Task force provides ideas to boost black males' graduation rates
By Jason Schultz
Sun Feb. 26, 9:54PM
The Palm Beach County School District needs to put its resources into more tutoring, getting students to take more Advanced Placement classes and hiring more black male teachers to bridge the racial gap in graduation rates and decrease suspensions of black males, a district task force has recommended.
The graduation rate for black students in Palm Beach County public high schools, including charters, last year was 66.5 percent - about 22 percent lower than that for white students, state statistics show. The suspension rate for black middle-schoolers was 30 percent last year, compared to 8 percent for white students, according to district statistics.
"The responsibility for the disparities among our young people lies with the adults, not the students in Palm Beach County," reads the opening line of the task force's draft report.
The strategy set forth in the report has been more than 18 months in the making. Former Superintendent Art Johnson created the task force in 2010 after studies showed that black males in 2006 were graduating from district high schools at far lower rates than white students. The studies also showed that black students, particularly black males, were suspended at far higher rates than their white counterparts.
The strategy - which the school board must approve - aims is to increase the graduation rate of black males by 10 percent per year and decrease the dropout rate by 10 percent per year, according to the task force's report.
The plan calls for encouraging black males to take more Advanced Placement classes by paying for more Advanced Placement tutoring. The plan also calls for making the percentage of students who graduate on time part of a high school principal's job evaluation.
It recommends creating a database that district officials can use to track disciplinary actions district-wide to make sure they are not being handed out disproportionately to black males.
Many recommendations call for creating more career academies to keep black male students who may not be college-bound interested in school and give them a career skill after graduation.
One part of the plan also suggests hiring more black male teachers to increase black male graduation rates.
Only about 16 percent of the district's roughly 12,000 teachers are black, even though almost 30 percent of the student population is black, according to the report. More than 40 percent of those black teachers are concentrated at about 13 percent of the schools and alternative programs.
Cynthia Smith, the principal in charge of the task force, said the strategy does not include cost estimates for many of the recommendations.
[i]edited by NewsWriter on 2/26/2012[/i]