IMPROVING – BUT STILL BAD

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Florida ranks near the bottom of 50 states graduating Black boys from high school. Pinellas County (St. Petersburg) is identified again as one of the worst large school systems in America with regard to educating Black boys.

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A new report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education finds that only 52 percent of Black male and 58 percent of Latino male ninth-graders graduate from high school four years later while 78 percent of White, non-Latino male ninth-graders graduate four years later.

The latest Schott Foundation report – the title is taken from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream speech’ – says that the racial academic achievement gap between Black and White male students will take 50 years to close if it improves at the current rate. (SCHOTT FOUNDATION FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION)

The report suggests that without policies that create opportunity for all students, strengthens supports for the teaching profession and strikes the right balance between support-based reforms and standards-driven reforms, the U.S. will become increasingly unequal and less competitive in the global economy.

Some improvement
According to “The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males,” the national graduation rate for Black males has increased by 10 percentage points since 2001-02, with 2010-11 being the first year that more than half of the nation’s ninth-grade Black males graduated with a regular diploma four years later.

Yet, this progress has closed the graduation gap between Black male and White, non-Latino males by only three percentage points. At this rate, it would take nearly 50 years for Black males to achieve the same high school graduation rates as their White male counterparts.

Bottom three
Among the states with the largest Black enrollments, North Carolina (58 percent), Maryland (57 percent), and California (56 percent) have the highest graduation rates for Black males while New York (37 percent), Illinois (47 percent) and Florida (47 percent) have the lowest. Arizona (84 percent) and Minnesota (65 percent) were the only states within the top 10 ranked states, in graduation rates, with over 10,000 Black males enrolled.

Which large school systems most successfully graduated Black males on time?   Montgomery County, Md. and Newark, N.J. – both at 74 percent. These two systems served as the benchmark for graduation rates of Black male students for states enrolling more than 10,000 Black students.

Far short
The Black male graduation rate of most of Florida’s largest school systems improved greatly, but are still far short of Schott’s 74 percent benchmark.

They are as follows: Palm Beach/West Palm Beach (55 percent, up from 22 percent in 2008); Broward/Fort Lauderdale (52 percent, up from 39 percent); Miami-Dade (49 percent, up from 27 percent); Orange/Orlando (49 percent, up from 33 percent); Hillsborough/Tampa (47 percent, up from 35 percent); Polk/Lakeland (46 percent, up from 29 percent); Duval/Jacksonville (36 percent, up from 23 percent); Pinellas/St. Petersburg (34 percent, up from 21 percent).

Though Pinellas is the worst large system in Florida with regard to Black boys, it’s not the worst. The Rochester, N.Y. system is the worst, graduating only 9 percent of its Black male students on time.

Other poor performers include Detroit (20 percent), Philadelphia (24 percent), Cleveland, Ohio (28 percent), Jackson, Miss. (28 percent) and Norfolk, Va. (32 percent).

‘Willful neglect’
Founded in 1991,the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s mission statement is “to develop and strengthen a broad-based and representative movement to achieve fully resourced high quality pre-K-12 public education.”

“These graduation rates are not indicative of a character flaw in the young men, but rather evidence of an unconscionable level of willful neglect, unequal resource allocation by federal, state and local entities and the indifference of too many elected and community leaders. It’s time for a support-based reform movement,” said John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation.

Who succeeds?
Three of the four states with the highest graduation rates for Black males were states with a relatively small number of Black males enrolled in the state’s schools: Maine (97 percent), Vermont (82 percent), Utah (76 percent). This seems to indicate that Black boys, on average, perform better in places and spaces where they are not relegated to under-resourced districts or schools. When provided similar opportunities, they are more likely to produce similar or better outcomes as their White male peers.

The report cites the need to address what the Schott Foundation calls a “pushout” and “lockout” crisis by reducing and reclaiming the number of students who are no longer in schools, and improving the learning and transition opportunities for students who remain in school.

Blacks and Latinos face disproportionate rates of out-of-school suspensions  – effectively being pushed out of opportunities to succeed. Many who remain in schools are locked out of systems with well-resourced schools and where teachers have the training, mentoring, administrative support, supplies and the facilities they need to provide children with a substantive opportunity to learn, according to the report.

Stop suspensions
To cut down the alarming pushout rate, the Schott Foundation is supporting the recently launched “Solutions Not Suspensions” initiative, a grassroots effort of students, educators, parents and community leaders calling for a nationwide moratorium on out-of-school suspensions.

Schott also calls for students who are performing below grade level to receive “Personal Opportunity Plans” to prevent them from being locked out of receiving the resources needed to succeed. The report also provides the following recommendations for improving graduation rates for young Black and Latino men:

•Expand learning time and increase opportunities for a well-rounded education, including the arts, music, physical education, robotics, foreign language, and apprenticeships.

•States and cities should conduct a “redlining” analysis of school funding, both between and within districts, and work with the community and educators to develop a support-based reform plan with equitable resource distribution.

“Black and Latino children under the age of 18 will become a majority of all children in the U.S. by the end of the current decade, many of whom are in lower-income households located in neighborhoods with under-resourced schools,” said Michael Holzman, senior research consultant to the Schott Foundation.

“We do not want our young Black and Latino men to have to beat the odds; we want to change the odds. We must focus on systemic change to provide all our children with the opportunity to learn.”
For the full report, including detailed state data, log on to www.flcourier.com.

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