Thursday, April 20, 2006

More than a third of boys in U.S. public high schools are not graduating, says a report by the Manhattan Institute.

The report, “Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates,” found that 70 percent of high school seniors graduated in 2003. A breakdown by sex showed that 72 percent of girls and 65 percent of boys received high school diplomas that year.

Although it is well-recognized that girls outpace boys in high school and are more likely to go to college, this study is among the first to examine rates of high school graduation by district, state and race. It is also one of the first to provide breakdowns of graduation by sex, the authors said.

“We’ve been producing these reports since 2001, and our findings have been quite different from officially reported graduation rates,” such as those from the National Education Longitudinal Study and the Census Bureau’s Current Population Surveys, “which give much higher rates [of graduation] in the 80 [percent] to 90 percent range,” said Jay P. Greene, senior research fellow at the Manhattan Institute and co-author of the study.

But Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, who has completed his own report on high school graduation rates, says he thinks findings from those national surveys are more accurate and “appropriate” than those of the Manhattan Institute.

He described the institute’s calculations as “seriously inaccurate.”

Mr. Greene insists that Mr. Mishel is in the minority. “At first, a lot of educators and government officials resisted our [lower graduation rate] figures,” but, more and more, they are accepting them, he said.

Overall, 78 percent of white students, 72 percent of Asians, 55 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanics completed high school in 2003, the “Leaving Boys Behind” report said.

The study “also shows there is a large gender gap in each racial category,” said Mr. Greene and co-author Marcus A. Winters, a senior research associate for the institute.

The largest gaps in graduation rates between the sexes occurred among black and Hispanic students. Fewer than half of boys in each of those categories graduated in 2003. In contrast, nearly 60 percent of black and Hispanic girls were part of the class of 2003.

The authors said their research suggests that the high school graduation problem is “centered primarily in the nation’s largest school districts.” They noted that only one of the 10 largest districts graduated more than 60 percent of its students in 2003. But “more than 8 percent of all U.S. students” attend school in one of those districts, the report said.

The study does not speculate as to why fewer boys than girls graduate from high school. The authors explained that breakdowns by sex became available only recently.

• Researchers Amy Baskerville and John Sopko contributed to this report.

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