Unless we act now, these disparities will continue to affect generations to come.

A task force in Palm Beach County, led by a district principal, has sets its sights on increasing the graduation rates of its black male students. Main components of the effort include curtailing suspensions, making graduation part of principals’ evaluations and encouraging advanced placement classes and tutoring. The plan must be approved by the local school board. It is estimated to increase the graduation rate of black males by 10 percent per year.

The graduation rate for black students in Palm Beach County public high schools, including charters, last year was 66.5 percent – about 22 percent lower than that for white students, state statistics show. The suspension rate for black middle-schoolers was 30 percent last year, compared to 8 percent for white students, according to district statistics.

“The responsibility for the disparities among our young people lies with the adults, not the students in Palm Beach County,” reads the opening line of the task force’s draft report.

The strategy set forth in the report has been more than 18 months in the making. Former Superintendent Art Johnson created the task force in 2010 after studies showed that black males in 2006 were graduating from district high schools at far lower rates than white students. The studies also showed that black students, particularly black males, were suspended at far higher rates than their white counterparts.

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