As the 2011 graduation season moves into full swing, Black Americans are reminded that only about two-thirds of students who enter the 9th grade will graduate with a high school diploma four years later. Among minority males the dropout rate is ominous.
High school dropout is a national crisis for Americans in general and Blacks in particular. Nationwide, 47 percent of Black males graduate high school compared with 78 percent of White males. During the past four years more than six million students between the ages of 16 and 24 dropped out of high school. This problem was the theme at a recent meeting of national civil rights activists in Washington, D.C. when the Reverend Levy Daugherty of the KingMaker Foundation declared this to be "a problem that the nation needs to address" and said: "A student drops out every 26 seconds and 7,000 drop out every day." Daugherty pointed out that "the highest number of dropouts is among Native Americans, next are Hispanics and third are African Americans."
"To spot a future high school dropout, look no farther than the third grade" say educators. Education experts content: "Children who struggle academically at young ages are far more likely to drop out, though they typically wait until ninth grade to do so." To combat the problem, local communities need to establish mentoring and reading programs, support programs that involve youth mentoring one other, create college scholarship funds, encourage students to take challenging courses and the teach family values.
Over the past four years, 11 percent of young Black males 16 – 24, dropped out, compared to eight percent of Black females. It is a crisis situation because young people who drop out of high school are unlikely to have minimum skills and credentials necessary to effectively function in today's society and technological workplace. Young adults with little education are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to remain in poverty, more likely to receive government assistance and more like to become involved in criminal behaviors.
Rev. Daugherty says his non-profit's efforts are designed "to make sure that all children achieve academic proficiency and gain the educational skills necessary to success in life." Social activist Dick Gregory and the Rev. C.T. Vivian joined Daugherty's cause to focus attention on the "drop out problem" and pass a bill to have a High School Dropout Prevention Month. The campaign seeks to prevent students from leaving school and promotes exploration of the causes behind this alarming statistic. The campaign looks at the many angles of the issue, including poor parental involvement, low expectations from teachers, boredom, peer pressure, and lack of positive role models. In the session at the Capital City Public Charter School, participants presented solutions that include: smaller classes, single gender classrooms, relevant Afro-centric curriculums, cooperative learning, motivational speakers, and higher expectations from teachers, and prevention strategies for administrators and teachers.
A high school graduate can expect to make $1.2 million during their lifetime. People with a college degree earn nearly $1 million more than a high school graduate. A college graduate will earn $2.1 million working full-time between ages 25 and 64. A master's degree-holder earns $2.5 million, while someone with a professional degree, a doctor or lawyer, makes even more - $4.4 million.
"Dr. Vivian an 86-year-old theologian, met then-comic Dick Gregory during the civil rights movement. Vivian says "it's time to draw up an agenda" and "the greatest issue is education. ... It's a problem we can't run from." One solution Vivian recommends would be to focus our collective attention on getting Congress to designate "a high school dropout prevention month."
The KingMaker Foundation works to bridge the gap between civil rights leaders and engaging young students in a new movement. KingMaker programs are designed to: 1) decrease school dropout statistics; 2) lobby Congress to pass High School Dropout Prevention Month legislation and 3) circulate program strategies to keep young adults in school. It is headquartered at 1611 Upshur Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011. Telephone (202) 315-0723.
William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org)