The State University of New York’s Black Male Initiative–which you do not have to be black or male to participate in–is beginning a pilot project that studies the effectiveness of academic support embedded in class.
The brainchild of David Fullard, Ph.D., a sociology and criminal justice professor at SUNY Empire State College in New York City, the Fortified General Education Studies program “fortifiesâ€ students’ learning experiences, by including coaches and mentors in class, along with the instructor. Students don’t have to make appointments or see the professor after class; extra academic support in the form of trained coaches is included right in the classroom.
The Critical First Term
The pilot program seeks to address a dire statistic: “The graduation rate for black male students who complete their first term courses is nearlyÂ 10 times that of those who do not (50.6% vs. 5.4%),â€ Fullard writes in a summary of the program.
To improve graduation rates for underserved, often undereducated, black male students, such a course is necessary, Fullard says.
“Writing is particularly challenging for this group,â€ he told me. “When we talk to them about writing an argument, they look at us with blank faces.â€
Yet, acquiring college-level writing skill is essential to earning a degree. So, Fullard envisions embedding writing coaches in class, along with other in-class support for:
- Critical thinking
- Critical reading
- Assignment completion
- Working with subject content
“There will be two coaches in the class,â€ Fullard says. “Coaches are employees of the school and have master’s degrees.â€
Higher education peers have endorsed Fullard’s plan. Because various components of the program are already being implemented, I asked him how it works.
“It works when the students follow what we tell them,â€ he says.
Perhaps with greater academic and mentor support, more students will be able to do that.
To learn more about SUNY’s Black Male Initiative, go here.