Latest UNCF Report Reveals African American Youth’s Perceptions of K-12 Education

On Thursday, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) hosted its annual education summit at its headquarters in the nation’s capital, where it is releasing the third installment of research on African American perceptions on K-12 education.

Called A Seat at the Table: African American Youth’s Perception of K-12 Education, the UNCF report provides a window into the aspirations, concerns, and experiences of black children in American public schools. The first of these reports, Done to Us, Not with Us, revealed the higher education desires of African American parents for their children. The second, Lift Every Voice and Lead, discussed the role of black leaders in improving educational options for black children.

In addition to releasing the third report, today’s summit “serves as a platform for engagement and exploration of the role of African American students and leaders,” and examines the role of historically black colleges in education reform efforts, according to a statement released by UNCF.

“Contrary to a pervasive narrative that racial disparities in education are the sole result of disengaged students, African American youth indicated that success in school was their most important priority among other competing factors,” Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF, is quoted as saying in the statement. “This is important because research suggests that students who are more engaged and more optimistic about education are more likely to aspire to attend college.”

UNCF’s K-12 Advocacy division commissioned the report. The division aims at amplifying “a college-going culture,” and informing black parents about the college-going process; another goal is to ensure that more black students are academically prepared to excel in college.

“The findings suggest a need for concerted effort among schools, nonprofits, colleges and universities, including HBCUs, philanthropic organizations, and community leaders to help decrease information asymmetries about the college-going process,” says Sekou Biddle, vice president for K-12 advocacy at UNCF, “as the data show that students are eager to attend college, but lack guidance on how to pay for it,” he says.

Here are the reports key findings, from the UNCF statement:

  • Preparation for college: 65% of African American youth felt that their high school prepared them for college; however, they also cited their biggest obstacles to college attainment and completion as (1) financial difficulties; (2) concerns about standardized tests and math; and (3) the lack of support services at their schools.
  • Race and opportunity:  Slightly more than one-third of African American youth felt race may limit their opportunities in life.
  • Safety and discipline: Only 43% of respondents felt safe at their schools; several youths experienced some form of discipline in school that removed them from the classroom setting.

Read the full report here.