For more than 130 years Morehouse College has been a pioneer in the preparation of young Black males to assume responsibility and leadership in higher education, science, and local, state, national, and international government. We will continue (and indeed intensify) our efforts in these important areas. However, in view of certain current social conditions, the College feels it appropriate to more aggressively address one of the most critical issues facing our community and the nation - the pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade education of our nation’s children in general, and that of African-American males in particular.
It is worthwhile to note that a small number of small private K-12 schools in the U.S. are as good as any in the world. Successful graduates of these schools would compare quite favorably with students from any school in any nation. Likewise, it should be noted that American colleges and universities contain more of the world’s university students than any other nation. Of the world’s 1.2 million students who elect to pursue postsecondary education outside their home countries, more than one-third choose to study in the United States. (Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs - US Department of State)
The above facts not withstanding, there is ample documentation of needed concern for the condition of P-12 education in our nation.(A) “A Nation at Risk,” April, 1983 suggests that: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” (B).Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP), also known as "the Nation's Report Card," has conducted a nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. These sybject areas include reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, and the arts. According to NAEP Reports, since 1990, the percentage of students performing in the advanced level in math has averaged 5%. The percentage of African-American students performing at the advanced level in math has been 0%. (U.S. Department of Education); (C) The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, formerly known as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study) resulted from the American education community's need for reliable and timely data on the mathematics and science achievement of our students compared to that of students in other countries. TIMSS is the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment of its kind ever undertaken. Offered in 1995, 1999, and 2003, TIMSS provides trend data on students' mathematics and science achievement from an international perspective.In 1999, U.S.eighth grade students ranked #18 in science out of 38 nations and #19 in mathematics out of 37 nations tested.
The resulting picture is decidedly dichotomous, but none the less clear. In America, the richest nation on earth, we have a small number of private K-12 schools that are unsurpassed by any K-12 schools in the world. In general, however, our 8th grade science students rank #18 in a group of 38 nations tested. Our 8th grade mathematics students rank #19 out of 37 nations tested. While one third of the world’s college and university foreign students elect to come to our institutions(Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs - US Department of State ), in many other industrialized nations, courses in mathematics (other than arithmetic or general mathematics), biology, chemistry, physics, and geography start in grade 6 and are required of all students. The time spent on these subjects, based on class hours, is about three times that spent by even the most science-oriented U.S. students, i.e., those who select 4 years of science and mathematics in secondary school.(A Nation at Risk).
Ethicists and others have examined and will continue to examine the why’s of this condition.
Morehouse College views this picture as one with significant positives and equally significant challenges. Each of the above cited documents agrees on the unsatisfactory educational performance of America’s public school system in general. They unanimously attest to the even worse performance of African American students. In addition, African American males encounter disciplinary charges that result in a disproportionately high percentage being expelled from school and therefore prematurely being removed from the pool of high school graduates and the potential pool of college applicants. The above cited conditions lead to three important reasons for Morehouse College’s decision to address the issue of K-12 public school education. This rationale is articulated in three main questions.
- Why do U.S. schools in general, perform at the level that resulted in the conditions that lead to the 1983 A Nation at Risk Report?
- Are the factors that result in significantly poorer performance by Aftican American students related to the unsatisfactory performance of American students in general?
- Are there additional factors that lead to the disproportionately high percentage of African American males who experience major problems in our school systems? (See statement by Morehouse College President Walter E. Massey) If so, what are these problems and how might we provide leadership in research to assist in solving these problems at the national level, as well as at the local, and state level?
As the nation’s only historically Black all male college, we annually accept young African American male students who are products of our nation’s public schools. Is it probable that our systematic research into this group of complex questions listed above, might assist the faculty at Morehouse College as we continue to appropriately challenge our most academically gifted students while simultaneously aiding the less prepared students in achieving their maximum academic potential? We are a relatively small private liberal arts college. Our number of certified graduating teachers will not significantly change the fact that eighty percent of the nation’s public school teachers are Caucasion females, who may have received very little preparation in techniques for teaching minority students in general, or minority males in particular. It is our hope that we will be able to utilize our 135 years of experience in training males in general, and African American males, in particular to develop strategies and techniques to assist both majority and minority teachers who face this task on a daily basis.
It is hoped that this Overview provides a rather clear picture of the basic motivation for the Morehouse College decision to very seriously consider the initiation of an instructional development and teacher preparation program. With an annual graduation class of approximately 500 students, we will not significantly affect the number of needed teachers. We feel confident, however, that our research findings will have significant influence on the national educational agenda. We feel equally confident that our resultant teacher candidates will significantly impact the school programs or systems with which they come to be associated.