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The Real Truth About Dropout Rates for Black Boys

By: Krystle Crossman

There is a billboard in Prince George’s County, MD that boasts a big message. It tells all who drive by that the dropout rate in the greater Washington DC area is 57%. The billboard is bright orange with black lettering to make it eye-catching. The statistic should be eye-catching enough but they really have to drive the point home. Dropout rates are astronomical and something needs to be done about it.

A majority of those who drop out are black boys. Black students have a 38% graduation rate in the DC area. In reality, the 57% dropout rate is a lie. In the DC area it is actually less than 10% for students overall. The rate is 14% for black students. The reason for the skewed rates can be one of many things. Sometimes parents will see these graduation and dropout rates and will pull their children out of the schools and move them to another school for a better education. This can mess with the numbers. The false numbers don’t do much for the students either. It does not give them much confidence that they will be able to succeed.

There is a big difference between graduation rates and dropout rates. The way that they calculate a graduation rate is to take the number of students that are receiving a diploma on graduation day divided by the number of students that were in that grade four years ago. So if someone moves from the city, or is taken out of school by their parents, or is held back a year, the numbers become skewed. According to current statistics the graduation rate for black students in the DC area is 47% and 78% for white students. To figure out the dropout rate they do an analysis of 16-24 year olds who are not enrolled in school when they should be between grades 10-12 and do not have a diploma.

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