Researchers have found that the ninth-grade year is crucial for Black boys, shaping their future odds of graduating from high school. Of the 4.1 million ninth-graders in the U.S., about 258,000 of them are Black males. Among them, about 23,000 are receiving special education services; more than 37,000 are enrolled in honors classes; and for nearly 46,000, a health care professional or school official has told them that they have at least one disability. If they follow the current pattern, about half of them will not graduate with their current ninth-grade class, and about 20 percent will reach the age of 25 without obtaining a high school diploma or GED.
It’s Their Behavior, Not a Disability
Many Black boys who end up in special education do not have a disability. Rather, they have circumstances that spur behavior patterns that are not compatible with the school environment, according to researcher Ivory Toldson. This behavior usually can be corrected by changing something about their surroundings. Researchers divide students into five categories: a true negative — children who do not have a disability and have never been diagnosed; a true positive — children who have a disability and have been accurately diagnosed; a false negative — children who have a disability but have never been diagnosed; a false positive — children who do not have a disability but have been diagnosed with one; or have a specific disability and are diagnosed with the wrong one.