This project began in the early months of 2014 as a grass-roots effort. It was initiated through informal conversations between Mr. Max Gibbs, a community-based district advocate, Superintendent Teresa Weatherall-Neal, and Mr. Eric Williams and Dr. Andre Fields, both from Grand Rapids Community College. Initial discussions revolved around the idea of addressing the gaps in academic outcomes of African American males by providing tutors or mentors from GRCC staff. As the discussions evolved, involvement in the project expanded to include staff representing Grand Valley State University, the Urban League, City Sports, Boy Scouts, Cooley Law School, and others. In the summer of 2014 the G2G team realized that this initiative would eventually need a formal evaluation to determine its effectiveness and impact. The Director of the district’s Office of Information Services (OIS) began attending G2G meetings in late summer and guided the group in developing a Theory of Action that would focus their work and provide the basis for determining its effectiveness and impact. This document is the result of that work.
Scope of the Problem
A review of key district indicators shows clearly that there are disproportionate outcomes (gaps) for African American males in comparison to other student groups. These gaps are not unique to GRPS. School systems and communities across the country have been studying this problem and working on solutions. Following is a review of some of the findings from the district’s data and from national-level research.
Over the course of the 2012-13 school year, 19% of all Grand Rapids Public Schools students received one or more suspensions. Among African American males, 38% were suspended one or more times – exactly double the district average. Similarly, among all GRPS students, 21% were chronically absent during the 2012-13 school year (absent 10% or more of days enrolled). Among African American males specifically, 32% were chronically absent.