August 23, 2007 — Vol. 43, No. 2
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NAACP plan seeks to check black dropouts

Jackie Jones

The NAACP has announced a 10-point plan aimed at reducing high school dropout rates among black students.

The plan, created by the civil rights organization’s Education Department, calls for a collaborative effort among educators, families and the business community to ensure adequate resources and effective monitoring of student progress.

“Approximately 1 million children drop out of school each year. Nearly 50 percent of African American students who drop out are leaving school with less than two years left to complete their high school education. There is clearly a need for focused, deliberate action to reverse this trend,” the NAACP said in a statement.

Research has shown that students who fail to graduate from high school face greater problems finding employment and are more likely to be in poor health, on public assistance or incarcerated. They are also more likely to die at an earlier age than those who graduate.

While the gap in the dropout rate between white and black students narrowed in the 1980s, it has moved little in the years since, according to nonprofit research group Child Trends DataBank. The NAACP said students of color are four times more likely to attend a high school with a low graduation rate than white students.

Based on a proposal that it initiated in 2001, the NAACP is calling on school districts to work closely with local branches to reverse the trend, recommending the use of a variety of assessment and evaluation methods, rather than one standardized test, to determine student outcomes.

The organization will ask local businesses, community colleges and vocational and technical institutions to develop partnerships with schools to provide creative alternatives to earning a diploma. The NAACP also asked education officials to create a uniform way to track dropout rates and to develop ways to hold schools accountable for developing programs to increase graduation rates.

Public officials will be asked to ensure that teachers and administrators have the necessary resources to educate students, to find ways to reduce excessive enrollment and the unnecessary placement of children of color in special education programs, to ensure equitable distribution of resources to schools, and to ensure that curricular material is culturally relevant to students.

Even with the program, however, there are limitations.

Though the efforts may help document how many students dropped out of high school in a given academic year, they cannot measure how many people lack a basic high school education. A measure called “status dropout rates” reveals the percentage of those between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school and have earned neither a high school diploma nor its equivalent, according to Child Trends DataBank.

The NAACP plan, however, is consistent with an effort called for by the National Education Association (NEA). In October 2006, NEA President Reg Weaver announced a 12-point plan to address the dropout crisis.

“We’ve identified the crisis, and it will take everyone sharing responsibility to correct it,” Weaver said when the NEA’s effort was announced. “This is no longer about students slipping through the cracks of our education system. Those cracks are now craters.”

In an interview last summer, Weaver said that a shortage of certified teachers, frequent turnover in teaching ranks and a lack of consistency were among the biggest threats to keeping children in school.

According to a 2005 report by the National Center for Education Information, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., 47 states and the District of Columbia offer 538 “different route” programs for those interested in teaching, even if they do not have a background in education.

The report said that about 35,000 people became teachers this way in 2004, and about half of them indicated they would not have become teachers if the alternate routes had not been available. Only about 20 percent said they would have gone back to college to get a teaching certificate.

Teachers who are hired through alternative means are allowed to teach while obtaining certification.

Weaver said it was important to maintain certification standards and to find ways to keep qualified teachers in the school system.

He said 30 percent of new teachers leave the profession within their first three years, a figure that jumps to 50 percent in urban schools. Certified training and consistent staffing — an element he specifically emphasized — make the difference in ensuring successful educational outcomes for students, particularly students of color, he said.

“The more stable, the more stable, the more stable, the more stable the faculty and administration and support staff are, the better it is for our students,” he said. “Too many of our kids get the less experienced teachers and the less experienced teachers, while they’re good, studies show students do much better with stable staff.”

The NAACP has called on states to develop their own five-year plans to reduce racial disparities in education. It provided each state with a Web-based template to help translate elements in its Call for Action into measurable indicators. So far, 23 states have submitted equity plans to the NAACP, according to the association’s Web site.

The association also encourages the public to get involved in its education efforts through its Web site at


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