August 18, 2010
A recent study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education reported that Newark, New Jersey leads the nation in the percent of African American male students graduating from high school, followed by Maryland, California and Pennsylvania. The report revealed "alarming data" from other states and districts that points to a "national education and economic crisis", said the Schott Foundation in a press release.
The report provided state-by-state data and illustrated which districts and states were failing to provide African American students, and all students, with quality education. According to the biennial report, the graduation rate for African American males in the 2007-08 school year was only 47 percent. The states with the highest disparity between African American and Caucasian male graduation rates were New York, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. In its press release, the Schott Foundation singled out the district of New York City. The district has the nation's highest enrollment of African American students, but only 28 percent of Black male students earn Regents diplomas on time. "Taken together, the numbers in the Schott Foundation for Public Education's report form a nightmarish picture," said Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone as well as author of the report's foreword.
Conversely, the report also acknowledged New Jersey's Abbot plan for creating systematic change that yielded significant results. New Jersey is now the only state with a large African American population with a greater than 65 percent high school graduation rate for Black males. According to Diverse the higher graduation rate was attributed to greater per pupil spending and instructional time that was a result of the 1981 Abbot v. Burke lawsuit, which enforced reforms to address inadequate education to students in poor urban communities across New Jersey. However, according to The Washington Post, the New Jersey Department of Education has not released a full report on the possible reasons for why the state has been doing well compared to others.
Some have criticized the report, pointing out a state policy that allows schools to graduate some students even if they have not passed the required state test. The report also failed to identify which locations may have been demographically different from the nation as a whole.
Diverse reported that Janks Morton, Washington D.C.-based author and filmmaker whose work is primarily on Black America, argued that the report failed to acknowledge the many factors that may affect African American male graduation rates. For example, Morton pointed out that whether children are being raised in single- or two-parent households can affect educational achievement. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Center, 65 percent of African American children are being raised in single-parent homes. "Basically, those (children) from two-parent homes outperform single-parent homes, hands down," said Morton.
Furthermore, Morton disagreed with the report's recommendation for greater resources for public education, saying that schools are getting money, but "the problem is that the bureaucracy, teachers unions and other functions of that system do not allow for the trickle down that it's intended for, and that's the students".
According to the press release, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education Dr. John H. Jackson called for more than just additional funding. "We must focus on systematic change...By providing these data, we hope to provide educational advocates and policymakers the platform needed to make policy decisions that are educationally sound, not politically feasible," said Jackson.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"New Report 'Yes We Can' Shows America's Public Schools Fail Over Half the Nation's Black Male Students," blackboysreport.org, August 17, 2010
"Report: U.S. K-12 Schools Failing To Educate Black Males," diverseeducation.com, August 17, 2010, Jamaal Abdul-Alim
"Study: NJ and Newark lead nation in black male graduation rates," voices.washingtonpost.com, August 17, 2010, Jay Mathews
"Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education," blackboysreport.org, 2010