Debunking Education Myths About Blacks
Show Me the Numbers: Our series with the Journal of Negro Education shows that the news isn't all bad.
As with any forecast, the true rate of black male college graduation in 2020 could be more or less than projected. Many opportunities in the United States could help us make or exceed the mark, and many threats could make us miss it. We could be on the verge of witnessing exponential growth, stagnation or regression in black male achievement. All of these are issues that require our deepest contemplation.
What It Takes to Get Us There
First, the black community should desist with the attitude that the black race is constantly going backward. There is essentially no objective evidence that black males are more prone to failure today than in previous generations. Today, young black males drop out of high school less and enroll in college more than any other generation in history.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the status dropout rate for black males in 2010 was 9 percent, compared with about 20 percent in 2000 (pdf). If you are confused because you thought 50 percent of black males drop out of high school, read more about the black male graduation rate and why some measures don't fully account for those who graduate later than their freshman-year cohort.
Yet young black males are subject to an educational system that is in an identity crisis. They are being expelled and arrested for behaviors that were considered normal adjustment issues years ago, and they take high-stakes and standardized tests that are of questionable validity and reliability. And yes, the high school dropout rate for black males is twice as high as the dropout rate for white males.
Notwithstanding, black males enroll in college at a rate that is comparable to that of white males. In fact, if all 1.2 million black males who are currently enrolled in undergraduate programs eventually graduated, the total number of black males with college degrees would increase by 71 percent, nearly achieving parity with white males. However, college-completion rates among black males are dismal, particularly at community colleges and for-profit universities.
To make sure at least 20 percent of black males have a college degree by 2020, we need to move beyond merely getting black males into college. We need proactive strategies to prepare them to compete at universities that have a record of retaining and graduating black males.