Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Only 31% of black males in Florida complete four years of high school on time

Doug Lyons:

Just how bad is public education in the Sunshine State?

A little over half of Florida's white male students don't graduate from high school in four years, according to a recently released study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education. So, you can guess how well black male students did when measured against their white counterparts.

Florida is the worst among states at graduating black males. The study found only 31 percent -- the nation's poorest ranking -- complete four years of high school on time.

South Florida's school districts didn't fare much better.

Broward County boasts a 36 percent black male graduation rate, compared to 55 percent for white males. The black male graduation rate is 31 percent in Miami-Dade County, compared to 54 percent for white males. It's 29 percent for black males in Palm Beach County, where 54 percent of white males graduate on time.

The Schott Foundation is based in Cambridge, Mass., and promotes equity in child care and education. It urges educators and politicians to implement programs to close the achievement gap between black and white students.

Its Public Education and Black Male Students: The 2006 State Report Card used federal and state government data to paint a rather dismal picture about the academic performance gap between black and white boys.

The report looks at graduation rates, enrollment in gifted and mental retardation programs and school suspension and expulsion rates; it provides results for each state and those school districts with large black student enrollment.

Florida, according to the study, still disproportionately enrolls white, non-Hispanic students in gifted/talented programs and disproportionately classifies black students as mentally retarded. Black males continue to be overrepresented in suspensions and expulsions.

Nationally, more than half of the nation's black male students still don't graduate in four years. The achievement gap between black and white male students has narrowed, but only because of a decline in the white male graduation rates. The dumbing down option isn't cause for celebration.

Florida's dubious distinction is noteworthy for several reasons -- with the first being obvious: its size. There are 320,962 black students attending public schools, the highest black enrollment of all states.

As goes Florida -- arguably -- so goes the nation when it comes to educational reform and reaching black students. But, here's the Sunshine State stuck at the bottom after years of educational experiments and state government initiatives.

There's no room to revel in these findings, whether you're a corporate recruiter trying to persuade high-tech firms to invest in Florida or an "education" governor who's leaving office but weighing his options.

Educators may say otherwise, but after a slew of policy changes, ranging from the A-Plus-Plus Plan to the One Florida Initiative, Florida has yet to bridge the gap that still separates black and white students.

The gap between haves and have-nots continues to grow


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