National Summary

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011, for the first time in history, the majority of babies born in the U.S. are babies of color. Thus, in the not too distant future, the viability of our country’s communities, labor force and democracy will largely be shaped and predicated on the opportunities we provide for those children.

For close to a century, a high school diploma was one of the best pathways toward securing individual and collective opportunity for Americans. Increasingly, over the past decade, securing a high school diploma has become the critical entry point to the additional postsecondary training needed to thrive socially, civically and economically in America.

Since 2004, the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s biennial reports on Black males in public education have documented that of all racial/ethnic and gender groups, Black males have been the least likely to secure a regular diploma four years after beginning high school[1]. Unfortunately, the data in this 2012 publication, The Urgency of Now: The Schott Foundation 50 State Report on Black Males and Public Education, indicate that the same holds true this year.

In 38 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Black males have the lowest graduation rates among Black, Latino and White, non-Latino male and female students.

Schott’s analysis of the most recent state-reported graduation rate data (2009-10) indicates that, in 38 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Black males have the lowest graduation rates among Black, Latino and White, non-Latino male and female students. Given the significant number of states (11) where Latino males’ graduation rates were the lowest, for the first time we have added a state-level analysis of the Latino male graduation rates to this report[2].

Overall, The Urgency of Now reveals that nationally only 52% of Black males and 58% of Latino males graduate from high school in four years [3], while 78% of White, non-Latino males graduate in four years. While states and districts have been able to provide supports to secure a timely high school diploma for over three-quarters of White, non-Latino males, only a little more than half of Black and Latino males were provided with the same supports.

Over the past nine years, there has been progress in the national graduation rate for male students across the board. The national graduation rate for Black males has increased by 10 percentage points, from 42% in 2001-02 to 52% in 2009-10. This is the first year that more than half of the nation’s Black males in Grade 9 graduated with regular diplomas four years later. The Latino graduation rate has increased by 12 percentage points, from approximately 46% to 58%, and the White, non-Latino graduation rate has increased by seven percentage points, from 71% to 78%.

Line graph of Black and Latino Male Graduation Rates

However, the progress over the past nine years toward closure of the Black male and White, non-Latino male graduation gap has only achieved a three percentage point gain, from a 29 percentage point gap to 26 percentage points. As the chart below indicates, at the current pace of progress for both, it would take nearly 50 years for Black males to secure the same high school graduation rates as their White male peers. We know progress for both groups will be more uneven than any projection scenario, but we include it to emphasize the urgency of speeding up our reform efforts—neither our children nor our nation can wait for half a century. Educationally this represents the point at which Black males can secure a high school diploma on par with their White male peers; economically it represents the point at which they will be equally equipped to secure post-secondary educational and labor opportunities available as a result of possessing a high school diploma.

[1]Black students are defined by the U.S. Department of Education as “students having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa as reported by their school.”
[2]According to the U.S. Census, people who identify with the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” are those who classify themselves as “Mexican,” “Puerto Rican,” or “Cuban”—as well as those who indicate that they are “other Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino.” It is important to note that among Latino populations, based on the parents’ place of national origin, there are stark contrasts in the socio-economic status and the educational experiences of the children within each group. Thus, while we discuss these data in relation to Latinos broadly, we are aware that there are different experiences for Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans, Puerto Ricans, etc.
[3]Graduation rates are calculated as the percentage of the students enrolled in 9th grade receiving diplomas four years later. Graduation rates use the number of graduates obtained from state data, estimated from state data and National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data, or estimated from historical data trends. (See Methodology, page 50.)