The next 25 years of charter schools

The nation’s biggest advocacy group for charter schools is meeting this week in Tennessee, and although there is much to celebrate, much work remains to be done.  Ted Kolderie, one of the creators of the nation's first charter school laws, argues that public education is cursed by the notion of that there is only "one 'best way' to do education better."  Politics and a lack of consensus keeps the curse alive.

NPR

A new poll shows that Trump supporters more likely to be racist

Trump supporters are more likely to describe African Americans as unintelligent, lazy, violent and criminal than supporters of the former Republican candidates in the primary process, or who support Hillary Clinton, according to a very discouraging Reuters/Ipsos poll of 16,000 Americans.

Reuters

Black former inmates and their families permanently harmed by prison

The US is home to 25% of the world’s prison population, and a largely inefficient and biased system tends to incarcerate black men at a higher rate. Tony N. Brown and Evelyn Patterson, two sociology professors from Vanderbilt University, explain their own research into the wide-reaching and permanent damage that African American former inmates and their families experience as a result of incarceration.

The Conversation

Suicides on the Pine Ridge reservation

Despite increased attention and some nascent suicide prevention programs, people living on the reservation are still struggling. Suicides for Native American women of all ages grew 89% from 1999 to 2014, the largest increase for any demographic group, and nowhere is the situation more stark than the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The area has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, jobs are few and health care woefully inadequate.

Youth Today

The Woke Leader

How to conduct an inclusive job interview

Director Xavier Burgin and writer Kafia Haile have made an emotional short video that coincidentally doubles as anti-bias-in-hiring training film that everyone who works should see. Mr. Hall is an older man of obvious character and accomplishment, who must make the case for his value to a young, white gatekeeper who puts up barrier after barrier. The tension is palpable.

YouTube

A criminal act changed this man's life

In this beautifully rendered long read, Issac Bailey describes the long, slow toll that his brother’s criminal behavior took on him and the community at large. It's part memoir, and part sociological investigation of violence, family drama, dreams deferred and a life cut short.

The Marshall Project

China bans Lady Gaga over Dalai Lama

The topics of conversation were yoga, meditation and how to detoxify humanity. But that short meeting with the Dalai Lama was enough to get Lady Gaga declared a "hostile foreign force" and have her and her work banned by China's Communist Party. The video of the meeting is on the singer's website.

The Guardian

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