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Study: NJ and Newark lead nation in black male graduation rates

It is always news to me when I hear or read something good about the Newark school system, so I took notice when the Schott Foundation for Public Education released a new study saying that both that city, and the state of New Jersey, lead the nation in the percent of black male students graduating from high school.

Schott's report focused on the abysmal national graduation rate for black males, only 47 percent in the 2007-08 school year, but it heralded the New Jersey results, and gave credit to that state's heavy spending and innovative measures to raise graduation rates for everyone.

It said New Jersey had a graduation rate for black males of 69 percent in 2007-08, with the next closest states being Maryland (55 percent), California (54 percent) and Pennsylvania (53 percent). In Newark, the graduation rate for black males was 76 percent. The other school districts nearest that level were Fort Bend, Tex. (68 percent), Baltimore County, Md. (67 percent) and Montgomery County, Md. (65 percent). The list only included states with more than 100,000 black male students and districts with more than 10,000 black male students.

A spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Education said the state has been doing well compared to others in high school graduation rates, but the department hasn't released a full report on the possible causes. She expressed caution about the latest numbers because they are based on self-reported data from school districts, which will be upgraded to a more reliable system next year.

Some experienced Newark educators said the data also did not reflect other studies they had seen, but they had not had time to study the Schott report. Questions have been raised about a state policy that allows schools to graduate some students who have not passed the required state test. The report did not provide the percentage of black males in each jurisdiction that qualify for federal lunch subsidies, which would have indicated if the black male population in some places is demographically different from the nation as a whole.

John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation, said "we must focus on systemic change to provide all our children the opportunity to learn." Spokespeople for the foundation promised to get back to me with more information on what steps New Jersey and Newark have taken to address the issue, and why they are showing success when other states and districts are not. When I find out more I will post it here.

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By Jay Mathews  | August 17, 2010; 3:47 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Newark lead nation, Schott Foundation says state is spending more than others on the issue, black male graduation rate in NJ, some experts say numbers are uncertain  
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Comments

AND WHO'S THE SUPERINTENDENT OF NEWARK PUBLIC SCHOOLS? NONE OTHER THAN DCPS' FORMER SUPERINTENDENT CLIFFORD JANEY!!!!!

After 3 years of Rhee-forms, we're finally seeing results of her efforts: A DECLINE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEST SCORES. Normally it's the elementary schools you can count on for test scores to rise.

When Gray wins the primary the first thing he should do is call Janey and beg him to take his old job back and pay him double what we're paying Rhee.

Janey was tough and demanded a lot of us but he also respected us and put reforms in place which actually worked. He was a true leader and reformer. The rise in test scores in the upper grades are due to the students who were in elementary schools under Janey who were able to hold on despite Rhee's dismantling of what Janey did. The elementary school students have had the majority of their academic career under Rhee and we are seeing them fail miserably.

Leadership and accountability start at the top. Please hold yourself accountable Ms. Rhee and resign so that a real reformer and leader can come in and begin to clean up the horrible mess you've created.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | August 17, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Rather optimistic to expect schools to turn kids lives around.

When you have a population of kids who were often exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero, had little/no pre-natal care, are being raised by a single teen mother in poverty conditions, and have been weaned on a steady diet of sugar, junk food, and TV, you're not giving the school much to work with.

Competent teaching is important, but let's not blame Michelle Rhee for the abysmal parental support that most of her students suffer from. It's going to take more than putting a "super-hero" in the Schools Chancellor seat; it's going to take an intensive multi-pronged effort to help these kids *way* earlier than when they show up for kindergarten.

Posted by: kcx7 | August 18, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Well, the first black to enter Harvard Medical School (before World War One) was a graduate from the relentlessly elitist, conservative, West Coast "Hidden Ivy", Pomona College - my much loved alma mater.

Posted by: jucameron43 | August 18, 2010 3:01 AM | Report abuse

Whenever there is news about black achievement in education, an SNL skit comes to mind, "Lowered Expectations." Any state or school district can hand out a diploma to a functional illiterate person. This is not good news or anything to get excited about. No other racial subclass would be thrilled with a 70% graduation rate. The question is what are these black young men prepared to do. Not much, I bet.

Posted by: Concerned3 | August 18, 2010 5:24 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: johnmathew18 | August 18, 2010 5:43 AM | Report abuse

Observations regarding raising the high school graduation rate for Blacks and those especially hit by poverty and/or negative environmental disorder:

Since early initiation of smoking is a risk factor for other risky behaviors (1) such as early initiation of sex, drinking, poor grades, and dropping out of school and since living in neighborhood disorder characterized by such as graffiti and litter, etc. is a risk factor for smoking(2), it certainly gives community leaders a challenge and should compel them to try to make changes in some neighborhoods. Knowing that some incarcerated teams are involved in similar improvement projects, such as Habitat for Humanity, and being involved in such improvement projects benefit all, why not? Of course, those living in the neighborhoods should help as well.

Furthermore, since living in neighborhood disorder can spread more disorder (3), it is only logical to make the school environment as orderly as possible. Grafetti on school buildings as well as bathroom stalls and sidewalks must be removed as quickly as possible. Plant flowers; if they are vandalized, plant more. Place fixed trash cans in convenient locations and monitor use. Make sure that bathrooms are clean, have toilet paper, working water, soap, and paper towels or working hand dryers. Decorate schools halls with pleasant art - posters are cheap - frame them and hang them.

Not overlooking the obvious tho', prenatal care, tutoring, etc....

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11377990

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16904800

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19023045

Posted by: shadwell1 | August 18, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

GREAT POINT URBANDWELLER!!!!

The numbers were not great for most locals and frankly a graduation rate of 47% is quite abysmal. But even Prince George's county was in the top 10 nationwide.

Posted by: oknow1 | August 18, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Wouldn't one think that Janey is riding the coat-tails of the previous superintendent. Can one look at Janey and Booker of NJ in the same vain as Rhee and Fenty of DC?

Posted by: PowerandPride | August 18, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Concerned3, for expressing your concerns. The fact is that 99.99% of fresh high school graduates aren't prepared to do much of anything regardless of race or gender. This is why we start people off at the bottom and let them work their way to the top over the course of many,many years. This is also where coming from a well-connected family benefits a child who is just starting off in life. If you can't get your foot in the door, how can you ever learn from experience and prove yourself? It's ten times harder to make something from nothing. It can and has been done, but it's still much harder.

Posted by: forgetthis | August 18, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

"innovative measures"

What were the innovative measures? If they were truly good, perhaps other schools can copy them.

Posted by: aby1 | August 18, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

These results also underscore the need for more focus on trade school and non-traditional routes for high school.

The facts are that the current system is failing. (Although with the deepening of a knowledge based economy and the blue collar middle class dream diminishing, I might question whether trade school educations are going to allow anyone to live a middle class existence going further.) Still, if there was a strong cirriculum (i.e. teach them how to fix the cars, manage the shop, and one day own your own shop), I think this is a far more practical solution than trying to make kids in a lot of these areas sit through a year of chemistry. I think we need to take a much more serious look at a trade/high school model for nursing, hospitality, and repair (including tech) and other mid-skill areas.

Of course, that would mean shaking up the funding for the current public school model, and worse, be a threat to teachers' unions, so this has little chance of getting off the ground because the adults are focused on self-preservation anot not on children and learning.

Posted by: blackandgreen | August 18, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I like Janey too, but i would be careful about declaring Newark the hot new school district. I have gotten some more data from independent sources, which I will share after I show it to the Schott people, suggesting that that 76 percent graduation rate for black males is very inflated.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 18, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

blackandgreen, I could not agree more. I have expressed the same sentiments myself. And it makes even more sense now that we have a bloated white collar labor force.

Posted by: forgetthis | August 18, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Thanks forgetthis. The more I think about it, the more that I am convinced that trade/high schools make sense on a number of levels.

A big part of the reason why young black males are dropping out of school is disengagement--they see no correlation bewteen the things they are asked to study and life success. They may know that in theory high school leads to college, which can lead to higher salaries, but their immediate in-home role models may not demonstrate or reinforce that formula for success.

If they could get engaged with a cirricula that they KNEW could have them in a profitable job right after high school or within a year or two, I think they would be much more motivated. Without stereotyping, a good number are already parents at that age, so the focus needs to be on immediate income generation. I think the school should focus on intermediate to advanced level literacy, basic math, trade skills, finanacial literacy, life skills and entrepreneurship. Another bonus would be even if these kids do struggle and have trouble with the law at some point in their lives, they would still be trained in something, as opposed to emerging from the justice system both without training and unemployable. And at the end of the day, if kids decided to pursue something else or go to collge after completing the program, great, they can still do that. But if college is not a goal or an option, if getting through high school is barely in their sights, shouldn't we be focused on real world readiness?

Posted by: blackandgreen | August 18, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"Of course, that would mean shaking up the funding for the current public school model, and worse, be a threat to teachers' unions, so this has little chance of getting off the ground because the adults are focused on self-preservation anot not on children and learning. "

How would this be a threat to the unions? I'm a big union supporter, and I know many others. I have to disagree with you on this.

Posted by: educationlover54 | August 18, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Competent teaching is important, but let's not blame Michelle Rhee for the abysmal parental support that most of her students suffer from.

Posted by: kcx7
..................................
No, but it is okay for Ms. Rhee from day one to blaming the teachers.

Remember all those statements of Ms. Rhee of teachers being responsible for addressing, on their own, all the problems of poverty in the class room.

Ms. Rhee was a charlatan from day one since she was claiming it was the teachers and not large numbers of poverty children that have great difficulty in learning.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 18, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

How good is NJ at providing jobs for the new graduates? What share, after one year, are earning above minumum wage? Or how many are in college and getting at least 2.5 GPA? Five years after HS graduation, what share are simply unaccounted? The share of 24 year-olds unemployed or earning less than a "living wage" may be more meaningful than the numbers of HS diplomas printed.

Posted by: jkoch2 | August 18, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I like Janey too, but i would be careful about declaring Newark the hot new school district. I have gotten some more data from independent sources, which I will share after I show it to the Schott people, suggesting that that 76 percent graduation rate for black males is very inflated.

Posted by: Jay Mathews
.................................
The reality is that this column should have been held off. You admit in the column that the results are being uncertain.

It makes very little sense to have a column that might simply contain incorrect statements.

You should have waited for the evidence to be in.

Are we to expect another article next week:
New Evidence Questions Evidence I Wrote About Last Week.

I know you consider you are writing an opinion column but even this call for some standards.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 18, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

How good is NJ at providing jobs for the new graduates? What share, after one year, are earning above minumum wage? Or how many are in college and getting at least 2.5 GPA? Five years after HS graduation, what share are simply unaccounted? The share of 24 year-olds unemployed or earning less than a "living wage" may be more meaningful than the numbers of HS diplomas printed.

Posted by: jkoch2
..............................
Apparently JKOCH2 is unaware that there is now massive unemployment in the United States and during massive unemployment employment data can be viewed as normal.

JKOCH2 may live in a state that provides jobs for new graduates but here in New Jersey this is not part of local government.

I live in New Jersey and I do know that the state prior to this year spent heavily on public education. But this spring there were large layoffs for September because of the economic downturn. I do not know how many of these jobs will be restored in September by the new legislation from Congress.

This article should not have been printed until there was actual state data of increases in rates of graduation by black students.

JKOCH2 should be looking to the Federal government for his questions of numbers. Even if the figures he is asking for were available for New Jersey they would rather be meaningless if they could not be compared to similar figures from other states. We compare public education in the nation based on national tests.

JKOCH2 might be comforted by the fact that the murder rate in Camden is still quite high and JKOCHw probably could obtain this figure from local government.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 18, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

@educationlover54, I think the role of unions is to "protect" the jobs of teachers. On some level there is a role there, but I find that unions are completely unwilling to support any model that may mean less traditional teacher roles.

In just a brief example, I take WTU. One of their spokespeople was on WHUR last week, and when asked if any of the teachers , even the 100+ for not having proper certification, should have been fired, he said no. So you are telling me that out of all of the teachers in DC, not one should have been fired for performance. Not a single one? No one's performance wasn't at the highest level? I could understand if their view was that all teachers should have clear, measuarbale goals and due process. But I can't support an entity that is more concerned with members keeping jobs than what may be best for students.

If there were a serious movement to layer a trade/high school cirriculum, the first question that a union would ask would be if teachers would lose jobs. Unless they would be willing to be retrained, some current teachers would be replaced by teachers who are proficient in a skilled cirriculum, like technology for example. Undoubtedly, the unions would oppose this, again, not because it wouldn't benefit students, but because it would not benefit teachers.

While I don't necessarily think as a group that they have bad intentions, honestly I think the current ineffective staus quo benefits them and that they are in general, a hinderance to innovation and practical solutions in education reform.

Posted by: blackandgreen | August 18, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Study: NJ and Newark lead nation in black male graduation rates
.........................
Am I the only one that finds it strange that a report only covers males and not females?
---
Study: NJ leads the nation in abductions rates of NJ residents by aliens from outer space

State officials question the data and advice caution.

................................
Can Mr. Mathews actually stop these articles of "Believe or Not" and actually present articles based upon evidence instead of simply presenting a claim and then advising readers that there is questionable doubt of the claim?

Posted by: bsallamack | August 18, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a far more practical solution than trying to make kids in a lot of these areas sit through a year of chemistry. I think we need to take a much more serious look at a trade/high school model for nursing, hospitality, and repair (including tech) and other mid-skill areas.
Posted by: blackandgreen
..................................
In fact trade schools are the only areas needed for public education in this nation since these provide for the non exportable American jobs.

It makes more sense to train students to do nails in a nail salon than to do computer software development. The computer software development jobs are not for Americans but the talents of the cheap foreign labor.

The same can be said for the Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics. All those local standardized tests can be produced by cheap foreign labor. Mathematicians in nations with cheap foreign labor can do the work of American mathematicians. The talents of cheap foreign labor can build and operate the systems for American medical records just as do for the systems for American bank records.

Let the public schools provide the trade education for the non exportable American jobs and let the United States reap the the benefits of cheap foreign labor by no longer spending vast sums for public education for preparation for jobs that are no longer for Americans. The private school on their own can easily provide the limited number of business managers that are required.

Americans need to start to embrace the future of America as we reap the benefits of using the talents of cheap foreign labor.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 18, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

While I don't necessarily think as a group that they have bad intentions, honestly I think the current ineffective staus quo benefits them and that they are in general, a hinderance to innovation and practical solutions in education reform.

Posted by: blackandgreen
............................
Quite right.

The ineffective status quo of Americans are an hindrance to our economy that will harness the talents of cheap foreign labors.

Americans pursuing their education as lawyers, accountants, or middle level managers need to stop believing in the status quo and understand that these jobs are already becoming the jobs for the talents of foreign cheap labor.

Americans need to recognize that the jobs that are heavily dependent upon using computer technology in an office are not the jobs for American but the jobs for the talents of foreign cheap labor.

Our entire public educational policy must be tailored for this new reality instead of being hindered by those who seek the status quo.

All public education policy in the United States needs to reflect the reality that only non exportable jobs are for Americans.

Instead of Americans buying computers for their children, Americans would be far wiser to purchase bed pans for their children so that they can practice early on for their non exportable jobs.

Embrace the future Americans and not the status quo.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 18, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Concerned3, for expressing your concerns. The fact is that 99.99% of fresh high school graduates aren't prepared to do much of anything regardless of race or gender.
Posted by: forgetthis
.........................
Typical trite nonsense.

At graduation FORGETTHIS felt unprepared for anything, so of course every one is supposed to be also incompetent or unprepared for anything upon graduation.

Apparently FORGETTHIS is still unprepared to think.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 18, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I am a bit disappointed that graduation rates for black men is the leading education discussion. If you think that students do not graduate because they are black and male you are ignorant and missing the point. Students do not graduate because of many reasons but race and gender are not the problem. Try PARENTS, NEIGHBORHOOD, INCOME, EFFORT, MINDSET AND INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY. Those go a lot farther than race and sex in determinining the real reason for graduation vs dropouts.

Posted by: confussed | August 18, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I think the past proclamations made by school districts about closing the so-called achievement gap is total nonsense with respect to black students irrespective of income (middle class black kids do not perform much better than blacks on FARM). The truth is no one wants to education black children. So we lower the expectation so much that an inebriated person could not trip over the standards. Unfortunately, the Obama/Duncan education administration can get away with this because black parents work in tandem with public school to make black children extremely non-competitive. Therefore, top notch colleges and universities across the nation are running to South Korea, China and India to attract "minority" students. In addition Africa, the dark continent, have some of the top college students in the nation and these students along with Haitian and other Caribbean Basin black students are the new "affirmative action." Yet Rev. Al and the rest of American make some of the lamest excuses for black youth (I mean American blacks who are descendants of Jim Crow/slavery). I find it shameful! Black youth are being screwed "coming and going." Thanks mom and dad. My country tis' a thee. Sing everyone.

Posted by: Concerned3 | August 20, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

@UrbanDweller--

That's a very fair statement, but Corey Booker would be more than happy to have Michelle Rhee and the charter schools, KIPP and Northstar especially, have a lot to do with the gains in Newark. Don't think that Newark is that different, they got rid of Sharpe James and started rolling.

Posted by: delray | August 24, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

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