High School Excellence: A Critical Measure of Success for Black Male Students
by Robert W. Simmons III, EdD
I can recall my first days of high school in 1988. Lunchtime was great. Football practice was amazing. However, life in the classroom was no fun. I was angry. I felt alone and inadequate. As a result I struggled academically and emotionally. I was dealing with my fathers’ physical incarceration and my own mental incarceration, while at the same time struggled to maintain above a 2.0 GPA through my sophomore year. Somehow, though, during the summer between my sophomore and junior year, the light went on and excellence became my mantra. It was what I thought of constantly.
While my story of struggle in high school and resilience lends credence to the generations of Black men who have walked a similar path, large portions of society have tended to view Black men and boys within a framework that situates failure, incarceration and poor academic performance as the norm.
In fact, portions of the larger society view Black men and boys with some degree of dissonance and trepidation.
In a new video “Pipeline To Success”, we tell the story of a young king named Toussaint Lamont Stone, an 18-year-old public school student from Oakland, California, as he navigates his final year of high school and prepares to transition to community college. Through the lens of Toussaint's journey, the video highlights the social and systemic challenges facing Black students, specifically Black young men and boys. “Pipeline To Success” also demonstrates that when we believe in our young Black men and boys, and provide them with the type of support Chris Chatmon has built through his leadership of the Oakland Unified School District’s Office of African American Male Achievement, our “beloved communities” will be sustainable, silencing those who position Black male narratives through a narrow lens of doubt, despair and anguish.
CBMA views all Black men and boys as scholars, intellectuals and leaders
In furthering this ethos, we believe that completing high school college, career and community ready is essential to their lifelong success. In an effort to support Black men and boys during their journey through high school and beyond, CBMA has initiated the implementation of our High School Excellence Framework (HSEF). The levers of change associated with our HSEF provide a well-researched, evidence-based platform to accelerate high school completion rates for Black men and boys. Furthermore, the HSEF aims to elevate not just high school completion, but also Black boys’ capacity to be prepared to fully participate in college, career and in their communities.
Developed in partnership with our amazing group of scholars, teachers and school administrators, CBMA’s High School Excellence Advisory Board has partnered with us to ensure that the four critical r’s for Black male excellence -- RIGOR, RELEVANCE, RELATIONSHIPS and RESILIENCE -- are embedded in our work. Members of the HSE Advisory Board are:
- Lionel Allen (Chief Academic Officer, Urban Prep)
- Elaine Allensworth, PhD (Lewis-Sebring Director, University of Chicago Consortium on School Research; Managing Director, University of Chicago Urban Education Institute)
- Robert Balfanz, PhD (Co-Director of the Talent Development Secondary Reform Model; Director of the Everyone Graduates Center, Johns Hopkins University)
- Travis Bristol, PhD (Assistant Professor, Boston University)
- Rhonda Bryant (President, The Moriah Group)
- Chris Chatmon (Deputy Chief of Equity, Oakland Unified School District)
- Ricky Fountain (Executive Principal, Detroit, MI)
- Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, PhD (Director of the Office for Community College Research and Leadership, University of Illinois)
- Kasha Hayes (DC Public Schools, Manager of Secondary Literacy)
- Kevin Hudson (Princeton University, Assistant Director for College Opportunity)
- Shawn Joseph, EdD (Superintendent, Metro Nashville Public Schools)
- Chance Lewis, PhD (Founding Executive Director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Education Collaborative)
- Bryant Marks, PhD (Senior Research Fellow, Campaign for Black Male Achievement; Presidential Advisor with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans; Morehouse College)
- Yetunde Reeves, EdD (Principal at Ballou Senior High School, Washington DC)
- Ivory Toldson, PhD (Head of The Quality Education for Minorities (QEM)
- Chezare A. Warren, PhD (Assistant Professor, Michigan State University)
Additionally, one of our critical partners in this work is the Douglass Academy for Young Men in Detroit. Under the strong leadership by Principal Berry Greer, Douglass has made amazing progress through excellence in the classroom. While Detroit is one of CBMA’s core cities in advancing our HSEF, we are also elevating our four other core cities, Oakland, Louisville, Milwaukee and Baltimore.
At CBMA, we believe that this High School Excellence Framework will provide guidance for our work
and allow us to point to specific communities and unequivocally say—this is what winning looks like for Black men and boys. We look forward to sharing continued updates, insights and data with you as we embark on this next phase of our work, and hope that you will stick with us on this journey to build beloved communities where all of our Black men and boys can thrive and excel beyond their greatest heights.