When Dr. Ivory A. Toldson recently spoke to a group of social workers in Philadelphia, he asked them how many black boys were enrolled in high school honors programs.
Some of the social workers said they did not think any black boys were enrolled in honors programs. Others said 2 percent.
But according to Toldson, an associate professor of the Counseling and Psychology program at Howard University, the social workers were clueless. Nationwide, the percentage of black boys enrolled in honors classes is higher than for those enrolled in special education, he said.
“More than 37,000 black boys are enrolled in honors classes, compared with 23,000 who are receiving special education services. Some 14.5 percent of black boys are enrolled in honors classes, compared with 9 percent enrolled in special education,” Toldson told attendees at the second-annual Midwest Black Male Education Conference, which was held May 19 in Chicago.
The data only applies to black boys in the ninth grade because that is the only information currently available, Toldson said.
The Black Star Project, which is based in Chicago, sponsored the conference.
In a recent issue of the online newsletter, “The Coalition of Schools Educating Black Boys,” Toldson wrote that black boys who are in the ninth grade are more likely to be enrolled in honors classes than to receive special education services. Honors classes, which are faster-paced high school classes, differ from advanced placement classes, which are college-level classes offered in high school.
Toldson said ninth grade success often means students will graduate from high school. Of the approximately 4.1 million ninth graders, approximately 258,047 are black boys.
In the “Coalition of Schools” article, “How black boys with disabilities end up in honors classes while others without disabilities end up in special education,” Toldson noted that 2.5 percent of enrollees have learning disabilities such as autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Toldson, who has ADHD, naturally has a positive take on learning disorders.
For example, individuals diagnosed with ADHD are able to juggle many tasks, relate to many people and excel in activities and student government. During his presentation in Chicago, he said his ADHD enabled him to be in Philadelphia one day, Sacramento, Calif., the next day, and in Chicago on the third day.
“Many studies suggest that beyond school, people with symptoms of ADHD often excel in professional roles,” Toldson wrote in the “Coalition of Schools” article.
On the other hand, he said, black boys who do not have learning disabilities often end up in special education classes because their behavior is often incompatible with the school environment.