I didn’t attend a high school that was ill-equipped or that lacked resources. Actually, I went to one of the better private high schools in Baltimore City. However, I still experienced firsthand what is routinely being reported as a growing epidemic. Out of an incoming freshman class of 330 students, only 40 of us were African-American. This bothered me a little, but what was more bothersome is that by graduation 4 years later only about 20 of us completed high school successfully. I look back on it now and wonder on a much larger scale why so few young black men make it through high school successfully. And yet no answer can provide a substantial reason that cannot be reversed.
The 2010 Schott Report on Public Education and Black Males found that nationwide only 47% of African-American males graduate from high school. President and CEO, John H. Jackson feels this statistic has a lasting effect on how the lives of these black males will eventually unfold. The thought is that the high rate of uneducated black males has a direct connection to unemployment later in life and some say, to the crime rate in many urban cities across the country. The ”system failure” is reversible, there has to be strides to ensure access to early childhood education, effective teachers, and a college bound curriculum. This structure, if set in place from the beginning, should reinforce the benefits of obtaining an education and deter students from dropping out because they can visibly see the achievements waiting for them if they progress all the way to the collegiate level.
The argument that Black Males are an “endangered species” is heard early in family households, social circles, and the media all too often. It usually tugs at the emotional heartstrings of some willing to fight for reform, but significant progress has yet to be made if you go by the alarming statistics released yearly. The financial burden created by so few black males graduating grows in scope each year and has a wider effect. The low rate is traced to increased incarceration, health care, and social services.
The remedy, though easily stated, is much harder to implement. First a stronger household family structure and influence is needed. The parents and adults around these youth set the first examples for these males to model themselves after. If the bar is not set high at this point, then the potential for lack of focus on education grows exponentially. What is most troubling is as these males go on to father their own children, they probably won’t stress the importance of acquiring an education since they didn’t, setting in motion a generational problem with detrimental effects for years to come. Second, there has to be a push for better-equipped schools with more resources. The argument has been made that in some urban cities Caucasian males have a higher dropout rate than their African-American counterparts. While this is true and you cannot blame the shortfall on race alone, African-Americans are more likely to attend poorly resourced schools and have less access to the resources needed to perform well academically. It has been found in states like New Jersey, where they invested less money and resources in schools predominately attended by African-Americans, that when this practice is reversed an increase of Black males graduating was noted, clearly demonstrating this trend is reversible. Third, and this is one I am a huge advocate of, more successful Black males must mentor and directly take a vested interest in seeing more youth successfully complete their high school education. By providing a clear example of achievement and success by finishing your education, we can inspire them to tackle this challenging goal and give them someone to emulate. In my hometown of Baltimore City the dropout rate sits at 35%, and many young successful African-American business professionals have taken a direct approach to turn this statistic around. Simply pointing out the issue and speaking of what should be done doesn’t matter if no substantial action is taken to correct the problem. Four months ago an estimated 400,000 black males started their high school careers with expectations that less than half of them will make it through all four years. Instead of standing by to read the next report, which may show a bigger drop in graduation rates, step in and make an impact to start personally raising the bar for these students and reversing a trend that affects all of us.