About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
GOOD is part of GOOD Worldwide Inc.
publishing family.
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It's Time to Get Serious About Boosting Black Males' Academic Achievement

A new documentary hopes to spark tough conversations about helping black males do better in school.

As school systems across the country grapple with the sobering statistics about black males' performance, a new documentary hopes to inspire some real solutions.

The film, Beyond the Bricks, follows two black male students in Newark, New Jersey, but the issues the teens face are representative of what their peers across the country experience. On the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress test, a mere 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys were proficient in reading or math. In comparison, 38 percent of white boys were proficient in reading and 44 percent were proficient in math.

The situation in Los Angeles, where the film will play this week, is equally dire. According to Ryan J. Smith, the director of family and community engagement for the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, only 40 percent of black males graduate from high school. There's been plenty of talk about the problem, Smith says, "but there aren't a lot of solutions on the table."

Derek Koen, the director of Beyond the Bricks, has traveled across the country over the past year, hosting screenings of the film and asking communities to "look at what's already working and start their conversations from a place that asks 'what can we do better.'"

"It’s important that people who are a part of the educational leadership landscape of Los Angeles attend," says Smith. "If you're a part of the charter world, part of African-American civil rights organizations that have been very fervent about the issue, an elected official, a parent, or just someone who cares about this, you need to be there."

If the filmmakers can catalyze community action and make a real difference in black male student achievement, the rest of the nation will be watching.

The film screening and forum will take place Wednesday August 24th, 2011 from 5:30 p.m.—8 p.m. at the Santee Education Complex in Los Angeles. To RSVP, email Ryan Smith at

photo (cc) via Flickr user John Steven Fernandez

More Stories on Good