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Taskforce tackles dropout rate among Black and Latino males

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia public schools, 51 percent of Latino and 46 percent of Black males do not graduate. This crisis guided the work of the African American and Latino Male Dropout Taskforce, a panel of nonprofit, government, and business leaders that has developed and presented a detailed report and recommendations to the School Reform Commission to turn the tide.

Taskforce members held feedback sessions with a mix of stakeholders, ranging from young Black and Latino males to members of African American and Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

Their report cited a failure to address the cultural and financial needs of Black and Latino males and argued that rigid discipline policies are exacerbating the problem.

According to Sharon Gaskins of the mayor’s office, a taskforce member, young people told the panel that a balanced discipline policy is central to preventing dropouts and "pushouts" and that getting regular input from students is key.

The panel said that increasing the number of teachers of color is also essential.

The taskforce also called for increased opportunities for students to obtain internships and paid work while in school, collaboration among city agencies and community organizations to brainstorm solutions, and an expansion of the District’s Re-engagement Centers for youth wanting to reconnect to school.

SRC member Johnny Irizarry, who served on the taskforce with SRC chair Robert Archie, said the dropout crisis has severe consequences for the city’s economy.

"The mayor’s made it very clear that without some real intentional interventions that Philly will not have the workforce that it needs in order to sustain any kind of growth in industry," he said.

According to Irizarry, the SRC plans to authorize an oversight board to help implement the recommendations.