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Reflections on Relationship Between Graduation Rates & Race

Some of the minority kiddos fit into more than one category as well.

That was one reader’s comment last week on an article about the relationship between graduation rates and race. Along with the article, I included a graph showing how few African American and Hispanic students graduate compared with white students. Researchers who compile such statistics will tell you they use racial and ethnic categories to illustrate how disadvantaged students struggle academically. They aren’t really meaning to imply that students struggle because of their skin color or culture.

My initial response to this reader’s very astute comment was that the kiddos I was reporting on did identify themselves as exclusively African American, Hispanic or white. The government had a separate category for multiracial and multi-ethnic students that I didn’t include in the article. I didn’t include it, because there was no clear pattern. In some states, students who declined to be categorized by race or culture (and all these statistics are self-reported, by the way) fared much better than the average. In some states they fared no differently than the average. In some states they fared a little worse, but not by much. In other words, I didn’t see an achievement gap, and that was what I was writing about.

It wasn’t until later, though, that I realized there was a pattern. I just didn’t see it at first. The pattern is this: Students who identified themselves clearly by race and culture tended to fulfill societal expectations of how black, brown and white people perform academically.

Thinking about this pattern, my question is: Were the statistics for multicultural and multiracial children an artifact of small numbers and not really statistically significant … or is it possible that young people who refuse to identify themselves according to race and culture also refuse to accept being doomed to academic failure?

I was going to write a longer editorial, but I think the question is sufficient. Think about it.


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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.


2 thoughts on “Reflections on Relationship Between Graduation Rates & Race

  1. Do you have a link to the government’s report you reference? This is fascinating.

    Your second to last paragraph got me to thinking….I wonder if students who are deaf or hard of hearing (or who don’t think themselves as “cultural Deaf”) do better on tests than those who define themselves first as “Deaf”. Having a deaf son with a cochlear implant, he is “deaf” but not “Deaf”. These students are in the same boat as multi-racial children in a way. They have one foot in one world and the other foot in another.

    If students classify themselves in a certain cultural/racial group, does that predicate student achievement rate? Are there certain expectations in the hearing world that don’t exist in the Deaf world and vice versa?

    Posted by stlgretchen | December 15, 2012, 9:42 pm
  2. Thanks for your comment. Here’s a link to the report you requested: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/states-report-new-high-school-graduation-rates-using-more-accurate-common-measur

    Your question about deaf culture is especially interesting to me, because I — too — am deaf with a small “d.” I hear a third of high frequencies and two thirds of low frequencies, am supposed to wear prescribed hearing aids and read lips. However, I was never raised in deaf culture and excelled in school. In reading about student performance at schools for the deaf, I understand many struggle academically. However, all of that is purely anecdotal information. I’d have to do more research to do more than offer conjecture on the issue.

    Your question intrigues me, and I think you may be on to something there.

    Posted by jwmartinez | December 16, 2012, 12:46 am

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