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Report: Large School Districts Fail at Graduating Black Males

by Dana Forde

States with a small number of African American students tend to have higher high school  graduation rates for Black males than those with large African American student enrollment, according to a report recently released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

The report, entitled “Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education for Black Males,” based on 2005-06 graduation rate data, indicates that, with only a total enrollment of 796 Black male students, North Dakota graduated 89 percent of its Black male students. Similarly, Vermont graduated 88 percent. Michigan had the lowest rate with “barely a third of its Black male students” graduating with their peers, researchers say.

The overall national graduation rate for 2005-06 for Black male students was just 47 percent. Of the 10 most successful large school districts that graduate Black male students, Fort Bend, Texas, scored at the top with a graduation rate of 82 percent. Meanwhile, the lowest performing large school district was Indianapolis, Indiana, with only 19 percent of Black males graduating with their peers.

The report points out that this research “substantiates that graduation and achievement gaps reflect the differences in the quality of the opportunities available, not differences in students’ ability.” Officials also note that one of the goals of the report is to highlight the fact that some students are not given an equal opportunity to learn.

 

“The primary objective is to highlight that, in America, there is a huge disparity between the education and resources that are offered to Black males and those that are offered to White males,” says Dr. John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation, who adds that the report includes data gathered from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and Office for Civil Rights, state departments of education, and local school districts.

Table 1: Ten Lowest Performing States for Black Males

Lowest Performing States

Total Black Male Enrollment

Graduation Rates 2005/06 Cohort

Gap*

Black Male

White Male

41. Wyoming

608

41%

72%

32%

42. Georgia

308,716

40%

58%

18%

43. Illinois

216,782

40%

82%

41%

44. Nevada

23,553

40%

55%

16%

45. New York

285,694

39%

75%

37%

46. Florida

326,757

38%

60%

22%

47. Louisiana

147,030

38%

60%

21%

48. South Carolina

142,496

38%

59%

20%

49. Wisconsin

46,379

36%

87%

50%

50. Michigan

174,790

33%

74%

41%

Among the findings, the state of New York had three of the 10 districts with the lowest graduation rates for Black male students. In addition, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin rated below the national average in graduating Black male students with their peer group.

The report also charges inadequate funding and unequal school policies – such as the over-classification of Black male students in special education courses, disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates, and under-classification in gifted and talented and advanced placement programs – for the country’s wide disparities in educating African American males.

A “National Summary” chapter of the report included on the foundation’s Web site states that the above classifications are important factors in analyzing the nation’s dismal graduation rates and academic progress among Black students. For example, 3 percent of Black male students are enrolled in gifted and talented programs, as compared to 7.6 percent of White, non-Hispanic male students. Similarly, although Black male students make up 9 percent of student enrollments, they are 20 percent of mental retardation classifications, according to the report. 

These findings among others, officials say, indicate that African American male students are oftentimes denied the tools that would lead to academic enrichment and successful completion of grade levels.

“These are students who can learn when given the opportunity,” adds Jackson. “They represent the potential that this democracy is supposed to give birth to.”

Table 4: Best Performing Large Districts for Black Males

Best Performing Large Districts

Black Male Enrollment

Estimated Graduation Rates 2005/06

Gap*

Black Male

White Male

1. Fort Bend (TX)

10,851

82%

85%

3%

2. Baltimore County (MD)

21,444

72%

79%

7%

3. Montgomery County (MD)

16,226

69%

87%

17%

4. Newark (NJ)

12,630

60%

73%

13%

5. Prince George’s County (MD)

51,845

59%

58%

-2%

Many say that schools nationwide still have a long way to go to close the academic achievement gap. Officials at the Schott Foundation will promote nine focus areas over the next five years, which includes the monitoring of resources in states and cities with a Black male student graduation rate of less than 50 percent.

However, some states, such as New Jersey and Arizona, are making strides and graduate African American males near or higher than the national average graduation rate of 75 percent for White, non-Hispanic male students.

According to the report, New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Vermont, in addition to Maine, Iowa, Utah, Idaho, Arkansas, and West Virginia, are the top 10 best performing states for Black male students. The report cites diverse student body and educational environments and adequate resources for promoting student success.

Table 3: Best Performing States for Black Males

Best Performing States

Total Black Male Enrollment

Graduation Rates 2005/06 Cohort

Gap*

Black Male

White Male

1. North Dakota

796

89%

84%

-5%

2. Vermont

765

88%

75%

-13%

3. Maine

2,123

85%

75%

-10%

4. Arizona

29,085

81%

82%

1%

5. New Jersey

125,019

74%

92%

19%

(Charts Source: Schott Foundation)



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