College & Workforce Readiness

Success Graduating Black Males Earns Ohio Schools Praise

By Catherine Gewertz — October 11, 2005 2 min read
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Three Ohio high schools are being honored this week for outstanding work in fueling the success of African-American male students.

E.L. Bowsher High School in Toledo, Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, and Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst, near Cleveland, were to receive awards from the Schott Foundation for Public Education at an Oct. 10 meeting of the Ohio state board of education. All three have shown unusually high graduation rates or academic performance by black male students, the foundation said.

The foundation, based in Cambridge, Mass., conceived of the awards as part of its work to reverse national patterns showing that young black men graduate on time less often, are expelled or suspended more often, and referred for special education placements more often than their nonblack or female peers. (“Foundation Tackles Black Males’ School Woes,” Aug. 31, 2005)

The Schott Foundation and the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation will give $4,000 to each of the three high schools, to be used as a freshman-year college scholarship for a graduating black male student. This is the first year the awards have been given. The Schott Foundation hopes to recognize three high schools in each of seven states next year, and expand to 40 states by 2008.

“We want people everywhere to know what’s possible,” Rosa A. Smith, the Schott Foundation’s president, said in an interview. “These awards demonstrate that regular schools working hard every day with children can make it happen.”

With the help of the Ohio education department, the Schott Foundation analyzed graduation, achievement, enrollment, and socioeconomic data for the state’s high schools. They looked for schools where, among other results, large proportions of black males graduated at greater rates than the national average and scored at the “proficient” level in reading and mathematics on state tests.

Three finalists were selected, and Schott officials visited those schools and interviewed students, teachers, and administrators.

Roads to Success

At Charles F. Brush High School, where the graduation rate for African-American males is nearly 100 percent, foundation officials noted two programs that could serve as models for other schools. One, inspired by a program in nearby Shaker Heights, is a minority achievement club that supports high-achieving black male students.

Brush High’s ArcTech Academy offers computer-based instruction, small-group mentoring, and individualized help for students who are not flourishing in traditional classrooms. Most students in the program are African-American males, and 93 percent of the program’s students graduate on time.

At Toledo’s Bowsher High, where 80 percent of the black male students graduate in four years, Schott officials found that many of the young men cited two factors as important to their success: a strong discipline policy that created a good environment for learning, and the presence of several African-American male role models on the staff. Both students and staff members reported a culture of universally high expectations, backed up by a wide array of college-preparatory classes.

Nearly all of the African-American students at Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills High score at the proficient level in both reading and mathematics, and very few of its black male students drop out. The school, which admits only students who score at grade level on a nationally normed test, was cited by the philanthropy for its varied, high-level course offerings, and teachers’ insistence on strong performance.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as Success Graduating Black Males Earns Ohio Schools Praise

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