Minority students are falling behind in the public school system. The graduation rate for Missouri’s white students is 87.4 percent; for black students it’s fully 10 points lower—77 percent. Black students don’t do so well as their white peers on the Communication Arts section of the Missouri Assessment Program. They lag behind on the Mathematics section of MAP too.
But the gap is much larger in St. Louis than in Kansas City. In Kansas City, the graduation rate for black students hovers around the state average. In St. Louis City, it’s an appalling 58 percent. One important reason is Kansas City’s charter school advantage. Kansas City has a vibrant system of 18 charter schools. St. Louis, in contrast, has only 7. Many of those charter schools serve minority students, giving them additional opportunities and discourage them from dropping out. Policymakers in St. Louis and Jefferson City should find ways to expand charter schools in St. Louis so that minority children there have the same opportunities as minority children in Kansas City.
Missouri’s urban public schools don’t do a good job of preparing minority students for life and work. And unfortunately, many minority families in St. Louis and Kansas City can’t afford homes in suburban school districts, nor can they afford to send their kids to private prep schools or tutoring as many wealthier families do. Minority teens who aren’t doing well in the public schools may feel that the only alternative is to drop out.
But some Kansas City schools are beating the odds. For example, Don Bosco Education Center and Hogan Preparatory Academy have black graduation rates above Missouri’s average. At Don Bosco Education Center, the black graduation rate is a respectable 86 percent. Hogan Preparatory Academy has an outstanding black graduation rate of 98.3 percent.
These aren’t traditional public high