Black Males’ Graduation Rate Improves, But Large Gap Remains

Although the high school graduation rate for young black males is improving, data shows that they still substantially lag their white peers. ABC News reports that while more African-American men graduated high school over the past decade, and more are doing it in four years, that rate is still nearly 30 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for white males.

According to a report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, which looked at the changing graduation rates for black men from 2004 until now, a majority of black males who entered high school in 2006 left the school with a diploma within four years. While it represents an improvement of nearly 5% from the previous edition of the same report released in 2008, the rate still pales in comparison to the 78% graduation rates for whites, and is less than the 58% graduation rates for Latino men.

The progress among blacks closed the racial divide on graduation rates by 3 percentage points over nine years to a 26 percentage-point gap.

“At this rate it would take nearly 50 years for black males to graduate at the same rate as white males,” said John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the foundation. “I don’t think the country can wait. I don’t think any parent or student can wait for half a century to have the same opportunities, education, jobs as their white male counterparts.”

In light of the fact that a majority of children born in the U.S. today are ethnic and racial minorities, schools need to make closing graduation gaps a priority. Jackson calls the gap not an indictment of the men, but an evidence of neglect by all levels of government. The issue of educational access will be on the agenda during this week’s Congressional Black Caucus legislative conference that Jackson will be attending.

To tackle the problem of the graduation rates disparity, the Schott Foundation has offered several recommendations including a moratorium on school suspensions which have been levied disproportionally on minority students and those with special needs.

The group also wants more support for students through individual plans that offer help such as tutoring, mental health and health care, tutoring and mentoring so they can catch up in school. Such support can help children reach the bar that has been set by the standards-driven education approach the country has taken for the past decade, which emphasizes raising standards, assessment and teacher evaluations, Jackson said.