THE 100% GRADUATION RATE PROGRAM
Forty years ago, the United States was number one in the world in high school graduation rates; today, it ranks 17th. And every 26 seconds, one American high school student drops out of school. That adds up to more than 1.2 million students per year, for a total estimated cost of $2.6 billion of lost revenue to the U.S. economy. Questions such as, “Why are our young people quitting high school?” “What is causing them to give up on their future potential?” and “What can we do to save them?” need to be address and now.
The U.S. Education Department reports that about 55% of African-American students and 52% of Hispanic students graduate on time from high school with a regular diploma compared to 78% of white students. As a result of the non-high school graduates in their communities, the majority of lost earnings and state taxpayers dollars are being wasted here, which effects the long-term potential growth of our economy. Special emphasis will have to be placed on adapting a unified approach to meet the challenge of motivating this population’s local needs and interests.
The New Jersey Minority Educational Developmental (NJMED) organization created a drop-out prevention program entitled “The 100% Graduation Rate Program“in 1996, in response to this threat by trying to improve the national high school and college graduation rate of minority males. The goal of the program is to develop collaboration between the business, academic, and service communities to encourage high school minority males to stay in school and reach their full potential, and reduce the likelihood that young men will become involved in the criminal justice system by addressing several areas of minority males academic and social development.
The Program Objectives:
The program contained three objectives for creating a study group of minority males from at-risk minority communities, over a ten year period:
- Objective 1
- To establish a pilot program in each of the two traditional public high schools in community to serve 15 to 30 minority males at risk, and, in ascending years, to add new cohorts.
- Objective 2
- To establish a curriculum that will serve several functions:
- Improve skills
- Link participants into the realities of the larger society
- Develop more positive self-concepts and behavior patterns
- Develop realistic career goals
- Provide options on how to reach goals.
- Objective 3
- Evaluate the program with an eye toward improving the curriculum, expanding participation within the community’s school district.
The pilot site for the program and its results took place in one of our nation’s poorest and most violent inner-cities - Camden, New Jersey from 1996 to 2006, with a two-year follow-up assessment of your male participants. We believe no other city in the United States has been affected more by the failure of our national educational system to graduate minority males from high school. We also strongly feel no other city in America could challenge us to better understand what motivates minority males to lose interest in school and why they see no connection between school and their future life.
Why Camden, New Jersey
This is why, in 2002, Camden became the only city in the country to surrender control of both its local government and schools to its state. In fact, “the State of New Jersey and its taxpayers subsidize over $380 million dollars annually for schools and municipal funds to operate the city”. There is no more clearer evidence then that the link between the city’s high rates of minority male drop-outs is the central problem in the decline of the city. With 31% of the city’s total population consisting of adult minority males between the age of 18 and over, an estimated 55% of them have not completed high school, and barley 40% of its current minority male high school students graduate each year. To further illustrate this point, among the city’s minority male drop-outs over forty percent are unemployed, 70% of them are either on probation, on parole, or have been incarcerated as an adult or juvenile, and an additional 50% or more of them owe child support, which has helped cause up to 70% of the city’s children under the age of 18 years old to live in poverty. In fact, Camden, New Jersey was ranked as one of the poorest city in America from 2000 to 2006 by the U.S. Census Bureau. More striking is the fact, that the FBI has also ranked the city as one of the Most Dangerous Cities in America as well from the years of 2004 and 2005.
Evidence of the program’s impact in addressing the city’s problem includes the following outcomes:
100% Graduation Rate Findings 1996-2008
*Academic Attainment in Closing the Achievement Gap*
- The program had an overall 68 percent high school graduation rate for all of its minority male participants, which was 18% higher than the national high minority male high school graduation rate from 2000 to 2006.
- Of the 75 percent of male participants that completed all 4-year of the program, 89% graduated high school, compared to the national overall male high school graduation rate of 65%.
- 61 percent of the males that also completed the 4-year program enrolled in college and had a 44% college retention rate, which was 28 and 19 percentage points higher then the national overall male averages.
- The program also produced a 23% college graduation rate, which was 3% higher then the national rate for minority males.
*Social Impact towards Stabilizing the Community*
- Of the 285 male participants in the program, 22 percent were involved in the Juvenile Justice System, which was 8 percent less than the national average for inner city minority males in the same age group of 14 to 19 years old.
- Only 6 percent of the males were teen fathers before they completed high school, 39 percent lower than the national average for teenage males.
- 86 percent of all the male participants received job training readiness skills, with 66 percent finding employment through our summer community job linkage program with local businesses.
- At the conclusion of the program, 11 percent of the males had received college degrees, 12 percent were still in college, 60 percent were employed full-time, 1 percent was enlisted in the armed forces, and 5 percent moved out of state, 1 percent was deceased, 7 percent were incarcerated, and 14 percent were unemployed. Compared with the Camden City adult male unemployment rate of 24%, the male adult involvement in the criminal justice system at over 30 percent, and only 48 percent of its adult male population working full-time.
We believe the positive results from the 100% Graduation Rate Program in such a city like Camden, New Jersey, can be duplicated in other inner cities and rural communities towards improving the nation’s high school and college graduation rates of minority males as well as redirecting their social development towards reducing crime and increasing future employment opportunities. We also believe its components are replicable in linking institutions of higher education, businesses, and community services organizations, and offer the most comprehensive approach for building and sustaining an America’s minority workforce in the 21st century.