Gap in Boys' High School Graduation Rates Still Widening, Study Finds

The gap between U.S. public high school graduation rates for white and African-American males increased from 19 percentage points in 2009-10 to an estimated 21 percentage points in 2012-13, a report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education finds.

The report, Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males (68 pages, PDF), estimates that the public high school graduation rate in 2012-13 for African-American males was 59 percent, compared with 65 percent for Latino males and 80 percent for non-Latino white males. The study also found that the majority of states with the largest gaps were in the Midwest, and that New Jersey and Tennessee were the only states with significant numbers of African-American males enrolled in high school to have black male graduation rates above 70 percent.

It's not clear, however, whether the national graduation rate for African-American males is improving or falling. In its 2012 report (56 pages, PDF), the Schott Foundation estimated the 2009-10 graduation rate for African-American males at 52 percent and the black-white gap at 26 percentage points, which would indicate an improvement, whereas the latest report uses as a reference point a onetime release of federal data disaggregated by race and gender that was published after the 2012 Schott report. The federal government did not begin requiring states to report graduation rates in a uniform way until 2012. "This variance underscores the necessity for consistent reporting," Schott Foundation president and CEO John H. Jackson told the Washington Post. "In the midst of this whole movement around My Brother's Keeper, how can you 'keep' a population that you're not tracking?"

Other disparities highlighted in the foundation's latest report include consistently higher out-of-school suspension rates for African-American students than for white students; limited access to AP courses in schools with high African-American enrollment; and gaps of 26 percentage points and 32 percentage points between white and black students in eighth-grade reading and math proficiency scores. To address these disparities, the report calls for student-centered educational programs that align academic, social, and health support systems; a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions; and the creation of more private-sector programs and networks aimed at helping young people in low-income communities prepare for a career.

"On the heels of several recent tragedies and acts of violence that have brought increased attention to the alarming racial divide in our nation, the report reveals a quieter destructive force related to racial injustice: educational inequality," said Jackson. "Investing in young black males produces results that are an asset to our society. There are currently over two million black males who are college graduates and over one million enrolled in college. Positioning young people to graduate from high school with a solid foundation creates a pathway out of poverty and toward social mobility."

"Report: Gap Between Black and White Male High School Graduation Rates Still Widening." Schott Foundation for Public Education Press Release 02/11/2015. Emma Brown. "Report on Black Males’ Graduation Rates Shows That Data Are Muddy." Washington Post 02/11/2015.