The 52 Percent: What Motivates Black Boys To Graduate High School?

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    This week, an American ritual will repeat itself. Something that within the past century has morphed into a rite of passage for armies of adolescents, who with this tradition, will declare social adulthood.

    It happens the moment they put on the cap and don the gown. It becomes complete when the proud stroll across auditorium stages and gymnasium floors are finished with a handshake and a “congratulations” from a weathered educator.

    It’s high school graduation season.

    Parents will throw open houses, grandparents will give gifts, elated diploma holders will go on wild “swingouts” to celebrate the happiest moment of their lives so far.

    But there’s a segment of the population that won’t be coming to the party, opting instead to ignore what could have been for a variety of reasons, be it poverty, disinterest in school, maybe an inability to pass 12th grade, or a combination of these and other things.

    By a large margin, Black boys are not making it to their graduation parties and overall have the worst graduation rates of all groups.

    A study released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education in 2012 shows that the four-year graduation rate for African-American males is 52 percent. Only a little more than half of all our Black young men get to participate in this initial American ritual. The future typically does not bode well for the other half.

    The other half, those Black males who drop out sometime before graduation, are more likely to be unemployed. According to RemappingDebate.org, the rate is about 51 percent.

    That half also has a higher chance of seeing the inside of a jail or prison: Research from the Brookings Institution shows that a Black man without a high school diploma has a 70 percent chance of being incarcerated.

    I don’t think I have to tell you that jail and dropping out never did a thing to help the Black community.

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