Published Online: August 5, 2008
Published in Print: August 13, 2008, as Black Males Still Lag in Graduation, Report Says

Schott Foundation to Step Up Advocacy for Black Males

Citing data, it urges districts to set graduation-rate goals.

The Schott Foundation for Public Education, which tracks the educational progress of black males, plans to step up its efforts to see that graduation-rate gaps are closed.

John H. Jackson, the head of the Cambridge, Mass.-based foundation, said last month that the organization was issuing a challenge to school districts to promote a 50 percent increase in the graduation rate of black males in the next five years.

“If there isn’t a timetable, the plans can go in perpetuity,” said Mr. Jackson, who became the president and chief executive officer of the foundation in July 2007.

Since 2004, the foundation has tracked the school performance of African-American boys. This year’s report, released last month in Chicago at the annual UNITY convention of minority journalists, shows that 53 percent of black males did not receive diplomas with their cohort during the 2005-06 school year.

“Unfortunately, it’s pretty much the same thing,” said Michael Holzman, a research consultant for the foundation and the author of the report.

Mr. Holzman said that schools enrolling large numbers of black male students are not as good as schools with a larger population of white students: The teachers are not as experienced and effective, the schools lack resources, and the curriculum is not as challenging. Non-black students enrolled at such schools, he said, also did not graduate at the same rate as their counterparts in schools that had fewer black students.

“They’re not doing well either,” he said.

‘Leadership Deficit’

To address the problem, the foundation called for a dedicated undertaking from schools and community groups.

Mr. Jackson said the organization also will work with public and private entities, such as the Pipeline Crisis/Winning Strategies initiative, a New York City-based group working on closing the achievement gap in the city.

The challenge, he said, will be in getting districts and states to change in the ways he believes would address the problem. The foundation said it also plans to lobby Congress and states to establish meaningful penalties for schools with low graduation rates of black males.

“There’s a leadership deficit across the country on this issue. We’re calling for a fundamental shift in how resources are allocated,” Mr. Jackson said. “I’m hoping that this will serve, again, as a call to action.”

Arne Duncan, the chief executive officer of the 409,000-student Chicago district, accompanied Mr. Jackson as he released the report. Mr. Duncan touted his district’s efforts to graduate black boys, while acknowledging that there still are problems to be fixed.

“None of us are satisfied. None of us are where we want to be, but there’s been some very important strides in the right direction,” Mr. Duncan said. For instance, he said, a push toward smaller schools, charter schools, and tracking students into college-preparatory classes has helped.

“Over the past five years, at the elementary side, our African-American students have improved at a faster rate than our white students,” he said. “So there’s still absolutely a gap, but we are closing the gap.”

Chicago, which has the nation’s second-highest enrollment of black males, had a graduation rate of 37 percent for African-American boys, compared with 62 percent for white males, the Schott report found. In addition, the report found, the school systems in New York City, Detroit, and Miami-Dade County, Fla., also did not graduate the majority of their black male enrollments.

The states with the lowest graduation-rate gap also had the fewest black students. In North Dakota, for example, a state with 796 black male students in 2005-06, about 89 percent of black male students graduated with their cohort, compared with 84 percent of white males, the report found.

Vol. 27, Issue 45, Page 9

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