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The Rochester Discussion Needs to go National

If the Rochester schools are to show improvement, then focus on the awful track record we're seeing among black males. That was the message from this panel, part of the Black Male Initiative:

The achievement gap between black and white students -- particularly boys -- has dogged school systems all over the country for decades. A study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education shows that New York has the largest gap between white and black male achievement in the country, with 25 percent of young black men finishing high school compared to 68 percent of white males.

In Rochester, one-third of black male students finished high school during the 2007-08 school year -- the most recent year data were available -- compared to about 44 percent of their white male classmates. That rate puts Rochester in the bottom third of the country's largest school systems.

The lagging performance of a broad range of males, including Hispanics, white males from blue collar families and, yes, a lot of white males from middle class families, explains much of why too few students are enrolling and graduating from post-secondary programs. In short, women get the need for this additional education, men don't.

And yet, our school accountability systems are not set up to address the gender gaps. A giant loophole that no one seems inclined to touch. As long as we maintain accountability systems geared strictly to race and poverty -- while ignoring gender -- we'll see none of the academic improvements President Obama has made a priority.

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