Think You Know the Dropout Rates for Black Males? You’re Probably Wrong

The data to support a dropout crisis among black students are being misreported and used to support stigmatizing tactics.

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Is There a Dropout Crisis Among African-American Males?

In the context of education, most people who use the word “crisis” are either victims of propaganda or being intentionally hyperbolic to sell a point or an agenda. There are many educational issues that need to be resolved for the black community, but there is an inherent danger in propagating a high school dropout crisis.

For instance, according to the Schott Foundation report, only 28 percent of black males graduate (pdf) from New York City schools, which can be interpreted as meaning that 72 percent of black males are dropping out. This would indeed be a crisis.

Imagine 72 percent of the city’s young black males being out of school and on the streets. In raw numbers, this would mean that about 155,000 black males in New York City between the ages of 16 and 24 are high school dropouts, with only the remaining fewer than 61,000 either in high school or college or finishing any type of diploma or degree program.

How alarming does this sound? This is scary enough for someone to support any extreme agenda, from the complete privatization of public schools to stop and frisk.

When we use the Current Population Survey to estimate the number of black males in the New York City metro area between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and have not completed high school, the percentage of the total population of black males in that age range is actually around 15 percent.

Meanwhile, insidious practices in New York City are creating a racial caste system in education. While black people are supporting inept dropout-prevention programs, the school system is keeping black students from specialized high schools, like the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech, by creating an arcane testing criterion. It is also eliminating advanced math and science classes from schools with the largest percentage of black students. The school system eliminates the possibility for many black students to earn a Regents diploma because of the curriculum it offers.

In fact, the primary reason the Schott Foundation’s number for New York is so absurdly low is not that black males are dropping out. It is that they are not earning Regents diplomas. This should change just about everything about the way we currently address the 72 percent of black males who did not make the Schott Foundation’s cut in New York City.

What Are We Doing to Make Sure African-American Children Know the Truth About Themselves?

I was honored to receive an invitation from the Rev. Al Sharpton to serve on a panel for the National Action Network Convention in April. On the panel Steve Perry, principal of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., admonished public schools by saying that 50 percent of black males do not graduate. Later, Sharpton said on MSNBC that only 52 percent of black males graduate on time.

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