Thursday, May 10, 2007

"I Almost Got Lost Too"

A quote from a recent high school graduate in Rhode Island, who is black, upon hearing about her school district's 54% graduation rate.

America's Silent Epidemic
On Wednesday in Washington, First Lady Laura Bush and national education leaders unveiled a new online database that will provide an accurate picture of the actual graduation rate in communities across the country. It appears that many school systems in the nation have been using a flawed method (bad math) of determining graduation rates. They estimate the graduation rate based on the number of known students to have dropped out--and few public high schools track every student who drops out. Let me give you an example:

In Prince George's County, Maryland, (considered the wealthiest African American county in the nation), the school system reported a 90 percent graduation rate for 2003. The new database shows a graduation rate of 67 percent for that system. More than half of the dropouts, it shows, never make it to the 10th grade.

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Why is this news important to the African American community? Education Secretary Margaret Spellings states that half of the nations dropouts come from a small group of largely urban "dropout factories" (high schools) where graduation is a 50-50 shot or worse. The speakers also emphasized that dropout rates are particularly high among black and Hispanic students, especially males.

In the Washington Post series, Being A Black Man, it cites bleak statistics: In Washington, D.C., 49 percent of black males graduated from high school in 2004 compared with 95 percent of white males. That disparity represented the largest gap in the nation among school systems with 10,000 or more students.

But the story of Ballou high school students Jachin and Wayne really brings it home. Two honor students in one of D.C.'s violence plagued neighborhoods, their freshman class had 330 students in 2002; four years later, they were part of a graduating class of 130. Where did the other 200 students go you ask? School officials could account for only about 40 who were part of a program that allowed them to graduate a year early. Poof...160 students disappeared.

After reading this, you may be inclined to help address this issue. Here are some links and tips to get you started:

In October of 2006, the National Education Association presented a 12 point joint action plan to address the drop out crisis. Reg Weaver, the president of NEA, says,"this is no longer about students slipping through the cracks of our educational system. Those cracks are now craters." Visit the NEA website to learn tips for parents, families, businesses and communities.

Here are my tips:

1. Be informed. Visit here, to find out if there is a dropout crisis in your community.

2. Mentor a child. Visit Mentoring Partnership to view opportunities in your community. Also, Essence magazine recognizes the importance of mentoring and has launched Essence Cares, a new initiative that was launched recently in Atlanta. Or, you can organize your own group of dedicated adults to mentor youth.

3. If you are a parent or guardian of a school aged child, get involved in your child's schooling and education. A recent survey of nearly 500 high school drop outs revealed that 71 percent favored better communication between parents and schools and more involvement from parents. So join the PTA, regularly interact with your child's teacher and create a quiet place in your home for study.

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If you are not a parent, look at tip #2.

3. Identify and research a non profit organization to donate your money or time too. One my fave charities in the D.C. area is Means for Dreams. They have since joined forces with Donors Choose, which is a simple and easy way to fund innovative projects submitted by teachers that will help their students learn and have an enriching school experience. Last fall, I funded a project at D.C.'s Garrison elementary school titled "Good Character Promotes Good Citizenship". My funding enabled the teacher to purchase character education books for the entire class. The teacher sent me a letter stating "thank you once again for making my job less stressful by helping my students to understand the importance of building their character...I have noticed a difference in their behaviors and know that these traits will follow them in the future as they become productive citizens!"

I also received a letter from George, one of the students:

Thank you for the values code books. I love books. Cooperation is when you work together. My teacher lets us read books so we can become good readers.

Another student Dawit wrote:

Thank you for the books. They are great. They teach me something. They teach me respect. So I am respectful of others. I really appreciate you giving us the books.
How much did all of this cost you ask? A little over $100.

Visit Donors Choose to fund a school project in your community.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Informative read - great post.