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High School

Connecting students to college opportunity and success hinges first and foremost on their successful completion of high school. Unfortunately, for young men of color, their experiences and outcomes at this stage in the pipeline too often fail to position them for postsecondary educational success. Examine the three key focus areas of the literature on minority males in high school.

Achievement in high school is measured by a number of outcomes, including performance on standardized tests, grades and placement in gifted and talented or special education programs.

The Figures

Percentage of 12th-Graders Scoring Below Basic in Reading on NAEP in 2009, by Race/Ethnicity

Percentage of 12th-Graders Scoring Below Basic in Mathematics on NAEP in 2009, by Race/Ethnicity

The Facts

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In 2009, Asian American/Pacific Islander 12th grade males were
47%
more likely to score below basic in reading on NAEP than their female counterparts.
In 2009, American Indian 12th grade males were more than twice
119.2%
as likely to score below basic in reading on NAEP than their female counterparts.
In 2009,
64.0%
of African American 12th grade males scored below basic in mathematics on NAEP.
In 2009,
51.1%
of Hispanic 12th grade males scored below basic in mathematics on NAEP.

Expert Insight

See what the literature says

With respect to students of color, the achievement discourse is often framed in terms of gaps in measures between whites and non-whites. Perry, Steele and Hilliard (2003) suggest that the standard against which achievement disparities are assessed should be some measure of excellence for which all students should be striving rather than the performance of a norm group, which may in fact be mediocre.

Scholars have recently begun calling attention to the misleading, even destructive, effects of the “model minority myth” concerning Asian American/Pacific Islander students, which casts them as a homogenous cadre of high-achievers. Of note, educational outcomes among Asian American/Pacific Islanders differ greatly by ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parental education, generation, immigration status and language – with East and South Asians demonstrating higher economic and educational attainment than Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders (Kim 1997; Olsen 1997; Lee and Kumashiro 2002; Um 2003).

DeVoe, Fleury and Darling-Churchill (2008) reported that a lower percentage of Native American high school graduates had completed a core academic track than whites, Asian/Pacific Islanders and African Americans in 2005. Similarly, in 2007, a higher percentage of Native Americans aged 3 to 21 were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act than any other race/ethnicity, suggesting an overrepresentation in special education programs (Devoe and Darling-Churchill, 2008).

African American, Latino and Native American high school graduates also trail white and Asian American/Pacific Islander graduates in the number of mathematics and science courses taken (Aud, Fox et al. 2010).

African American males are more likely to be underrepresented in the Advanced Placement® classroom, and are almost absent from gifted education programs (Moore and Jackson 2006; Palmer and Strayhorn 2008). Further, African American males are overwhelmingly concentrated in special education courses, and are tracked into low academic ability classrooms (Palmer and Strayhorn 2008; Martin, Fergus et al. 2010).

In the high school context, persistence can be measured by indicators that describe students’ progress toward diploma/credential attainment, including absenteeism, grade retention, suspension and expulsion, as well as high school status dropout and graduation rates.

The Figures

Status dropout rates (percent) of 16- through 24-year-olds by race/ethnicity and gender: 2008

The Facts

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In 2008, the status dropout rate for black 16- through 24-year-old males was
12.1%
In 2008, the status dropout rate for Asian 16- to 24-year old males was
20.7%
higher than that of their female counterparts.
In 2008, the status dropout rate for Native Hawaiian/Pacfic Islander 16- to 24-year-old males was
24.1%
lower than that of their female counterparts.
In 2008, the status dropout rate for Hispanic 16- to 24-year old males was
21.9%
In 2008, the status dropout rate for American Indian/Alaska Native males was
16.9%

Expert Insight

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Disaggregating Latino dropout rates by country of birth and/or ethnicity reveals the nuance embedded in the overall figures. For example, Fry (2009) reported a 2007 high school dropout rate for U.S.-born, 16- to 25-year-old Latino males of 12 percent, while foreign-born Latino males had a 37 percent dropout rate.

Disaggregating Asian/Pacific Islander dropout rates by ethnicity and nativity challenges the “model minority myth” by exposing the disparities in persistence within this group. For instance, data on foreign-born “Other Asians” (which includes Cambodian, Hmong, and others) and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders illustrate dropout rates three to four times higher than the aggregate “Asian” dropout rate. (Aud, Fox, & Ramani, NCES, 2010)

Jeffries, Nix and Singer (2002) noted that lack of comfort with the school environment, lack of education within the families of dropouts, and poverty/financial responsibilities all influenced Native American decisions to drop out. With respect to persistence in high school, Native American males are more likely to be absent from school, suspended, expelled and repeat a grade than most other racial ethnic groups (Devoe and Darling-Churchill 2008; Aud, Fox et al. 2010).

In 2007, African American males were nearly twice as likely to be suspended and more than five times as likely to be expelled as the next highest racial/ethnic group. Further, during the same year, 26 percent of African American males reported having repeated a grade compared with 12 percent of Latino males, 11 percent of white males and 7 percent of Asian males (Aud, Fox et al. 2010).

Across racial/ethnic groups, the research literature consistently mentions the importance of supportive environments and relationships in fostering positive educational outcomes for high school students. In analyses related to achievement and persistence, scholars have noted disparities in such areas as teacher expectations, counselor engagement, parental involvement, and community resources, which can profoundly shape students’ attainment.

Expert Insight

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Although the “model minority” myth indicates otherwise, Asian American/Pacific Islanders are not universally well-supported in their school, home and community environments — there is a wide range of parental expectations and involvement resulting from divergent cultural norms as well as generational and socioeconomic status (Kim 1997; Lee and Kumashiro 2002; Leung 2004).

Despite the dearth of literature on Native American males (and women) in high school, most studies cite thorny teacher-student relationships and lack of parental support as factors related to their high dropout rates (Jeffries, Nix et al. 2002).

Garrett and Antrop-Gonzalez (2010) noted that, among other things, high achieving Latino males attributed their success to community and family support.

Many teachers and counselors fail to direct African American males toward college enrollment or discourage them altogether (Ogbu and Wilson 1990; Strayhorn 2008).

Levin, Belfield, Muennig and Rouse (2007) identified five proven support interventions for African American males and calculated a nearly 3 to 1 benefit-to-cost ratio for public investment in the programs.