School Climate & Safety

Black-Male Grad Rate Still Lags Despite Slight Uptick

By Lesli A. Maxwell — September 19, 2012 3 min read
Darreontae Martin sits with his classmates during the graduation ceremony for Sheffield High School in Memphis last May. In its fifth biennial report on achievement for African-American males, the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that in 2009-10, graduation rates for black males improved, though there is still a significant gap between them and their white peers.
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The four-year graduation rate for black males has steadily improved during the last decade, but remains dismally low compared with the rate for their white male peers, according to a study released last week.

In its fifth biennial report on graduation rates for African-American males, the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that in 2009-10, 52 percent of black males graduated from high school with a regular diploma within four years. It’s the first time that more than half of the nation’s African-American boys did so, according to Schott’s report.

But the significance of that progress would seem to be blunted by the report’s comparison with white, non-Hispanic males, whose four-year graduation rate for the same school year was 78 percent. The gap between black and white males has closed by only 3 percentage points in 10 years. The Schott Foundation also included the national graduation rate for Latino males for the first time, which was slightly higher than that for black males at 58 percent. The report draws on federal, state, and district data.

“We recognize the progress, but at that rate it would take over 50 years for black males to be on par with white, non-Hispanic males,” John H. Jackson, the president and chief executive officer of the Cambridge, Mass.-based Schott Foundation said in an interview. “The data have shown consistently slow progress, which indicates that black and Latino males are being ignored.”

Among the 10 states that had the most black males enrolled in public schools (all of them had more than 160,000 such students), North Carolina, Maryland, and California posted the strongest graduation rates at 58 percent, 57 percent, and 56 percent, respectively. New York had the worst graduation rates for black males at 37 percent. Illinois and Florida were also among the lowest with graduation rates of 47 percent for African-American boys.

Three of the four states with the highest graduation rates for black males were those where the enrollment numbers are small. Maine, with 2,870 black males enrolled, had a rate of 97 percent, while Vermont, with just under 900 black males enrolled, had a rate of 82 percent. Utah, where more than 4,500 black males were enrolled, had a rate of 76 percent. Of any state that enrolled more than 10,000 black males, Arizona had the best graduation rate for such students at 84 percent, which was two percentage points higher than white, non-Latino males.

“The bottom-line issue about black male achievement is that the schools that most of these students attend are not as good as those attended by their white peers,” said Michael Holzman, a researcher for the Schott Foundation and author of the report.

Top Performers

States with large enrollments of Latino males that produced the best graduation rates were Arizona at 68 percent, New Jersey at 66 percent, and California at 64 percent. New York, which had an enrollment of more than 305,000 Latino males, had the worst graduation rate for them at 37 percent.

Among districts with high graduation rates for black males, Montgomery County, Md., and Newark, N.J., tied at the top, graduating 74 percent of African-American males—but posted slightly lower graduation rates for Latino males.

One of the most persistent problems for black male achievement, the report contends, is the ongoing “pushout” problem. African-American boys are far more likely than their white peers to be suspended outside of school, expelled, or placed in alternative settings.

A recent analysis of federal civil rights data covering about half of all districts in the nation showed that nearly one in six African-American students was suspended from school during the 2009-10 school year—more than three times the rate of their white peers.

The new report comes just a few weeks after the lagging achievement of black males was highlighted at a national summit at the U.S. Department of Education, where educators and policymakers discussed solutions and strategies for capitalizing on the momentum from President Barack Obama’s creation earlier this summer of a special initiative on the educational achievement of African-Americans.

A version of this article appeared in the September 26, 2012 edition of Education Week as Black-Male Diploma Rates Lag


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