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Boys Are No Match for Girls in Completing High School
PUBLISHED: April 19, 2006 | By TAMAR LEWIN | New York Times
Nationwide, about 72 percent of the girls in the high school class of 2003 — but only 65 percent of the boys — earned diplomas, a gender gap that is far more pronounced among minorities, according to a report being released today by the Manhattan Institute.
The report, "Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates," found that 59 percent of African-American girls, but only 48 percent of African-American boys, earned their diplomas that year. Among Hispanics, the graduation rate was 58 percent for girls, but only 49 percent for boys.
"It's a fairly large difference, particularly when you consider that unlike differences across racial and ethnic groups, boys and girls are raised in the same households, so it's not so easy to explain the differences by their community, or their income level," said Jay P. Greene, an author of the report.
Mr. Greene helped set off widespread national alarm with findings several years ago that almost one in three high school students, and almost half the African-American and Hispanic students, did not complete high school. His research has been widely embraced by policy makers, though some researchers argue that his method overstates the dropout problem over all and among minorities in particular.
Mr. Greene's new report found that New York ranks third from last among the states, with 58 percent of its students graduating. (Georgia and South Carolina are lower.) New York also has the lowest African-American graduation rate, 38 percent, and the lowest Hispanic graduation rate, 29 percent.
The report compiles data on high school graduation, by school district, state, race and sex. The researchers say it is the first study to offer such a complete picture of the gender gap, in part, because information broken down by sex has only recently been available.
Among educators, it is common knowledge that girls outperform boys in high school and are more likely to go on to college. But Mr. Greene's study is among the first to compile broad data on the trend in high school completion by district, state and race.
"This is the first time we've been able to compile this by our method," Mr. Greene said. "We've seen that high school girls outperform boys on other measures, and they're all symptoms of the same disease."
By Mr. Greene's calculations, none of the nation's 10 largest school districts, which together educate more than 8 percent of American public school children, graduate more than 60 percent of their students.
Among the nation's 100 largest school districts, the Manhattan Institute report found, New York City had the third lowest overall graduation rate, 43 percent. The two lower districts were Detroit and San Bernardino, Calif.
In New York City, 47 percent of the girls and 39 percent of the boys graduated from high school. Among Asian-American high school students in New York, 68 percent of the girls and 54 percent of the boys got diplomas, as did 43 percent of the African-American girls and 33 percent of the African-American boys, and 37 percent of the Hispanic girls and 30 percent of the Hispanic boys.
Graduation rates have long been one of the most slippery topics in education, with districts choosing their own ways to account for, or ignore, students who drop out, are pushed into equivalency programs or simply leave the district.
Mr. Greene's findings are based on school districts' data that states report to the federal government. His findings have come under fire from other researchers, including Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute. Mr. Mishel emphasizes that he, too, believes that African-American and Hispanic graduation rates are alarmingly low, but he says that Mr. Greene's work seriously exaggerates the problem.
In a recent opinion article in Education Week, Mr. Mishel estimates that 73 percent of African-Americans get high school diplomas. He bases his calculations on data from census surveys. He also cites studies from New York City and Florida finding graduation rates at least 10 percentage points higher than Mr. Greene finds. Mr. Mishel says high school graduation rates have been improving, especially among blacks. In contrast, Mr. Greene says graduation rates have been relatively flat for years.
The disagreement among the researchers is partly about different sets of data. It also mirrors political differences between the conservative Manhattan Institute, which favors school choice, and the liberal Economic Policy Institute, which has strong ties to unions.
"They're using two different types of data, and each has its own problems," said Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor who does her own education research. "The truth lies somewhere in between."
|produced by Naava Katz Design|