Twelve-year-old Alex Carter is an A student who loves science and reads a book a week. So it surprised his father when he announced last year that he didn't want to enroll in an honors class that his teacher recommended for the following term."That class is for the smart people, the nerds," Alex told him.
In affluent Loudoun, known for its strong schools, black students consistently lag behind their white classmates on standardized tests. Last year, 63 percent of black eighth-graders in the county passed the state math test; 62 percent passed in English. White students' pass rate for both subjects was 89 percent. At Eagle Ridge, where 8 percent of students are black, the gaps were similar. Many parents in the group have college degrees and can afford such activities as summer camp and tutoring, two indicators that researchers have linked to higher achievement.
"We know there is an achievement gap in the county, in the state, in the country," said Gabrielle Carpenter. Her goal is to make sure their sons aren't part of it.
But even with their advantages, these parents say they worry about the images of African American men that their sons absorb from popular media. Carter said he started noticing his son and his friends strutting, letting their pants sag and picking up slang. He became troubled when they started doubting their abilities in advanced math and science. Carpenter said she understands that her son now cares most about his friends and being cool.