The Chicago school district enrolls more black males than any other district in the country except for New York City. And yet, a new report suggests that the school system and neighborhoods are failing these young men.
While the numbers of those heading off to college are slowly increasing, only little more than a third of African American males finish high school.
"Fifty years after Brown (v. Board of Education), less than 50 percent of African-American males are graduating high school," said John Jackson, President Schott Foundation.
Young black men are having a harder time graduating high school than their white counterparts, according to a national study released Friday by the Schott Foundation.
2005-2006 School Year Graduation Rates in Chicago
Black males - 37%
White males - 62%
Source: Schott Foundation
In the 2005-2006 school year, the Chicago school district graduated only 37 percent of the total number of black males enrolled versus 62 percent of white males.
While the numbers are similar to other large urban centers, they are quite unfavorable when compared to Prince George's County in Maryland, for example, which includes the Washington, D.C. area. There, for that same year, nearly the same number of black and white male students graduated.
Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Arne Duncan was at the study's release.
"None of us are satisfied. None of us are where we want to be. But there've been some important strides going the right direction," Duncan said. "Over the past five years at the elementary side, our African American students have improved at a faster rate than our white students. So there is still absolutely a gap, but we're closing that gap."
But the problem is not just with schools. Pamela Sherley is on the front lines of that battle as assistant principal of Robeson High School in Englewood, where the graduation rate was about 47 percent this year. She says the main problem is a lack of attendance.
"Because of family issues, because of neighborhood issues - that has a lot of impact. When they're the ones really taking care of their younger brothers and sisters, they have that parental responsibility," said Sherley.
Christopher Sesson is on Robeson's football team and one of those who is planning to graduate next year. He's very clear on what made the difference for him.
"I have a mother and father at home. That's what's helped me a lot," Sesson said.
There is some good news. According to Duncan, from 2004 to 2007 the percentage of black males going on to college in Chicago went up from 36 to 45 percent. He says an increased number of small schools, charter schools and even all-male schools are part of the solution.