In 2007, a group of Black parents in Loudoun County Maryland became concerned as they watched their middle school sons fall behind in school. These parents’ expectations were high: they were raising their sons in one of the state’s most affluent communities and sending them to the high performing neighborhood schools. These well-educated, well employed professionals thought they were providing their sons with every opportunity possible.
But by middle school they noticed their sons getting passed over for honors courses and losing interest in school. Looking ahead, the high school statistics were even more sobering: African American children in their school district were consistently underperforming their white classmates on SAT’s and state standardized tests. What was going on? Did their sons feel too isolated in this predominantly white community? Were they not getting sufficient guidance from their teachers? Or were they simply not trying hard enough?
As reported in an article in The Washington Post, found here, these parents dispensed with the hand wringing, rolled up their sleeves, and got to work. They formed Club 2012, enrolling nearly every African American male at the middle school. The plan? Get parents involved, set high academic expectations, encourage positive peer pressure. Executing that plan proved to be quite labor intensive. According to the Post, “They organized twice-weekly homework clubs at school and monthly meetings at parents’ homes. They tracked their sons’ grades and test scores and pored over research about the causes and effects of the achievement gap. They set up study skills workshops, etiquette training and father-son rap sessions.”
As importantly, Club 2012 parents partnered with the teachers and the administrators of the school. They requested that their sons be assigned to classes with other black students. Parents sent letters at the beginning of the school year introducing their son to his new teachers, describing his personality and work habits, and explaining that they expected “nothing short of excellence” and that the teacher could count on their “unlimited support.” By the end of middle school, their sons were competing with one another to get higher grades and their GPAs were improving. While the parents put their most intensive efforts into engaging the boys in middle school, they continued working with them through Club 2012 in high school as well.
Six years later, the statistics for the core members speak for themselves: 100 percent graduation rate, 92 percent enrollment in Advanced Placement classes, a cumulative 3.7 grade-point average and a combined $1.3 million in college scholarships. 100 percent of the Club 2012 parents proud that their hard work coupled with their sons’ working harder and smarter paid off. At a private graduation ceremony organized by the parents, John Johnson told the students, “For the last six years, we’ve told you to do more, do better. We’re never satisfied, right? Well, tonight, we are satisfied.”
OK, GCP readers, if this isn’t inspirational proof that parental focus and support can positively impact our sons’ academic lives, then what is? These parents recognized that together they could make a difference, and they did. Good ideas abounded here, like writing to the teachers and pledging unlimited support for their sons’ academic growth during the year, forming homework clubs, and holding monthly parent meetings to share ideas and strategies. Good ideas that worked.
Kudos to the parents of Club 2012 who saw the issues, researched how to address them and got results. Read this article, and let us know what you think. Middle School parents, is there a Club 2018, 2019 or 2020 in you and your community?
Merci to our Parisian correspondent Albert Pettus for the heads up on this article.