Studies Look at Graduation Rates

Two recently published reports, Graduation by the Numbers: Putting Data to Work for Student Success, Diplomas Count, 2010 Edition, and Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, 2010, should be read by everyone working in education and every parent of school age children. The first, published by Education Week using data from the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center, investigates how data and analysis are helping to identify school districts in crisis and looks at strategies that address high drop-out rates. The latter, a report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, compares graduation rates of minority and white males. Both reports used data from 2007 and 2008.

Graduation by the Numbers reports that while graduation rates have climbed for all racial groups in the last 10 years, today, nearly 3 out of every 10 students in public schools, still, do not graduate. This amounts to 1.3 million children lost annually or 7,200 students that drop out every day. More importantly, 25 school districts out of 11,000 nationwide, account for 1 in 5 dropouts or about 250,000 students a year.

Yes We Can had similar findings: only 47 percent of black males graduated in 2008, while the rate for white males was 78 percent. Even more alarming were the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) statistics on reading proficiency with only 9 percent of African-American males being proficient by the eighth grade compared to 33 percent of white males, nationally.

Perhaps the most alarming numbers, for me, were the statistics from Ohio. In Graduation by the Numbers, only 47.5 percent of black males graduated. For Hispanics it was less. On average we lose 218 students daily. The Yes We Can report was worse. Just 41 percent of black males graduated, in comparison to 78 percent of white males, the gap being 37 percent. We made the top five states with the largest gap in graduation rates between black and white children. In Cleveland, only 27 percent of black males graduated; Cincinnati, only 33 percent; and Columbus, only 35 percent. Three of our cities made the top 25, worst cities in America for graduating children of color. Only Florida and Georgia had more.

Yet some states with large urban, poor students, like New Jersey are making huge strides where nearly 65 percent of African-American boys are graduating. Some districts like Harlem Children’s Zone, Urban Prep in Chicago, and Eagle Academy in New York, prove all children can learn. Yes We Can says the formulae for success must have an equitable distribution of funds for all school districts; high quality preschool programs; intensive early literacy programs for the poor; small class sizes; after school and summer educational programs; improved social and health services; newer schools; and state accountability. This is not about improving methods of accountability for teachers, as some politicians would like the public to believe. This is about finding funding and education solutions, increasing parent involvement, and breaking the cycle of poverty.

By Susan Ridgeway, Streetsboro Education Association

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