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A coalition of black teachers and community leaders are seeking changes to boost the academic achievement of black children in San Diego County schools, from training school staff in race relations to offering more optional classes on African American history.

“Our children are beyond a state of emergency,” their report reads. “They are experiencing on a daily basis a mental/educational death.”

African American students, as a group, have higher dropout rates and lagging test scores compared to the county average. This isn’t the first time that someone has tried to highlight the problem and possible fixes: Black leaders created a similar “blueprint” for helping students in the 1980s.

Some schools are already following those earlier recommendations, but other ideas have been abandoned or inconsistently applied, said Wendell Bass, president of the local Association of African American Educators. Bass said the goal is to set up a clear checklist for schools, not to point fingers.

“If you don’t do these things, what are you going to do?” said Shirley Weber, executive director of the group, which partnered with several other organizations, including the Urban League and the local chapter of the NAACP, to create the blueprint. “It will force the district to regularly examine what’s going on.”

Their plan is aimed not only at San Diego Unified, but at all school districts in the county. Some proposals are specific to African American students; others are believed to impact black families but aren’t race-specific. The long list of recommendations includes:

  • All teachers and administrators must enroll in a class on the history and contributions of African American people to the country.
  • Schools should try out single-sex classes in middle school to see if students perform better.
  • Teachers should have access to mentors who have shown outstanding success working with African American students.
  • Schools should monitor and reduce suspensions, expulsions and discipline referrals for African American students.
  • School districts will create programs to recruit and retain African American employees.
  • Schools should have mandatory communication systems that make sure that parents are informed if their children fall behind in credits, are at risk of failing a class or are being held back a grade.

— EMILY ALPERT

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