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Study: Fewer Than Half of Black Males Graduate on Time

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Only 47 percent of America’s black males graduate from high school on time, according to a new report from a philanthropic organization.

The report is the fourth such biennial accounting by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Schott Foundation for Public Education.

Based on federal, district, and state data, the foundation reported that 53 percent of African-American males did not graduate with their peers in the 2007-08 school year. In contrast, 78 percent of white males graduated from high school on time, an increase of 3 percentage points since the foundation’s last report, in 2008. ("Schott Foundation to Step Up Advocacy for Black Males," August 5, 2008.)

The findings closely mirror those in a June report from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. That report, using federal data from the 2006-07 school year, found that just 46.7 percent of African-American male students graduated that year, compared with 73.7 percent of their white male counterparts.

The Schott Foundation’s report takes a closer look at districts and states to examine graduation trends.

Some states with the smallest populations, such as Vermont and North Dakota, have graduation rates for black males that are higher than the national average for white males. New Jersey, at 65 percent, has the highest graduation rate among states with more than 100,000 black male students, while New York’s graduation rate, at 25 percent, is the lowest of any state, the report says.

The New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago districts were among those with large black male enrollments that posted the lowest graduation rates, while the school systems in Newark, N.J.; Fort Bend, Texas; and Baltimore County, Md., posted some of the highest graduation rates for African-American males.

John H. Jackson, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer, said the low national graduation rate for black males is something the country cannot afford to let persist if it is to reach President Barack Obama’s goal of leading the world in the percentage of college graduates by 2020.

“It just seems to be that the U.S. is systemically failing black males,” he said, yet policymakers and educators “aren’t making the choice and the tough decisions to provide all students the opportunity to learn.”

“It’s absolutely a lack of political will,” he said.

Mr. Jackson said the fortunes of students and, by extension, the nation, can be improved by providing access to early childhood education, highly effective teachers, a college-preparatory curriculum, and equitable financial resources to schools in every community.

The success in New Jersey, he said, which followed through on a promise to give higher funding to higher-need schools through its Abbott plan, is a model others can follow.

“I don’t think we are going to program our way out of this,” he said. “It has to be about systemic change.”

Vol. 30, Issue 01

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