Report: Florida ranks low in graduation rates for black males, white males

The 47 percent graduation rate for black males in Florida is among the lowest in the nation, and two major Florida school districts – Pinellas and Duval – have rates far below that, according to a new report released today.

The grad-rate formula used by the Schott Foundation for Public Education has been criticized as simplistic, but the group’s findings have nonetheless been cited by school choice supporters in some communities as another pressing reason to expand vouchers, charter schools and other learning options.

“The bottom-line issue about black male achievement,” Michael Holzman, the report’s author, told Education Week,  “is that the schools that most of these students attend are not as good as those attended by their white peers.”

The foundation listed a moratorium on out-of-school  suspensions, more equitable funding and more learning time among its recommendations for improving the rates. It did not list expanded school choice. Its president and CEO, John H. Jackson, urged a push for what he described as systemic solutions that “help each child, rather than a few.”

Using 2009-10 figures, the report found the graduation rate for black males nationally was 52 percent, compared to 78 percent for white males and 58 percent for Hispanic males. The black male rate is up 10 percentage points since 2001-02, but the foundation didn’t see cause to celebrate: “This progress has closed the graduation gap between Black male and White, non-Latino males by only three percentage points,” the report said. “At this rate, it would take nearly 50 years for Black males to achieve the same high school graduation rates as their White male counterparts.”

Florida’s rate for black males is 5 percentage points below the national average, according to foundation calculations, putting it in a three-way tie for No. 42 among states. Its rate for white males was 62 percent – 16 percentage points below the national average – and leaving it in a four-way tie for No. 45.

The rate for Hispanic males in Florida, 58 percent, came it right at the national average.

Grad-rate calculations are complicated and contentious. The foundation’s numbers for Florida are at odds with official state figures and with other, independent calculations.

According to an Education Week report released in June, the 2009 graduation rate for black students in Florida was 62 percent (No. 14 among states) and for Hispanic students, 72.6 percent (No. 2 among states).

That report also found that between 1999 and 2009, Florida’s overall rate climbed from 52.5 percent to 70.4 percent, a 17.9 percentage point gain that put the Sunshine State third among all 50 states in rate of progress and increased its overall rank from No. 47 to No. 37.

The Schott report listed eight Florida districts among 56 nationwide with large black male enrollments. Of them, the Pinellas County district ranked lowest with a 34 percent grad rate, followed by Duval County at 36 percent. Palm Beach County had the highest rate among Florida districts, at 55 percent.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at