By Joseph Harkins
Although high school graduation rates among U.S. black males improved in 2010, the numbers still fall well short of their white counterparts, according to an education group’s report.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education, which has tracked graduation rates of black males from public schools since 2004, said 52 percent of these students who entered the ninth grade in 2006-2007 earned diplomas in four years.
Seventy-eight percent of white, non-Latino males graduated in that same time period as did 58 percent of Latinos.
The foundation releases its report every two years. In 2008, the black male graduation rate was 47 percent.
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."
The foundation said improving the graduation rates of black and Latino students has become more urgent now that the majority of babies born in the United States are minorities.
"These outcomes are not evidence of flaws of young men, but evidence of willful neglect by federal, state, local elected policymakers and leaders," said Jackson, who is participating in this week's Congressional Black Caucus legislative conference, which includes education access on its agenda.
Jackson and his organization are calling for a moratorium on school suspensions, which have been shown to be used disproportionately on minority children and those with disabilities. The group also wants more support for students through individual plans that offer help, such as tutoring, mentoring, mental health and health care so they can catch up in school.
Support like this 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.
States use different methods to calculate high school graduation rates. The Schott Foundation said it is aware of the differences and calculates graduation rates as the number of students receiving diplomas divided by the number of students in ninth grade four years earlier. It counts only diplomas accepted by post-secondary institutions, not GEDs or local diplomas, offered in some districts for students who are not college-bound.