New federal data released this month suggests that Wisconsin is once again the worst state in the country when it comes to racial disparities in high school graduation rates.
The National Center for Educational Statistics released data this month that shows Wisconsin has the largest gap in the country for high school graduation rates between white and black students. The 2015-2016 numbers indicate a 28.5 percent gap between white and black students in Wisconsin.Black students are graduating at a rate of 64.2 percent, while white students are graduating at a rate of 92.7 percent.
Percy Brown Jr., the director of equity and student achievement for the Middleton Cross Plains school district, says this trend has existed for quite a few years now, so the data doesn’t surprise him. He says that as an African American student who graduated from West High School, he knows firsthand that Madison is not immune to these disparities. “I graduated from West High School with a 1.97 [GPA] and it wasn’t because I’m not capable. I’m nearing completion of a doctoral program in education.” He feels that he didn’t see himself in the curriculum and didn’t connect with many teachers which inhibited his success.
There is a lack of diversity in school administration and teaching staff. Brown says the way to begin closing this gap is to have open and difficult conversations moving forward. “It is difficult for Midwest progressive liberal whites to have honest and productive conversations about racism.”
Brown is working on professional development for these students that focus on critical race theory. They have also reallocated resources to hire staff, in particular, staff of color, that can support student engagement for students of color.
Christian Phelps has more on the gap in graduation rates and what it says about education in Wisconsin.