The Schott Foundation for Public Education released its biennial report about black males in U.S. public schools on Wednesday, estimating that 59 percent of black males graduated from high school on time in the 2012-2013 school year, compared to 65 percent of Latino males and 80 percent of white males.
But because those figures are estimates, even the Schott Foundation said it’s not clear how accurate they are. And while there is no dispute that black males are much less likely to graduate from high school than their white counterparts, the report does not offer a clear look at whether black males’ graduation rates are improving or backsliding.
Many states and localities do not regularly report graduation rates separated by race and gender, so the Schott Foundation arrived at its estimates by analyzing several years of federal data on high school enrollment and diplomas awarded.
“This highlights a need for a process where the data is collected regularly and reported regularly,” said John Jackson, the foundation’s president. “It highlights the need for actual data.”
The previous Schott report, published in 2012, estimated that 52 percent of black males graduated on time nationwide in 2009-2010. Compared to that estimate, the new Schott report suggests a notable gain of seven percentage points. It also suggests that the graduation gap between black and white males narrowed from 26 percentage points to 21 percentage points.
But compared to a different reference point — a onetime release of federal data separated by race and gender, which was published after the last Schott report — black males’ graduation rate fell from 61 percent to 59 percent. And the graduation gap widened from 19 to 21 points. States did not begin reporting graduation rates in a uniform way until the federal government began requiring it in 2012, for the class of 2011.
“This variance underscores the necessity for consistent reporting,” Jackson said. “In the midst of this whole movement around My Brother’s Keeper,” he said, alluding to President Obama’s initiative to support young men of color, “how can you keep a population that you’re not tracking?”