We have a serious problem in this country and it is one that is not getting nearly the amount of attention that it deserves. The problem is the number of black males who are, and who are not, graduating from high school around the nation. The statistics are startling and in my opinion, a major call for action. It is imperative that people become aware of what is going on so that we can use the information to do something about it, before it’s too late.
Black males are slipping through the cracks in large numbers in the country’s high schools. It would be difficult to beat what is happening in the Rochester Public School District though, where only 9 percent of black high school students will graduate within four years. Nationwide, 52 percent of black males graduate from high school, which is compared to 78 percent of their white male counterparts.
The 52 percent nationwide signals that there is a major problem in this country when it comes to educating our black male students. But the 9 percent rate in Rochester is downright jaw dropping. This is a serious problem that must be addressed for the students, the community, and the nation, as all will be impacted by these students being sent out into the adult world without the basic education they need to survive and make it.
Those who do not get at least a high school education will in all likelihood go on to cost the tax payers of this nation a lot of money. The research and statistics support this notion, including these facts:
• Those who don’t finish high school earn less money, on average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with less than a high school diploma earn an average of $451 per week, compared to $638 for a high school graduate, and $1,053 for someone with a bachelor’s degree.
• The lower the amount of education one has, the higher rate of unemployment they typically face. Those who have not finished high school are hit the hardest, with a 14 percent unemployment rate, compared to a 9.4 percent rate for high school graduates, and a 4.9 percent rate for those with a bachelor’s degree.
• In recent years the nation’s prisons reached an all time high incarceration rate. The population of those incarcerated hit 2.3 million. Disproportionately, the largest segment of those incarcerated were black males, making up some 35 percent of the population. Coincidentally, it’s estimated that around 40 percent of those incarcerated do not have a high school diploma or equivalent.
It’s clear to see that when these young black males slip through the cracks it is going to impact society as a whole. And not just in Rochester, but beyond. When they don’t graduate they are at a high risk of getting involved in crime and being unemployed. They also force struggling mothers to depend on social welfare programs for economic assistance, as young black males are rarely prepared to be financially supportive fathers.
Another startling statistic that comes out of the Rochester Public School District is that 42 percent of black male students fail the 9th grade. Compare this to the 2 percent of white males that fail the 9th grade in that school district and there is some real disparity here that needs to be examined and swiftly addressed. When a student is held back in the 9th grade they will fall further behind and be less likely to graduate. This brings me to the solutions to this problem, which from this statistic alone point to the fact that they need to start long before students hit high school.
The solution to this problem in Rochester and across the nation is in examining the issues at hand and pulling people and resources together. If there was ever a time for people to come together in the name of creating a better society, this is it. Solutions need to include hiring quality teachers, increasing parental involvement, high expectations, taking back those who have been pushed out, and focusing our efforts on early intervention in reading and math programs. Students who struggle with core subjects like reading and math are 75 percent more likely to drop out of high school.
We need to create more intensive reading and math programs, to help set them up for academic success as they move through the grades, it is important that schools not be so quick to push out these black male students. Many are pushed out, or sent to special schools, simply because they fit a demographic and people expect them to behave a certain way, without actually giving them a chance. This is not an exhaustive list of solutions, but it’s a start.
Finally, because the problem in Rochester and around America of our black males not graduating from high school does impact all of us, it’s up to all of us to come up with solutions. You now know the facts, and you know what’s at stake. What do you propose is the solution to this problem; one that will ensure that black males will see higher graduation rates, as well as the benefits that come along with it?