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The Drop Out Rate for Black Students in California: A Crisis

The Department of Education released their new definition of a "Drop Out" and the tracking system that will have cost us taxpayers over $33 million dollars when complete.

African American Dropout Rate

The new system requires each student to be assigned a special number that follows them throughout their school life.

This is necessary in order to know when a student is not showing up in any of our schools. How­ever, that's not what really got my attention.

Black Students Not Completing High School

Instead, I was struck by the emphasis the report placed on the statewide average of 24.2% of our students dropping out of school. Believe me, it is bad to hear that 3 out of every 10 students will not complete high school, especially in our society today. But then I looked much closer and saw that African American students are dropping out at a 41.6% rate as compared to 15.2% of White students throughout the state of California. We more than double their drop out rate and nobody knows why the kids are leaving.

Looking more closely at the counties where African-Americans live, I found even more shocking rates: Alameda 37.4%, Contra Costa 42.3%, Fresno 50.1%, Kern 39.6%, Los Angeles 42.3%, Riverside 33.8%, Sacramento 41.5%, San Bernardino 41.3%, San Diego 41.7%, San Francisco 41.4%, Ventura 25.9%, and San Joaquin at a whopping 53.4%.

Looking at the drop out rate in some specific school districts we see a similar pattern: Inglewood 48.0%, Los Angeles 40.2%, Compton 43.0%, Long Beach 28.4%, Moreno Valley 34.0%, San Bernardino 38.4%, Fontana 24.4% and Rialto at 28.9%, and Oakland 42.4%,

I saw a bright spot in the report in Riverside where only 16.8% of Black students are not completing high school, which is well below the statewide average. This district and community must be doing something right when it comes to African-American students that should be put in a bottle to be taken around the state.

African-American Boys Most Likely to Dropout

When you look at the drop out rate by gender, once again African-American males are higher at 46.6% as compared to the statewide average for boys at 27.5%. Our girls are trying to keep up with the boys with a 36.5% drop out rate as compared to the average rate of 20.6% for females.

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This is worse than any Katrina hurricane. These non-graduating students will live forever in the unforgotten world of hopelessness and in the lockdown of prisons and poverty. They will not get the benefits of our government, Red Cross, United Way, churches and other community organizations providing services unless the Black media shines a light on this problem.

Yes, I know that we as parents have the major responsibility because like Barack Obama and Bill Cosby have said, some of us are missing in action, while others are too busy eking out a living and some don't have the time or skills to help their own.

Then we have those who are working two to three underpaid jobs trying to equal one good paying job. Even with that we are still responsible and cannot offer any excuse for not providing parental guidance.

All my life I have heard educators ask for more money to educate our kids. Everybody says give me more money and we will reduce drop out rates, we will improve graduation rates, we will cure cancer, we will reduce the cost of gas. Then they get the money and Blacks are still twice as likely to be unemployed, still dropping out of our schools in greater numbers. They still get less contracts from our government when it comes to procurement opportunities, and remain double digit in unemployment, while getting paid less on jobs as superintendents' and teachers' salaries go up like the Black drop out rate.

When Black parents and community groups seek out special programs to assist with helping solve these problems, they are told we can't do that because of race. When our children seek employment they are told another language is required. Even in some school districts the word is if you are Black there is no need for you to apply. It is as if our government is working against Blacks while taking an oath to make policies that would benefit all its citizens especially our children.

We must lift our voices and marshal our resources to fight this fight for our children if we want to live on as a people. We must come together like never before to shake the halls of Sacramento and local school districts and demand action. We must let each political official "Meet the Press" with tough questions and we must demand answers or action. These statistics are for real and will require new bold public policies to assist in turning our education system around for Black students.

When the crime rate rises, we come up with more money to fight it. We order more staff, better equipment, helicopters, dogs, guns, and computers We hire police officers that will not live in the city they are hired to protect. When banks fail through bad management, we come with money to bail them out. When other countries have emergencies, we raise money to assist with helping them get back on their feet. When people build homes in hazard areas of our state against the sound advice of planners, we rally to their aide during the crisis because we are caring people.


This is what we do as civilized people when faced with a human crisis. Well this is a crisis for our African American children in the California education system and we must act now.

Hardy Brown

Republished with permission from the Inglewood Today Weekly.