Far too often, the narrative associated with the Black male experience in education and society is situated at the intersection of deficit language and deficit thinking. While current data suggest that far too many Black men and boys are struggling in school, and challenged in other ways, it’s imperative to recognize that not all Black men and boys struggle or live in a perpetual state of chaos. As such, we must consider the complexity of this narrative. Those in the field of Black Male Achievement have continued to push forward work that elevates “narrative change” as a part of the ethos of the Black male experience. This session will challenge our assumptions about Black men and boys in society and education, while also elevating concrete supports and research that embraces the humanity of Black men and boys. It is the intention of this session to provide participants with tools that are applicable in K-16 while also providing a reflective space to build a community of practice in the field of Black Male Achievement.
Robert Simmons, III, PhD
Vice President of Strategy and Innovation
Campaign for Black Male Achievement
Biography: Currently serving as the Vice President of Strategy and Innovation for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), Dr. Robert W. Simmons III is responsible for the national implementation and development of CBMA’s High School Excellence framework, and other place based efforts including mapping the impact of high quality early childhood education on high school completion rates for Black men and boys. CBMA has been recognized by the White House as a key national ally and partner in advancing President Obama’s vision for boys and men of color.
As a nationally recognized scholar and expert on issues of racial equity, urban education and science education, Robert has shared his expertise throughout the United States and on numerous media outlets including CNN. Robert served as the first Chief of Innovation & Research in the District of Columbia Public Schools. While managing numerous initiatives in the district, Robert was the chief architect of the nationally recognized Empowering Males of Color initiative. As a result of this work, Washington DC was recognized, along with Detroit and Oakland, as one of leading cities working to improve the lives of males of color according to the Promise of Place Report. Prior to joining the DC Public Schools, Dr. Simmons was the founding director of the Center for Innovation in Urban Education at Loyola University Maryland. As a tenured professor of urban education and science education, and associated faculty member in African and African American Studies program at Loyola University Maryland, Robert also held a joint appointment as a research associate at the Baltimore Education Research Consortium at Johns Hopkins University.
A former middle school science and math teacher in the Detroit Public Schools, his career has included being nominated twice as the Walt Disney National Teacher of the Year and once for the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Foundation Outstanding Educator Award. Robert has been a fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation where he conducted environmental research in the rain forest of Costa Rica, and participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund. The author of over 40 publications, including the book, Talking About Race: Alleviating the Fear (2013), his research has focused on the experiences of African American males in schools, African American male teachers, science education in urban schools, and the role of race in understanding the social context of schooling. Robert’s next book, Interrupting the School to Prison Pipeline: African American Males as Critical Scholars and Intellectuals, is part autobiographical reflecting on his fathers’ incarceration while offering insights into the educational experiences of African American males.
The author and evaluator of over $2 million in grants, including serving as one of the leading researchers on an NIH funded project designed to support the development of virtual science labs for K‑12 students and teachers, Robert has delivered workshops and lectures throughout the United States and Europe on his research. Robert is a renowned motivational speaker who openly shares his life experiences in Detroit during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, the mental incarceration he experienced for much of his life due to the physical incarceration of his father, and the significant challenges he faced leaving his childhood home in Detroit to being one of the few African American students at an elite Jesuit high school.