In the absence of dropout factories

By Michael Holzman, Senior Research Consultant, The Schott Foundation for Public Education

Robert Balfanz and his colleagues have drawn our attention to high schools where nearly half of students do not graduate with their peers.  The enrollment in these schools is overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic, and the concentration of Black students in urban drop-out factories is a significant contributor to the nation’s low educational attainment for male Black students and the wide achievement gap between these most vulnerable students and others.

Preliminary estimates for 2010 show the graduation rate for Black male students at 49 percent (47 percent in 2008), while the White, non-Hispanic male rate is 73 percent (down from 78 percent). 

There are some states where the picture is much brighter.


In Idaho, Maine and Oregon the achievement gap is much narrower than that for the nation as a whole and the absolute level of the Black male graduation rate is the same as or higher than that of the estimated White male graduation rate for the United States.

Further research at the school level is needed to pinpoint what these states are doing right, but at first glance the common factor is that there are few Black students in these states, hence, no drop-out factories with overwhelmingly Black enrollments.  It appears that Black students in these states have an equal opportunity to learn with that offered to their White classmates.  And they do learn.