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Love is the Critical Ingredient for Black Men


High school graduation rates for young Black men have improved in the last decade — since 2012, U.S. graduation rates increased overall by 4%, while Black students saw a 14% increase in graduation. But there is work to be done to close the achievement gap between them and their white and Asian American counterparts. The best solution to help young Black males find and stay on the path to lifelong opportunities is simple: love.

That’s the conclusion of the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s latest report, "Love is the Foundation for Life: Schott Report on Black Males in Public Education."  The foundation gathers and disseminates philanthropic funds for racial and educational justice. This is their fifth report on Black males in education.

Dr. John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation.Dr. John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation.The report's data show that, by building truly supportive and loving environments and ecosystems for young Black men, students from all backgrounds benefit.

“It tells us there are things we can do to create the type of momentum necessary to increase the amount of opportunity at a systems level,” said Dr. John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation. “In the places and spaces where Black males are performing at a higher level, all students are performing at a higher level. That did not hold true when we centered white males.”

The report focuses on high school graduation as a metric to explore how education, and all the systems that pour into it, impact a young Black man’s life potentials. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Black male life expectancy has decreased by 3.6 years, according to 2022 research conducted at Oxford University.

Dr. James Earl Davis, professor of policy, organizational and leadership studies at Temple University, said he deeply appreciated the foundation’s “loving framework” as an “intentional pivot, to get us thinking.”

“How do you love the children you love — what do you do? [The Schott Foundation] organized a framework around that,” said Davis. “The love message has really taken root because of contemporary crises around mental and emotional health. Loving framework gets us engaged thinking about Black boys and emerging men in other kinds of ways. How do we provide the systems where they can be healthy — not only physically but mentally?”

Davis added it’s important to remember that love doesn’t only come from families, or even from just inside schools; love must be communal and system-wide. And changing the system into one that loves will take major work, he said.

Jackson agreed and added that he hopes the report will get readers to ask important questions of the states and cities that are seeing their graduation gaps close. One state with a surge in Black graduation is Alabama — 88% of Black males in that state graduated, which is two percentage points higher than the total national average.

“It’s about every county and state asking themselves, “What is the life expectancy of a young person in my country and state, and do I care and love them enough to make the investment to expand it and give them the most robust living and learning experience possible?’” asked Jackson. “Having access to healthy food, having access to good health care, [these are] education issues. High school graduation is a benchmark for a host of other things we’d like to see happen in our families, economy, and democracy.”

Dr. Derrick R. Brooms, professor of Africana Studies and executive director of the Black Men’s Research Institute at Morehouse College.Dr. Derrick R. Brooms, professor of Africana Studies and executive director of the Black Men’s Research Institute at Morehouse College.The Schott Foundation analyzes metropolitan areas for 24 indicators of a loving system of support, centering care (health resources and an environment that boots both physical and mental growth), stability (infrastructure that supports an individual’s security), commitment (school practices that support each student’s potential), and capacity (financial abilities and policies that meet children’s needs). The foundation calls this analysis the Loving Cities Initiative. After studying 20 cities, the report said that no city gave more than 60% of the supports necessary to qualify as loving.

“We really need to rethink the ways that Black boys are cared for in the K-12 space,” said Dr. Derrick R. Brooms, professor of Africana Studies and executive director of the Black Men’s Research Institute at Morehouse College. “When Black boys are cared about in school, it fundamentally changes the pedagogy and practices. If we stretch that out, it has all the makings of improving their outcomes specifically related to development, personal, academic, and social.”

Brooms added that it’s important to add understanding and nuance to the idea of success for students—for some, that may be just getting to graduation, instead of worrying about getting all A's or test scores.

“If Black boys are not successful in high school to the extent that they do not graduate, then we can begin to predict their life outcomes and life chances,” said Brooms. “We can think about things such as self-esteem, self-awareness, sense of self, notions around mattering, all of those kinds of things come into play when we’re thinking about our Black boys’ ability to successfully matriculate through the K-12 continuum.”

Liann Herder can be reached at [email protected].

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