One Dropout Every 26 Seconds Is A Ticking Time Bomb for Blacks

A whopping 40 percent of African-American students don’t graduate from high school. These dismal statistics are creating an underclass of African-Americans who have become unemployable, while also affecting the very fibers of the black family structure.

By Lawrence C. Ross (04/06/2011)

Between the trials and tribulations of the controversial No Child Left Behind law, the growing issue of bullying in schools, and the feeling that parents, teachers and administrators are all searching for a magic solution to the problem that is the American educational system, here comes more bad news.

Recently, President Barack Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan stated that every 26 seconds, a student drops out of high school. But things are even worse for black students; a whopping 40 percent of African-American students don’t graduate from high school. These dismal statistics are creating an underclass of African-Americans who have become unemployable, while also affecting the very fibers of the black family structure.

Marc Williams, a high school music theory teacher at Cesar Chavez Charter School in Washington DC, also works with the school’s retention program. He sees a number of different causes for black students not finishing high school.

“Our (African-American) students are dropping out of school for a number of reasons. Aside from the cookie-cutter answers that most folks give that speak to the lack of support from within the household, the fact that many of our students don’t have a ‘set’ of parents, and the obvious idea that many urban schools lack the fiscal resources that other schools have, there are some other things to consider here,” Williams said.

“We, as educators, are failing our students,” he added. “Independent and charter schools (in particular), in order to meet budgets, are spending less money for newer, inexperienced teachers that come fresh off the stage of graduation and into a situation that is a culture shock for them… It’s a set up for failure.”

When you dig deeper, you find that black boys in particular are in a crisis mode. According to the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation on Public Education, more than half — 53 percent — of black male students drop out of high school without a diploma, compared to 22 percent of white males.

And the problem even extends to elementary school, in one of the best charter school programs in the country. A new study by researchers at Western Michigan reports that 40 percent of 6th to 8th grade black boys in the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools (KIPP) drop out before completing the program.

It is already tough for high school graduates to compete economically with college graduates, with college graduates earning around $297,893 dollars more than a high school graduate during a lifetime. But without a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED), a student basically condemns themselves to underclass status. Individuals without a GED or high school diploma loses about $7,000 dollars per year in comparison to someone with a GED.

And in a modern military, where the ability to understand high tech systems is a premium, dropping out of high school and getting into the military is proving to be an obstacle. Even those with high school degrees are finding it difficult. Thirty nine percent of black applicants with a high school degree are rejected by the military. And those who do make it in are coming into the military with lower scores than white applicants, therefore putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to future advancement.

The real societal cost of a high drop out rate at the high school level is that it attacks the structure of the black family. Black high school drop outs feed a growing black underclass of economically disadvantaged families, making it more difficult to break the cycle of poverty. The state of New York is finding that having a GED helps prevent homelessness, and has created Back to School program in order to get individuals to complete their GED.

But the effects are also found in the college ranks. With black boys struggling to finish high school and go to college, some college systems are finding that when they exclude for college athletes, black male students are a scare commodity. In South Carolina, for example, only 3 percent of the student body at the University of South Carolina, Clemson and the College of Charleston, are black male students. This means that there’s a infinitesimal pool of eligible college educated black women looking for a relationships with men with similar educational backgrounds.

The high school drop out epidemic among African-Americans is not a ticking time bomb, it’s a tsunami that’s swamping the future of black America. State Farm Insurance is working with America’s Promise, the educational organization founded by former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, to fight high school drop outs through a new program called 26 seconds. But unless there are major changes to the current educational trends, look for the nation’s prisons to continue to be repositories for the black students left behind, as they grow more desperate to survive without educational skills.

Phillip Jackson is the Founder and Executive Director of The Black Star Project, based in Chicago.  Its mission is to improve the quality of life in black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.  You can e-mail Mr. Jackson at

7 Responses to “One Dropout Every 26 Seconds Is A Ticking Time Bomb for Blacks”

  1. Myra Wysinger Says:

    The truth is, with the economy in the dump, our young feel there are no incentives to move on. Even when the economy was so called good it was bad for Blacks. We know all about Black America’s permanent recession. We can’t seem to get a break.

    In the best of times, in the worse of times …

    The National Black Unemployment Rate Timeline

    1965-1969 – 6.4 – 8.1-%

    1970-1979 – 8.2 – 14.8%

    1980-1989 – 11.4 – 19.5%

    1990-1999 – 9.0 – 14.2%

    2000-2008 – 7.6 – 10.8%

    January 2009 – 12.6%

    August 2010 – 16%

    March 2011 – 15.5% (unemployment for Black youth in America is 49%)

    Why has the black unemployment rate in the United States been more than twice that of whites over four decades? From 1960 to 2011, the average Black unemployment rate was around 12.4%, while the average unemployment rate for whites was 5.5%.

  2. The statistics are very alarming but this is an excellent post! We have a fight on our hands when it comes to our youth and education.

  3. there are so many blacks in america and they are multiplying. that is ashame to hear these numbers. right now even though times are rough rough rough economically they are the best they are ever going to be for blacks adn in another 6 years things will go in a major reverse for blacks. black men have it really good right now though for some or many they would argue otherwise. black men right now have it easier than anyone gender or race wise! take advantage off this. in another 6 years, things are going to go 360 and many are going to be tested and things are going to be tough and/or tougher. i wont go into how this will be but it will. and with numbers like these that is scary.

  4. When you are in a hole, unless you want to go deeper, the first thing you must do is stop digging. This drop out problem among the Black community can be most attributed to the lack of family values in the Black household. As long as young Black children are not held accountable for their actions by the members in the household, the problem will never be properly addressed. As long as young Black children are allowed to come home from school with no school books and ignore home work assignments, bring home report cards with D’s and F’s with no consequences of any kind, nothing will ever change. Since nothing stays the same, the problem will only get worse. In general, the young are very sensitive. A major fear for a young student is to be called on by the teacher to read a paragraph, give an opinion or an answer and be ridiculed by the class because he or she is not properly prepared. As a defense mechanism this child will become disruptive in an attempt to mask his or her lack of preparation. This type of behavior will continue until it ultimately leads to that child dropping out of school. That child will now become a burden on society, unable to adequately care for themselves and the children they bring into the world. And the cycle continues. Next time you are on your way to work, at a red light or on public transportation, look around and you will notice an absence of young Black men on their way to work as well. They are absent because early on no one in their family told them that they were expected to become a functioning member of civilized society and there is a list of tools they must possess in order to do so. A t the top of that list is Manners and Education. Mothers in the Black community must reexamine their roles in the lives of their Sons. Even if the father of their son is absent, they cannot allow their sons to go through the community doing the same thing to some young girl that was done to them. It does not matter if kids come from a single parent household or not. If that parent lets the child know that they are going to have to answer to the parent for their actions when the child is young, the parent may be able to continue to have impact on the child’s actions into the future. Failure to provide the child with this type of leadership when they are young, will only lead to that child becoming a burden on society, or worse being negatively involved with the Justice system on some level. It may not be possible to save everyone. Starting in the home by paying attention to the small children and letting them know that you expect them to do their best at every opportunity which includes graduating from high school would be a major step toward solving the unacceptable school drop out problem in the Black community. In America, you don’t have to go through life in the same circumstances you were born into. My Father could not read or write. When I was young he told me “when you become a parent your job will be to make sure your children have a better life then you, the way I have done for you”. He did that for me and I did that for mine. When I closed the door to my house, no outside influences could stop me from making sure my kids did their homework and learned other skills that are important if one is to become a functioning member of civilized society.

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  6. You know there’s a permanent problem when you google “black college graduate unemployability” and you get articles like THIS. Articles about why blacks can’t even finish HIGH SCHOOL. I was trying to find something about why blacks who graduate Ivy League colleges with science or engineering degrees still can’t get jobs to save their lives, and up comes the high school dropout thing on every page.

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