WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – The high school class of 2006 will soon be history. Sons and daughters everywhere will either be going to college, trade school, the workforce or hitting the streets.
“The most common direction is college and trade school,” Sharien Muhammad, counselor at Morrow High School in Morrow, Ga., told The Final Call. “A lot of seniors are choosing trade school to learn things like computers automotive repairs, air conditioning and carpentry.”
She explained that most graduating students are interested in college. “This has a lot to do with their parents pushing college as the answer. However, I know the most powerful man, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, is not lettered,” she insisted. “There are more students making a living with a trade than with college.”
She added, “I know a student who does nails and made $48,000 last year who is still in high school. That doesn’t require a college education.”
Is she Black?
“No, she’s Asian.”
For Black students that use their high school diploma as a passport to college, “most major in the social sciences like psychology and sociology. The real money is in mathematics and the sciences,” Ms. Muhammad said, “where we’re the least represented.”
According to a survey released last year by Achieve Inc., as many as 40 percent of the nation’s high school graduates say they are inadequately prepared to deal with the demands of employment and postsecondary education. This puts their individual success and the nation’s economic growth in peril, according to a national survey of 2,200 Americans, including nearly 1,500 recent high school graduates, 400 employers and 300 college instructors.
“While American public high schools are doing a reasonably good job with a majority of their students, they are seriously failing a substantial minority of young people across the nation,” says Mike Cohen, president of Achieve Inc.
The survey explained that the preparation gaps cut across a range of core skills and knowledge areas, most notably work habits, ability to read and understand complicated materials, and math, science and writing skills.
For high school senior Tracey Calixte, being prepared for college was her only option. She told The Final Call, “No one in my family has had the opportunity to go to college. I wanted that for my family and myself. I plan to study accounting and business at North Carolina A&T.”
Donnel Richardson is also headed to college, but for many of his friends the high school diploma was just a piece of paper.
“It’s hard out here. School is boring and many of my friends just don’t see what college has to offer other than more boring classes. They’d rather just try to find a job or hustle,” he told The Final Call. “A lot of them are not even going to make it to graduation. They get frustrated and drop out before senior year.”
The numbers of Black students that graduate from high school is questionable. In 2004, the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and the Urban Institute released the report, “Losing Our Future: How Minority Youth Are Being Left Behind by the Graduation Rate Crisis.” The report explained that half or more of Black, Latino and Native American youth in the United States were getting left behind before high school graduation in a “hidden crisis” that is obscured by U.S. Department of Education regulations issued under the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) Act that “allow schools, districts, and states to all but eliminate graduation rate accountability for minority subgroups.”
The new report, also issued by the Civil Society Institute’s Results for America (RFA) project and Advocates for Children of New York, notes that the minority high school graduation rate crisis is masked by the widespread circulation of “misleading and inaccurate reporting of dropout and graduation rates.” According to the report, while 75 percent of White students graduated from high school in 2001, only 50 percent of all Black students, 51 percent of Native American students and 53 percent of all Latino students got a high school diploma in the same year.
The study found that the problem was even worse for Black, Native American and Latino young men at 43 percent, 47 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
Similar figures were found by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MIPR), which reported that only 50 percent of Black and Latino students in the United States complete high school with a diploma. According to the U.S. Census in 2004, 85 percent of adults age 25 and over had completed at least high school, an all-time high. The percentage of non-Latino Whites (89 percent) and Blacks (80 percent) who had a high school diploma or higher marked new highs.
The proportion of Blacks rose by 10 percentage points from 1993 to 2003, while non-Latino Whites saw an increase of five percentage points in this category.
“Our youth need to take their education seriously,” stressed Ms. Muhammad. “They need to explore their interests and not be afraid to explore what they like to do. You can make money doing anything that you enjoy. It’ll be easier to work at it if you enjoy what you’re doing.”