Black male students are nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school as their white counterparts. A new study says that statistic and others call for a different approach to help black men and boys succeed.
As head of the Council of the Great City Schools, Mike Casserly has seen lots of depressing numbers about achievement for minority students. But he says performance for black males is shockingly low.
"African-American male students who were neither disabled nor poor were doing no better than white students who were disabled and/or poor," Casserly says.
The new report by the group analyzed test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress to get at other depressing truths about achievement for African-American men and boys. They are twice as likely as whites to be held back in elementary school, and three times as likely to be suspended from school. That trend follows black men right into adulthood: They are half as likely as white male students to graduate college in four years.
The council hopes these numbers will lead to a White House conference focusing on achievement for black males. But many other studies have drawn attention to this problem with few results.
The Schott Foundation has produced four reports on this issue over the past decade, including a recent report released in August. Michael Holzman, a consultant for Schott, says the problem is simple: Most black male students go to lousy schools.
"If we look at schools that are predominately black, and we look at the achievement of white kids who are in those schools, we find that the white kids don't do well either," Holzman says.
The Schott study points to New Jersey districts that have been successful in reducing the achievement gap, thanks to extra attention and extra funding brought about by a lawsuit.
Some black leaders, however, feel that the problem goes beyond funding. Michael Wotorson of the Campaign for High School Equity says black students enter kindergarten less prepared, and that means black home life plays some role.
"Until we address our own culpability, we're going to be making very, very slow progress," Wotorson says.
The Council of the Great City Schools says the numbers are so bad for black male students that Congress needs to establish a special program.