Black students are stranded on the wrong side of graduation. In 2007-08 only 47% of all black male high school students graduated compared with 78% of white male students. A recent study has new information.
The study was based on information gathered at the federal, school district and state levels and mirrors closely the finding of the previous year’s findings. In 2006-07 46.7% of black males graduated compared to 73.7% of white males.
Rates Vary From State to State
States with some of the smallest black populations posted some of the best graduation rates. Vermont and North Dakota have graduation rates that even exceed the national average rate of graduation of white males.
New Jersey posted the highest graduation rates for blacks at 65% and New York had the lowest at just 25%. New Jersey credits its graduation rates with the fact that they leveled the funding playing field 20 years ago, so city school districts are funded at the same rate as suburban counterparts. New Jersey also grants higher funding rates to schools that have large at-risk populations.
Reasons Behind the Numbers
The reasons for the low graduation rates are varied. My last two years teaching high school were spent in a drop-out prevention program that was disproportionately male, but while most were either black or English-Language-Learners (ELL), they all shared poor classroom experiences over the course of their school years.
The students I taught had difficulty in highly structured classrooms and with teachers who were overtly authoritative. They also had difficulty grasping the long-term benefits of a good education because their role models were basically under-educated through circumstances beyond their controls or by choice.
In one-on-one settings and with a lot of patience, as well as an abitity to not take things personally, I was often able to turn students on to the idea that they controlled their destiny and could be successes, but in schools where personnel and resources are short, this type of approach is difficult to replicate.
The Schott Foundation
The Schott Foundation for Public Education, which conducted the studies, believes that a lack of political will is ultimately at fault. Funds and the desire to provide them are lacking. Money for access to early education, effective teachers and college preparatory programs is essential. The foundation also believes that some of the disparity problems are the result of inequitable distribution of existing funding.
How long can we continue to throw away our young people? All children deserve the best start at a productive adult life that can be provided.
One child lost is too many.
photo credit: The Graduate by Nazareth College
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