I discovered this report published by the Schott Foundation today, and my heart is heavy. Just take a look at some of these stats.
- Nationwide, in 2008, white male students graduated at a rate of 78%, while black male students graduated at a rate of 47%.
- The gap has widened–in 2006, white male students graduated at a rate of 75%, which means there was a 3% increase over the two year span. Black male students graduated at a rate of 47%–no change.
- The ten lowest performing states (including the district) for black males are: GA (where I live – 43% graduation rate), AL (42%), IN (42%), DC (41%), OH (41%), NE (40%), LA (39%), SC (39%), FL (37%) , and NY (25%).
- Side note: 25%?!?! 25%, New York? Whoa!!! The graduation rate for white males was 68%! That’s a 43% gap!
Before I launch into my diatribe about the plight of our children, let me highlight some positives in the report:
- The ten best performing states for black males are: ME (98%), ND (93%), NH (83%), VT (83%), ID (75%), MT (73%), UT (72%), SD (71%), NJ (69%), and IA (63%).
- Side note: Now, this is good and all,… but I will have to pull the population data for these states to see just how many black male students were there in the first place.
- Two of the best performing large districts for black males are in GA: Gwinnett County (58%) and Cobb County (51%).
Now, listen, I know that everything in this report can’t be fully analyzed (and please remember that this report provides more than just graduation rates–it also has reading and math test average scores, advanced placement, special education, and discipline data) until they are put in context (I do this every day for a living). BUT, at the surface, it’s obvious that we have a problem, a serious one. Here are my initial thoughts in reaction to this report.
:: Coupled with the incarceration rates of our black men, this is certainly alarming. Our futures are in jeopardy if we can’t reel this on in. When folks start droning on and on about the plight of the educated black woman, this is the stuff we really need to be focused on–the root of these problems. If you think black women can’t find suitable mates, then we need to figure how to reverse this–not let it fester and perpetuate. The black community is at danger when we can’t get our kids through the bare minimum level of schooling. And we’ve known this, right? But now, here it is staring us in the face through this report. So what we gone do now?
:: Yes, it’s time for my me vs. we soapbox. So many of the black community’s problems are embedded in the fact that we have become so disjointed from each other. So many of us go day to day thinking about only ourselves and our short-term happiness. And while those are certainly valid thoughts, we should also be thinking about our community and our collective long-term happiness. Yes, the parents are responsible for their kids, but I still believe the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. We need to be reaching out to those less fortunate than us through mentorship and even advocacy. Give up a weekend to volunteer with an organization that focuses on our youth. Skip a couple of coffee breaks and donate that money to charity or your alma mater or to buy a book for a neighbor’s child. There are so many ways we can get beyond ourselves and redevelop our interconnectivity. And that’s vital.
:: Black folks aren’t the only ones that should be worried about this. Listen here–the performance of each and every one of our kids is factored into the overall graduation rate. Guess what–if we can get these rates up, the overall rate will increase as well. How can we expect to have competitive communities if we aren’t effectively training our future workforce? It’s no wonder (besides other educational factors) that the U.S. has gone from #1 to #12 in college completion rates for young adults in one single generation. This has a direct impact on how competitive this nation is compared to other countries. As I’ve said time and time again, what we do for our kids today molds what our society will look like tomorrow. And guess what–you can support the cost of quality public education today or you can support the cost of programs that support the unemployed and those not even in the labor force tomorrow. You can run, pulling your kids out of school and putting them in private schools instead of getting involved with the local school board and making your concerns heard through local politics, but trust me, you. cannot. hide. Uneducated kids grow up to be uneducated or miseducated adults. (Sidenote: I mean, educated kids can grow up to be miseducated as well, but that’s not relevant to today’s post, so moving on…) We cannot continue to be okay with shortchanging our kids.
:: Y’all know I’m not a problem-oriented person. I’m solution-oriented. So what do I want you to do? I want you to read this report and really think about the repercussions. Tell me how you feel about it in the comments. Then I want the mentors, tutors, volunteers, philanthropists, and advocates out there to keep doing what you do, and I want the teachers to continue going into those classrooms and busting your patootie everyday even though you are likely underappreciated. I want you guys out there to continue (or start) reading the news and keeping up with issues like this one that impacts us so adversely. And I want anyone who is looking for something to do to become a mentor. You don’t have to be well off to be a mentor. Join Big Sisters/Big Brothers or go through your district to see what opportunities are available or take some interest in someone at your church and be a light in a kid’s life. Show them that they are cared for and encourage them to be their best. Just because you can. It only takes an hour here or there to make a difference. Do your part.