In Jacksonville, nearly three out of four black ninth-graders fail to earn a high school diploma four years later, according to a study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based foundation ranks Duval County third from the bottom of school districts nationwide for its black male graduation rate in the 2007-08 school year. Only two other Florida school districts, Pinellas County and Palm Beach, ranked below Duval’s 23 percent graduation rate.
Statewide, white students are 20 percent more likely to graduate than their black counterparts, the study found.
The numbers are not without controversy. The Florida Department of Education says that most national organizations use estimations and different methodology. The state’s own numbers say that 51 percent of black males in Duval County graduated in 2008-09, according to a district spokeswoman.Jackson came armed with a list of possible solutions — among them, stronger literacy programs, more highly qualified teachers in majority black schools and mentoring. All require funding, something he acknowledged is in short supply. But invest now in education, he warned, or pay later for more prisons and probation officers.