Preface – By John H. Jackson, President

John H. Jackon, president of the Schott Foundation for Public Education

John H. Jackon, president of the Schott Foundation for Public Education

America’s history, democracy, economy and social infrastructure are undeniably stronger today because of the contributions of Black males past and present, in their roles as fathers, husbands and sons to philanthropists and veterans. There are over two million Black males in the U.S. with a college degree, many of whom have made significant contributions in business, science, education and the arts. There should never be a lack of clarity about the contributions that Black males have made to our country and communities. Yet in the face of these contributions, there still remain systemic challenges that create outcomes far below those we should desire for any person.

Over the past months following the tragic deaths of several Black males across the country, advocates from across the globe and all walks of life have come together to remind Americans that “Black Lives Matter.” This has been inspirational and reaffirming, yet it also calls to question whether states and communities are willing to address the issues that declaratively make Black lives matter while they are living, or will we only affirm that after they die?

Black Lives Matter, this fifth edition of the Schott 50-State Report on Public Education and Black Males, highlights many of the systemic opportunities and challenges that exist in states and localities relative to creating the climate where outcomes indicate all lives matter. Black Lives Matter provides a national overview of the state of Black and Latino male students, a state-level analysis highlighting high-performing and low-performing states, and a local analysis of school districts with more than 10,000 Black males enrolled. These school districts warrant particular attention since they are charged with the education of over 1.2 million Black male students (approximately 30% of the total Black male student population) and 1.1 million Latino male students (approximately 18% of the total Latino male student population).

This report is intended to draw public attention to the serious reality of a danger that does not instantly end young Black males’ lives but one that creates a practically insurmountable chasm of denied educational opportunities that consigns them to poverty and limited chances to succeed in life.

While all lives matter, we cannot ignore the fact that, as this reports once again reveals, Black male students were at the bottom of four-year high school graduation rates in 35 of the 48 states and the District of Columbia where estimates could be projected for the 2012-2013 school year (Latino males are at the bottom in the other 13 states). This fact provides clear evidence of a systemic problem impacting Black males rather than a problem with Black males.  Simply stated, while most will say Black lives matter and are important, the four-year graduation results in this report indicate that most states and localities operate at best, and have created at worse, climates that often don’t foster healthy living and learning environments for Black males.

It is widely accepted in policy and administration that you measure what matters. Yet, as we highlight in this report, in most states and localities it is easier to find data on the incarceration rates of Black males than their high school graduation rates, or any other data that reinforces Black males’ positive attributes.

This report is intended to draw public attention to the serious reality of a danger that does not instantly end young Black males’ lives but one that creates a practically insurmountable chasm of denied educational opportunities that consigns them to poverty and limited chances to succeed in life.  That danger is the unconscionable opportunity gap that underlies the disparities in graduation rates, suspensions and education. The Schott Foundation is hopeful that this defining “Black Lives Matter” moment catalyzes and strengthens a movement with clearly articulated actions that are powerful enough to enact the systemic changes in policies and practices needed to build healthier living and learning ecosystems where the outcomes support the affirmation that all lives matter, regardless of race or ethnicity, and where all students have an opportunity to learn and to succeed.

If issues impacting girls of color, who are also often the victims of systemic challenges, are not addressed we not only lose tremendous assets in our communities and nation, we lose a sense of our humanity.

Finally, although this report historically focuses on Black males (and state level data on Latino males), we highlight in each edition the systemic disparities that are identifiable by race, ethnicity or socio-economic status impact all. As such, if issues impacting girls of color, who are also often the victims of systemic challenges, are not addressed we not only lose tremendous assets in our communities and nation, we lose a sense of our humanity. To that end, Schott supported the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies and the African American Policy Forum efforts to highlight these issues in their joint report entitled, Black Girls Matter: Pushed-out, Overpoliced and Underprotected. Furthermore, a new Southern Education Foundation research bulletin, A New Majority, indicates that for the first time the majority of students in the public schools are eligible for free and reduced price lunch, a proxy for student poverty rates. This means that if states and our nation are going to prosper we must find ways to improve the educational supports necessary for students with fewer resources—which research shows require more than just traditional academic supports, but health and socio-emotional supports as well. It means that addressing social climate issues in a sustainable way matters.

The public school system is a public good, and the strongest platform in our nation to deliver the supports necessary to create healthy living and learning communities.  Through these communities, once we are able to provide all students an opportunity to learn, then we will truly be able to claim that “All Lives Matter.”   

Since Black lives matter, more than one in eight grants in philanthropy should be dedicated to social justice. Since Black lives matter, a larger percentage of philanthropic resources must be dedicated to addressing issues that matter in providing all students an opportunity to learn. Since Black lives matter, ensuring that states and localities prioritize supporting young people over penalizing them matters.  Since Black lives matter, tracking positive outcome data disaggregated by race matters.

Simply stated, we release this report to challenge systems and advocates alike to take action beyond articulating the narrative of “Black Lives Matter.”  We urge action steps to track what matters, support what matters, and provide a healthy living and learning climate and an opportunity to learn for all who matter.