Report: Only 52 percent of black males graduate from high school in 4 years

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A new study released today shows a little over half of black males graduate from high school in four years; while this rate has improved significantly in the last eleven years, they still fall behind their white counterparts.

The Schott Foundation for Public Education released “The Urgency of Now” today, a study showing that only 52 percent of black male ninth-graders graduate from high school 4 years later, compared to 58 percent of Latino male ninth-graders and 78 percent of white, non-Latino male ninth-graders.

The findings show that while the graduation rate for black males has improved by 10 percentage points since 2001-2002, this progress has only closed the gap between them and white, non-Latino males by 3 percentage points.

“Even though some progress has been made, it’s inadequate.” Michael Holzman, senior research consultant to the Schott Foundation said. “Education is linked to both income potential and incarceration potential. This is a serious crisis.”

At this rate of improvement, John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation, says it would “take close to 50 years for black males to have the same opportunities.”

“I don’t think students and parents are willing to wait half a century for that,” he added.

The cause behind these numbers is what the Schott Foundation calls a “pushout” and “lockout” crisis. The study says that black males are disproportionately disciplined with out-of-school suspensions, which cut down on their learning time and essentially “push them” out of educational opportunities. The students who remain in school are “locked out” of school systems that provide good resources and facilities, and highly-trained teachers.

“I would hope that the country recognizes that we have a two-pronged problem,” Jackson replied when asked what responses he’s expecting to the study. “We need a two-pronged solution for a two-pronged problem.”

The study suggests the solution is in switching from standards-driven reform to a support-based agenda. A support-based agenda would focus on reducing the number of students who are constantly out of school and increasing the educational services and opportunities for students in school.

“We do not want our 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,” said Holzman.

Jackson echoed the idea that progress can only come with an improved school system.

“This is not a flaw with black males. Black and Latino males are neglected by the educational system,” Jackson said. “There is a system that is not giving them the opportunity to learn.”

Another solution the study suggests is creating “personal opportunity plans.” These plans would be provide any student falling a year or more below their grade level with academic and social support.

The Schott Foundation is currently working on a campaign to call for a nationwide moratorium on out-of-school suspensions.

Follow Ugonna on Twitter at @ugonnaokpalaoka.