Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We're the worst?!

I saw a headline the other day that said "Michigan Worst For Graduating Black Males."

As a black male I don't know if I was more mad or disappointed. The worst?! How can we be the worst? Not Detroit, but Michigan? The entire state? I have a friend who was the first black teacher in the west Michigan school district in which he works, and that was just six years ago. I figure they can't have many black students either, yet they don't graduate enough of them that the district contributed to statistics that place us last?

According to a national study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, our state graduates just 33 percent of black males compared to 74 percent of white males. Detroit Public Schools graduates 20 percent of black males and 17 percent of white males, according to the report, dubbed "Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males.'' That is the second-lowest rate for major cities across the country, and shameful, in my opinion.

The story I read was in the Detroit News, and it quoted state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, who said , "The low numbers of black, Latino and Native-American males who graduate from high school is a major concern. It's obvious that the way we've been trying to educate these students is not working, and we have to look at other ways to reach them.''

Flanagan claims Gov. Jennifer Granholm is working on a small high school initiative that will help build greater relevance and relationships with schools and students.

"We have confidence this, combined with a more challenging curriculum required by our new graduation requirements, will help make a difference,'' he said.

Flanagan conceded that the way educators have been trying to teach minority students in the state quite simply isn't working. But DPS officials weren't surprised by the findings in the report, which is a problem for me.

A DPS spokesman said that the numbers would not shock anyone who has looked the school-by-school data because it shows that show that the student success rate at most of the districts comprehensive high schools to be unacceptably low.

Well, I'm shocked, and any parent who sends his or her child to a DPS school should be shocked too. I realize the issues have more to do with economics than race. In fact, that's part of the pro-Affirmative Action case. Our minority kids in urban cities are at a huge disadvantage in life because of the inferior education they receive.

The report went on to say that nationally, 47 percent of black male students and 75 percent of white male students graduated on time. North Dakota led the nation with an 89 percent graduation rate among black males, according to the report. But how many black males live in North Dakota?

I have to admit to being a homer, but United Way is leading work to create smaller high schools. The plan shows promise. Let's hope that promise is fulfilled.

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