Preface – John H. Jackson

President & CEO
John H. Jackson, Ed.D., J.D.

For nearly a decade, the Schott Foundation for Public Education has published data on the outcomes for Black males in public education.During that period, there has definitely been an increased awareness of the issues and opportunities confronting Black males. There have been more national, state and local commissions formed, philanthropic dollars invested,programs developed and documentaries produced—all of which we view as worthy investments.Without these, it is very unlikely that any progress would have been made over the past decade.

However, if we are to be totally honest, the necessary systemic reforms and investments to significantly improve Black males’ outcomes and to provide them with a fair and substantive opportunity to learn have come at a painstakingly slow pace or not at all. So much so that our failure to institutionalize the supports necessary to provide Black males with a substantive opportunity for success has yielded a climate where academically only 10 percent of Black males in the United States are deemed proficient in8th grade reading, and only 52% are graduating from high school in a four-year period. Thus the penal institutions remain populated with too many Black males and the classroom student rolls with too few.

At this rate of progress, with no “large scale” systemic intervention, it would take another 50years to close the graduation gap between Black males and their White male counterparts.

The Schott Foundation has consistently noted that these unconscionable outcomes for these young boys and men are not reflective of their potential nor their abilities—but a direct result of denying them equitable supports and resources they need to be fully engaged and succeed. This is the opportunity gap that is the root of the achievement gap.

The Urgency of Now: The 2012 Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males data indicate nationally the gap between the Black and White male graduation rate has only decreased three percentage points in the last 10 years. At this rate of progress, with no “large scale” systemic intervention, it would take another 50years to close the graduation gap between Black males and their White male counterparts.

Our nation’s current pace of institutionalizing the policy and programmatic supports to more positively affect the outcomes for Black males would cause any reasonable person, let alone the young boys and men themselves, to wonder whether our society truly desires to systemically change the conditions for Black males; or, alternatively,to wonder whether advocates, faith leaders and policymakers have resorted to only developing “pain-numbing” programs designed to at best save a very limited number, and at worst metaphorically “make the back of the bus more comfortable” for those left behind.

The Urgency of Now is designed to provide data to compel and spark action at the district, state and national level, to develop policy proposals and hold policymakers accountable for implementing the systemic changes needed to provide males of color the opportunity to learn and succeed. Recognizing the significant changing demographics in our country and an increasing graduation challenge for Latino males, for the first time we have also included state-level graduation data on Latino males in this report.

We encourage media and movement builders alike to go beyond the data toward systemic“support-based” solutions like those highlighted in this report; to resist the urge to feature a single student or school as evidence that the code has been cracked and do the difficult work of reviewing systemic data, asking systemic questions,presenting systemic proposals and seeking to help every child, rather than a few.

In this report, we deliberately highlight the voices of individuals like my colleague Andrés Alonso, Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools. Five years ago, rather than working from a standard playlist focused on merely improving the test scores of a declining number of students sitting in the classrooms,Dr. Alonso asked: “Where are the others who should be here?” He then prioritized working with educators and the community to reclaim those who had been and were being pushedout and to further open up new possibilities forthose who were present but still locked out ofsignificant academic opportunities. Dr. Alonsogets it. Equity and excellence must be marriedto truly answer the call to be a leader in publiceducation today.

We also highlight the solution-oriented work of philanthropic partners like the Annie E. Casey,Ford, Lumina, Knight and Open Society Foundations and the Heinz Endowments, which have likewise invested resources in research-proven“support-based reform” initiatives rather than the status quo standards-based reform models.

Simply stated, change is possible and our young males of color can learn at a high level if we support and fight for them. For some, this action will come from a space of love, morality or faith—from those willing to boldly intercede and give them the opportunity to be all that God intended. For others of conscience, this is a human and civil rights struggle, as education in equity is the defining civil rights issue of our day. For all, this battle is critical to ensuring the health of America’s communities, democracy,and economy.

For all of us, the urgency is now.

Sounding the alarm,

John H. Jackson
President and CEO
Schott Foundation for Public Education