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THE URGENCY OF NOW: New Schott Foundation Report Calls for “Support-Based Reform Agenda” to Increase High School Graduation Rates Among Black and Latino Males

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“We have a responsibility to provide future generations of Americans with the education and the skills needed to thrive in communities, the job market, and the global economy. Yet, too many black and Latino young boys and men are being pushed out and locked out of the U.S. education system or find themselves unable to compete in a twenty-first-century economy upon graduating.”

Nationwide, only 52 percent of black males and 58 percent of Latino males graduated in four years from the high school Class of 2010, compared to 78 percent of white males, according to The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2012, a new report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education. The report outlines a need for a “support-based reform agenda,” which it says can address a “pushout” and “lockout” crisis in the American education system in which too many students are no longer in schools receiving critical educational services, and those who are still in school are not fully engaged and able to access the available support to fully excel.

“We have a responsibility to provide future generations of Americans with the education and the skills needed to thrive in communities, the job market, and the global economy. Yet, too many black and Latino young boys and men are being pushed out and locked out of the U.S. education system or find themselves unable to compete in a twenty-first-century economy upon graduating,” said John H. Jackson, president and chief executive officer of the Schott Foundation. “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.”

Since 2004, when the Schott Foundation began its biennial reports on the subject, the national high school graduation rate for black males had increased from 42 percent in 2001–02 to 52 percent in 2009–10. During the same time period, the high school graduation rate had increased from 46 percent to 58 percent for Latino males and from 71 percent to 78 percent for white males. Even with this progress, however, the graduation gap between black and white males had closed by only three percentage points, meaning that it would take nearly fifty years for black males to achieve the same high school graduation rate as their white male counterparts, the report finds.

Among states with the largest numbers of black students, North Carolina (58 percent), Maryland (57 percent), and California (56 percent) have the highest high school graduation rates for black males, while New York (37 percent), Illinois (47 percent), and Florida (47 percent), have the lowest, the report finds. For male Latino students, Arizona (68 percent), New Jersey (66 percent), and California (64 percent) have the highest high school graduation rates among the states with the largest Latino enrollments, while New York (37 percent), Colorado (46 percent), and Georgia (52 percent) have the lowest.

Among school districts, the report highlights Montgomery Country (MD), Newark (NJ), Cumberland County (NC), Baltimore County (MD), and Guilford County (NC) for having high school graduation rates for black males above 65 percent. It credits Maryland’s above-average graduation rates to “support-based strategies” that address the needs of diverse students and praises North Carolina for its personal education plans that provide the additional academic and social support its students need.

On the other end of the spectrum, the report singles out Rochester (NY), which has a 9 percent high school graduation rate for black male students, and New York City, where the graduation rate is 28 percent for black males. It notes that New York City has “been a leader” in the standards-based reform agenda, but it has not provided the “supports so that a critical mass of black and Latino male students have an opportunity to reach the standards.”

According to the report, efforts over the past decade to raise standards, improve assessments, and evaluate teachers “are not effective drivers toward significantly changing conditions for students who are in need of more student-centered approaches.” Instead, the report calls for (1) reducing and reclaiming the number of students who are no longer in schools receiving critical educational services, and (2) improving the learning and transition opportunities for students who are present, but who are neither fully engaged nor able to access the available support to fully excel.

Specifically, the report urges for an end to the “rampant” use of out-of-school suspensions as a default disciplinary action, arguing that these actions decrease learning time for the most vulnerable students and increase the number of dropouts. It also calls for expanded learning time and increased opportunities for a “well-rounded education,” which includes arts, music, physical education, robotics, foreign language, and apprenticeships. Finally, the report recommends that states and cities 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 to implement sound community school models.”

The Urgency of Now is available at http://www.blackboysreport.org/urgency-of-now.pdf.

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