Black brains matter

Fifty-nine percent of black males earn a high school diploma, according to a new Schott Foundation report on public school students. The rate has risen from an even more dismal 51 percent, but is lower than the rate for Latino males (65 percent) or white males (80 percent).

Only 44 percent of black males in Nevada public schools earned a diploma, the worst in the nation. Of the six states with black male graduation rates of 75 percent or higher, only New Jersey and Tennessee have black populations larger than 5 percent.


Rapper: You’ve earned a worthless diploma

Black male graduates of Chicago high school are “four, five steps behind people in other countries,” rapper Lupe Fiasco told young men at a Mass Black Male Graduation and Transition to Manhood ceremony.

The local rapper began by saying, “Congratulations, you have graduated from one of the most terrible, substandard school systems in the entire world. You have just spent the last . . . 12 years receiving one of the worst educations on earth.”

. . .  “Transition to manhood is the most important thing that’s going on right now. The caps and the gowns and your tassels and your honorary blah blah blahs don’t mean nothing. . . . They just represent to someone else that you’ve achieved something. But then when you look back at it, what have you achieved?”

The rapper, a product of Chicago-area schools, told the young men to earn and maintain their manhood, “one of the last things that we can control.”

Philip Jackson, the event’s organizer, called the speech a needed “dose of reality.”

Colleges try to recruit, retain black men

Community colleges are developing special programs to improve the success rates of black male students.

If poverty is destiny, what about Maine?

If the education crisis is all about poverty, what about Maine? Maine is a poor state — especially for blacks — yet graduation rates are high, writes Michael Holzman on Dropout Nation. Some 84 percent of black males in Maine complete high school compared to 89 percent of white males. Nationwide, 49 percent of black males and 73 percent of white males earn a diploma. That means those low-income blacks in Maine are outperforming the national average for whites by a healthy margin.

Of course, there aren’t many blacks in Maine. They’re not concentrated in inferior schools, writes Holzman.

 They attend the same schools as their white peers, have the same teachers, and must meet the same expectations. They are not herded into “drop-out factories” and expected to fail.

I’d guess ghetto culture hasn’t taken root in Maine. We drove up there  in late September to meet our future son-in-law’s family, who live way up north in potato-and-moose country. The week after we were there, his grandmother shot a moose. There was talk of serving it at the rehearsal dinner, but it was an old, tough moose which apparently requires injecting pig lard and cooking for several days to be edible. So maybe not.


KIPP mobility matches nearby schools

KIPP middle schools take as many transfer students as nearby district schools, according to a Mathematica working paper (pdf). Furthermore, attrition rates for black males are lower than in neighboring schools, Mathematica found.

“KIPP’s success is not simply a mirage that is based on the results of a select number of high achievers who persist through 8th grade,” the researchers write.

A 2010 study by Mathematica found large achievement gains at KIPP schools, even when the scores of students who had left the schools were included, Inside School Research notes.

A Western Michigan study found high attrition for KIPP’s black males, charging that 40 percent of black male students leave between sixth and eighth grade.  The study compared two or three KIPP schools to entire school districts.

Mathematica compared individual KIPP schools to neighboring district schools. “Our data is showing that KIPP loses black males overall at a lower rate than the local district schools,” said Christina Clark Tuttle, a senior researcher.

Urban black male students often change schools, whether they attend a district or charter school, but are less likely to leave the district.

KIPP students are more likely to be black or Hispanic and have lower incomes than students in the surrounding school districts, Mathematica confirmed.

47% of black males graduate on time

Only 47 percent of black male students earned a high school diploma on schedule in 2008, reports the Schott Foundation.  In New York, 25 percent of black males earned a Regents diploma on time.

New Jersey, with a 69 percent black male graduation rate, is the only state with a significant black population to top 65 percent. Maryland came second at 55 percent with California third at 54 percent and Pennsylvania close behind at 53 percent.

Not known for educational excellence, Newark had the highest black male graduation rate of any major city, notes Jay Mathews.

In Newark, the graduation rate for black males was 76 percent. The other school districts nearest that level were Fort Bend, Tex. (68 percent), Baltimore County, Md. (67 percent) and Montgomery County, Md. (65 percent). The list only included states with more than 100,000 black male students and districts with more than 10,000 black male students.

New Jersey’s data is self-reported by schools and may be inflated, Mathews warns. In addition, the state lets schools graduate some students who haven’t passed the state graduation exam. One way to raise graduation rates is to lower standards.

Black female students, who face different social pressures, do much better than their brothers.