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Report: Minority male grad rates still lag

Howard Manly

The Schott Foundation for Public Education released last week a national report that found that only 52 percent of black males and 58 percent of Latino male ninth-graders graduate from high school four years later, while 78 percent of white, non-Latino male ninth-graders graduate four years later.

“The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males” suggests that without a policy framework that strikes the right balance between support-based reforms and standards-driven reforms, the U.S. will become increasingly unequal and less competitive in the global economy.

According to the report, the national graduation rate for black males has increased by 10 percentage points since 2001-02, with 2010-11 being the first year that more than half of the nation’s ninth-grade black males graduated with a regular diploma four years later.

Yet, the report stated, this progress has closed the graduation gap between black male and white, non-Latino males by only three percentage points. At this rate, it would take nearly 50 years for black males to achieve the same high school graduation rates as their white male counterparts.

John H. Jackson, the Schott Foundation CEO and president, said the nation has a responsibility to provide future generations of Americans with the education and the skills needed to thrive in communities, the job market and the global economy.

“These graduation rates are not indicative of a character flaw in the young men, but rather evidence of an unconscionable level of willful neglect, unequal resource allocation by federal, state and local entities and the indifference of too many elected and community leaders,” Jackson said in a prepared statement.

Three of the four states with the highest graduation rates for black males were states with a relatively small number of black males enrolled in the state’s schools: Maine (97 percent), Vermont (82 percent) and Utah (76 percent).

The report argues that these numbers indicate that black males, on average, perform better in places where they are not relegated to under-resourced districts or schools.

When provided similar opportunities, the report suggests, they are more likely to produce similar or better outcomes as their white male peers.

The numbers in Massachusetts are slightly better than the national average.

According to the report, the state graduation rate is 60 percent for black males and 53 percent for Latinos. For whites, the rate is 83 percent.

Among the states with the largest black enrollments, North Carolina (58 percent), Maryland (57 percent) and California (56 percent) have the highest graduation rates for black males, while New York (37 percent), Illinois (47 percent) and Florida (47 percent) have the lowest.

In the foreword to the report, Andrés A. Alonso, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools, described his city’s efforts to keep kids in schools.

“We could not have made these strides without asserting unequivocally that we had no disposable children, and that we needed everyone’s help to make things right,” Alonso writes. “I am confident that we as a nation will rally and we will succeed. The cost of continued failure is a disservice to our best hopes. The cost of continued failure should be abhorrent to contemplate.”

“The Urgency of Now” also provides the following recommendations for improving graduation rates for young black and Latino men:

  • End the rampant use of out-of-school suspensions as a default disciplinary action, as it decreases valuable learning time for the most vulnerable students and increases dropouts.
  • Expand learning time and increase opportunities for a well-rounded education including the arts, music, physical education, robotics, foreign language and apprenticeships.
  • States and cities should conduct a redlining analysis of school funding, both between and within districts, and work with the community and educators to develop a support-based reform plan with equitable resource distribution to implement sound community school models.

As part of what it described as a “support-based reform plan,” the Schott Foundation called for students who are performing below grade level to receive “Personal Opportunity Plans” to ensure they receive the resources needed to succeed.

“There is no doubt that the stakes are high,” said Michael Holzman, senior research consultant to the Schott Foundation. “Black and Latino children under the age of 18 will become a majority of all children in the U.S. by the end of the current decade, many of whom are in lower-income households located in neighborhoods with under-resourced schools. We do not want our young black and Latino men to have to beat the odds; we want to change the odds.” 

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