In hindsight it makes perfect sense, but as reporters interviewed young male students from inner-city schools they were surprised to find that the students rarely mentioned school or teachers as being a hindrance to their academic success. Rather, almost every reason they mentioned for not completing school or performing well had to do with their family life and culture.

inner-city student

So often we see people placing academic discrepancies on teachers, but for these students – the teachers did not even register as being part of the problem. I love knowing that all of the people that we talk to at Reading Horizons are diligent parents that are doing all they can to meet their child’s needs. Because, as these quotes reveal, family life can make or break a child’s success:

Parents are the biggest factor in black males’ success because it means “they will be in a good environment and off the streets. If a parent had a bad childhood, then it’s passed down generations. Their parent might not be there for them, and they’ll have no one to express their feelings to, and they’ll get in fights.”

- Dominique, 13, Washington, D.C.

“They don’t got nobody to support them at home. They need a role model.” Rasean also said it’s hard for black males to find success “because they feel like the providers of the family. They have to protect their family.”

- Rasean, 13, Washington, D.C.

Black males aren’t successful because of “drugs and stuff. Their parents aren’t doing right. They see their parents and friends smoking and cursing. They do the same thing. They want to be just like their friends.”

Prince also said a good family life and home environment are important for success in school, but a lot of young boys don’t have that “because their parents weren’t there for them. If you don’t learn something when you’re young, when you grow up, it might be hard to change.”

- Prince, 13, Washington, D.C.

Black boys lack enough positive male role models, often having only “the drug rats on the street.”

Children need someone to ensure that they do homework or do the right thing at school. “Teachers do everything they can but they need parent involvement.”

- Devonte, 19, Milwaukee

School success “starts at home. We don’t even need better parenting, we just need adequate parenting.” Many black kids don’t have a sense of belonging, and “the streets accept anyone.”

- Mikael, 20, Milwaukee Children are “products of their environment.

These kids get their morals from the culture and the neighborhood. Life outside of schools is your main life, and you adapt to that. All you see is all you know.” Remembering to do homework or reading for schools is hard “when you are trying to figure out where you are going to lay your head on a pillow that night.”

- Deon, 21, Milwaukee

“Black parents give up on their kids and let them do whatever. White parents follow the kids and make sure they do stuff even out of school. Black moms be more into street life, taking care of themselves instead of their child. There is no dad; white people have real families.”

- Dimitric, 22, Milwaukee

“When your parents are not doing good at home, sometimes that person will drop out of school to help their parents and go to the streets to make more money to have a roof on top of your head."

- Khalil, 13, Washington, D.C.

What parenting habits have you found help your kids succeed in school?