Among Michigan school districts, there
exists a gap in graduation rates of white students and their black
and Hispanic counterparts, according to a recent study by the
Harvard Civil Rights Project and the Urban Institute. Such gaps
indicate inequity in state schools and demonstrate the failure of
standardized tests to hold districts accountable for the success of
their students. This problem is epidemic across the state, and Ann
Arbor schools demonstrate one of the most staggering gaps of all of
the districts studied. Education must be changed to overcome this
inequality.

Laura Wong

While Michigan ranks above the national average for overall high
school graduation rate, its one of the 10 worst states in the
nation as far as minority graduation are concerned. According to
the report, in the Ann Arbor school district — which has a
79.5 percent overall graduation rate — only 53.2 percent of
black students finish high school.

Ann Arbor’s high schools report high achievement on the
Michigan Educational Assessment Program assessment test, but their
minority graduation statistics shows black students continue to
slip through the cracks. The report also suggests schools may push
out students with poor test performances. It is evident not all
students receive the support they require, even in high-achieving
districts such as Ann Arbor. State and local governments must act
immediately to address the failures of the present approach to
minority education and school assessment.

Ann Arbor represents only one example of the graduation gap.
While the overall graduation rate in majority-white school
districts is 77.4 percent, majority-black districts have a rate of
44.4 percent, reflecting Michigan’s insufficient progress in
achieving educational equality across racial lines. Such statewide
negligence fails students and society.

Statewide graduation gaps also warrant concern among Hispanic
students. In Michigan, just over a third of Hispanic students
complete high school. The nation’s largest minority group
must be included and retained in the educational system. In
Michigan, where migrant laborers are part of the Hispanic
population, districts must take new steps to serve the Hispanic
population.

Schools’ inability to retain minority students until
graduation reflects a larger failure on the part of existing
educational methods and mechanisms to support the students they
serve. In light of these new numbers, it is clear standardized
testing is not enough to assess a school district. Districts must
be held accountable for serving their minority students. Equality
in education is necessary for a successful and thriving state.

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