January 14, 2022
There is a lot of discussion about the achievement gap in America’s schools, but what about the barriers that minority students face? As the mother of a minority student myself, I’m aware of the many barriers to success my own daughter and other black and brown students may face in their lifetime. The contributing factors are complex and daunting, making it difficult for minority students to fit into school, let alone excel, resulting in poorer grades and decreased self-esteem.
These challenges amplified once the COVID pandemic forced our children into virtual learning. However, some of these digital learning methods do not provide a level playing field for students who are already disadvantaged before they even begin the process.
Despite these obstacles, minority students can and do achieve academic success. By understanding the unique challenges these students face, we can work to create an educational system that supports them every step of the way.
Minority Students & Barriers to Academic Success
Whether you parent a minority child or desire to be an ally, we will discuss some of the obstacles that minority students encounter and how we can help overcome them.
1. Structural Racism.
In the U.S., the long-lasting legacy of racism is a massive barrier in education for marginalized communities, many of these a direct result of structural racism.
An institutional problem where people of color are systematically denied access to opportunities that would have otherwise been available for them…that make it harder for students of color to succeed in school, even during normal circumstances.”
2. Economic Disadvantages.
As a parent, you may feel powerless when your student has difficulty learning in the classroom. Many minority students often feel left out of the complete educational experience and underprivileged students may not have access to the same resources and opportunities that their more affluent peers have.
“Lower-income children often have less access to preventative healthcare, leading to more absences from school; need to work to support their family, with less time that can be devoted to school; may move and switch schools more frequently; and have fewer family resources that offer support for higher-education opportunities.”
— Examining the Factors Behind the Education Achievement Gap
This unequal access is why these students need more personal attention during their academic careers to be successful.
3. The Education Achievement Gap
Traditional in-person learning already presents several challenges for minority students to overcome including structural racism and economic disadvantages — leading to an education achievement gap for minority students:
“most often discussed in the context of standardized test scores between Black, Hispanic, and white students…This varies greatly across city and state — Atlanta has the largest achievement gap with white students testing almost five years ahead of Black students. ”
How HUMBLE Tutoring is Empowering Minority Students to Succeed
One way to create a thriving learning environment for your child is to work with someone who understands the unique challenges they face. A tutor can help students build confidence while learning and succeeding in school.
That’s why we spoke with Ms. Kya at HUMBLE Tutoring based out of Atlanta, Georgia, whose goal is to reduce stress for moms and to inspire minority youth to “take control of their academics and become leaders in education!”
Tell me about HUMBLE Tutoring and how it got started.
HUMBLE came about because I wanted to help our black and brown youth. Deon and I started in May of 2020 after we realized that school was going to be online. We wanted to be in a certain price range so that less fortunate families can still find a way to afford tutoring services because the low kids are most likely struggling financially too.
I’m RaKya, or the kids call me Miss Kya. I’m the English / Writing Arts tutor, and Deon is the math tutor. We’ve both been helping kids all of our lives growing up; everyone comes to us for support, so it was only right to do that for other kids that desperately needed us.
Deon is also published on Amazon for workbooks to help with math, like writing out math problems. ‘What happened? Why is it wrong? What can you do to fix the math problem?’ He’s also published handwriting workbooks so that they can actually trace the letters learn how to write in cursive because that has been omitted from the curriculum across the United States.
So we’re just resourceful; we want all of our kids to win.
Your company’s values are inspiring. I love that even the name – HUMBLE is an acronym. Tell me about what this means to you personally.
I was thinking about minorities and education. One of my advisors at Georgia State helped me develop the acronym, Helping Unstoppable Minorities Become Leaders in Education because that’s just what we do.
One of our key values is communication because many of our minority youth are closed off because they’re behind in school; they shut down because they know that they’re the lowest of their class or school. So in our tutoring sessions, we get them to talk the most: ‘What do you need help with? What helps you?’ so that their experience is positive and impactful.
Your company offers virtual tutoring services for kids who are behind and enrichment services for academically advanced kids. Tell me more about that.
Students who are reading behind grade level may be failing. Who may not have the attention span in school, so they’re not focused, we might need to revisit what they learned in school so that they don’t fall behind in the class. So we have students for both, and I’m sometimes just right in the middle; I don’t want them to fall behind.
HUMBLE Tutoring offers interactive learning workbooks, resources, and virtual tutoring services in reading comprehension & fluency, writing, mathematics, and enrichment. Follow @humbletutoring on Instagram to learn more about their custom-tailored teaching methods and solutions.
When structural racism and economic disadvantages are baked into our culture in the United States, leading to this education achievement gap, what teaching methods does HUMBLE Tutoring use to overcome these challenges?
We don’t rush the learning process like most teachers are forced to do in the classroom (unfortunately); they have to stay in between their scope and sequence; they’re so rushed in that process. I don’t have a quota to meet besides helping them exceed, and we do not have deadlines when covering certain topics, so that helps out a lot. We don’t rush. We find every resource we can to help that student.
If the student is in our area, we’ll drop resources off in real-time. So we’re very involved. Very, very involved. And our kids know that Deon and I expect nothing but the best.
That’s just what HUMBLE is about helping our black and brown youth because we don’t have a lot of access to resources. I was a criminal justice major for my bachelor’s degree. So the school-to-prison pipeline is what we’re fighting against every day with our kids; you graduate, you can’t get a job because you don’t really know the basics. It’s like a whole domino effect.
What can parents do to support their children’s academic success?
- I think that many people provide gifts for the child’s wants instead of that child’s needs around Christmas time or birthdays. So gift a book, or take them to Barnes and Noble or the library so that books surround them, read with them, make it a routine. Many of my students who can’t read on grade level their parents aren’t reading, so they don’t care to read either.
- There’s a difference between reading a book and reading video game knowledge. They don’t apply the same skills they’re doing in front of the game system, like critical thinking. So we have to stop putting them on screens unless it’s a read-aloud so they can see the words and hear them.
- If you’re driving and you see a billboard with a quote, read it out, have them look at it, or read the stop signs and spell out stop. Talk about your street name, anything that’s around them– use it.
- Many people don’t just talk with kids, like ask them questions. A lot of kids say random things, and adults just look at them – but engage with that because it helps their communication skills. It can help them later on with academics.
I found HUMBLE Tutoring on an Instagram post about teaching your child before entering kindergarten. Please share with us why the HUMBLE Learning Binder is a must-have for toddler moms like myself!
At Walmart, the workbooks are between $2.99 and $6.99, but they’re so flat. And if you don’t have crayons, then it’s boring, because everything is in black and white. And the kid will only pay attention for like two minutes, and then the workbook is somewhere you bet you can’t even find it.
So I thought about that a lot because kids need to learn with color to retain the information. Our binder has over 60 pages. Most binders only have 20 pages. So I triple the norm. Everything hand-made, and I do every binder made to order.
They can learn independently, write in a straight line, and develop their fine motor skills, like good pencil grip. We have uppercase letters, lowercase, tracing the letters, shapes, colors, numbers, adding and subtracting, and nouns and verbs. So from three to six, you should be able to learn everything you need to know the basics, up until first grade in the binder.
Help your child learn with a personalized and engaging learning experience.
The HUMBLE Learning Binder is a colorful and interactive way to help your child stay focused on learning while reducing their screen time. These learning binders provide over 60 pages of engaging activities for children ages 3-6. With its interactive pages, your child will have fun while learning sight words, letters and numbers, vowels, number words, money management, and more! Save time and reduce your stress with this convenient, interactive solution for busy parents! Grab your copy here!
What can allies do to support minority students?
The school environment is not conducive to the academic success of minority students. By educating ourselves and creating a space where all students can succeed, we can create a thriving learning environment for everyone. As an ally, it’s essential to:
“Confront your own biases. Examine the prejudices or preconceived ideas you might be holding onto.”
I read that you and Deon both started college at the age of 16, which is pretty impressive! How were you able to start college at such a young age?
We went to the same high school. DECA is set up so in ninth and 10th grade, you take classes ahead of the rest of the kids in Georgia, and then the junior and senior year is at Georgia State University. We were able to get our associate’s degree a week before we graduated from high school. I received my degree in English and Deon received his degree in Business Administration!
But the year after we graduated, our governor reversed that bill, so the students can only get half the credits at the college level. So now we’re trying to step in as tutors at the early college level so that the parents who are fortunate enough to pay for the other 30 credits don’t waste their time or money. The students can actually get good grades and graduate with honors if they choose that pathway. There are about 6 early colleges in Georgia and most serve minority populations.
This is an excellent example of how systemic challenges need to be addressed for minority students to succeed academically:
“it is important that school districts, policymakers, and youth- and family-serving agencies and organizations understand and address the racial and ethnic disparities in students’ home learning environments that make meaningful participation in online learning more difficult.”
–For Students of Color, Remote Learning Environments Pose Multiple Challenges, Urban Institute
Ms. Kya, if a kid walked up to asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?
Ask more questions. And don’t be afraid to make a mistake. A lot of parents unintentionally put into their kid’s heads that they can’t make a mistake. And that hinders their learning process because if they don’t know something, and they don’t raise their hand to get clarification in class, then they’ll never know.
The Importance of Supporting Our Minority Students
Education is an essential part of life. It’s about learning and understanding your purpose in the world, and it’s about keeping up with society. A solid education helps minority students develop their skills and talent sets to succeed in life. To increase academic success, we need to create a welcoming and supportive environment and give minority youth the tools necessary for success, such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
If your child struggles academically, they need lessons custom-tailored to their individual needs. Become proactive in helping your child find mentors and connections within the community. Doing so will allow your child to find support among peers who may have gone through similar experiences.
For even more insights and inspiration, be sure to follow HUMBLE Tutoring on Instagram @humbletutoring or subscribe to their newsletter; it’s custom tailored for students needing study tips, parents, that need tips to help their students, or educators in need of some inspiration. And be sure to keep an eye out next year for their upcoming YouTube Channel:
“for the families that can’t afford tutoring whatsoever. Because we still need our students to learn if you can’t afford it, we have to find a different way. We have to make a way somehow.”