The Schott Foundation released a report earlier this year that identified the graduation rates for black males across the country. The national average in 2013 was 59%. In Seattle, it was 57%.
As educators, we have to do better. But that’s not going to happen if we roll out the same school programs that we’ve rolled out every year for decades. The Washington State legislature recently increased the number of credits required to graduate from 21 to 24. For those who don’t work in schools, here’s quick reminder: a half credit is earned by passing a one-semester class. At a typical school, students take six classes each semester. That means, under the new rules, students will have to pass every single one of their 48 classes over four years of high school to remain on track to graduate.
There is an old saying in politics: never let a good crisis go to waste. This is our opportunity to bring innovation to a system that is in desperate need of reinvention. The alternative? An ongoing—and intensifying—civil rights disaster.
What if Seattle seized this moment and fostered new school models that were designed to give power to our most disenfranchised students?
What if Seattle became the national leader in high school graduation rates for black males?
What if this movement was led by a multicultural coalition, including white people with the guts to take responsibility for their role in sustaining the institutionally racist systems currently in place?
What if everyone involved was held accountable not to rich foundations or politicians, but to people of color doing grassroots organizing in their communities?
What if Seattle became the place where we acted as if Black lives matter?
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