A recent story from a Portland high school, found here, demonstrates what we already know — young Black men (and women) can excel in challenging subject areas if given the opportunity.

Portland’s De La Salle North Catholic High School, which enrolls students from low-income backgrounds who come to 9th grade an average of 18 months behind academically, has an AP math class where two thirds of its students are Black. Scott Reis, who teaches this class, arrives early, stays late and meticulously plans each lesson to give his students maximum chances of success on the AP exam. “He will literally stay hours after school to help you understand one concept,” student Shawn Yoakum says. The students respond to his dedication and enthusiasm by supporting one another in their efforts to master calculus, and seeking Reis’ help when they need it. Says another student, “We learn to catch on quickly. If you don’t talk in class and try to come to an understanding and make sure your understanding is correct, you’re not going to get it and remember it. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s a lot of work. I don’t let Mr. Reis leave after school until I understand.”

Kudos to Reis and De la Salle for giving their students the encouragement and support to reach for the stars academically. The valuable lessons those students are getting about how to learn–Talk in class. Come to an understanding, make sure it is correct. Don’t let the teacher leave until you understand.–can and should be passed on to our boys as well. These are keys to success in any academic endeavor.

We need to make sure we give our sons these keys, and stay vigilant to ensure that they are taking the most challenging and high level courses that they can, including AP classes. A recent College Board study revealed that 80% of the Black students taking the PSAT in 2011 whose scores indicated that they could have done well in AP classes never enrolled in them. In the class of 2011 only nine percent of the AP exam takers were Black. It is important that we stay focused on these issues for our boys!!

Thanks to Lisa Davis for this post.