The number of young people dropping out of California schools has reached the crisis stage. In particular, the number of African American and Latino youth who have dropped out or simply walked away from school is alarming. According to a recent Harvard Civil Rights Project Report, approximately 40% of African American and Latino students drop out of high school.
At our Select Committee on Bridging the Achievement Gap hearing in Richmond this week, we heard from researchers about the failure of California schools to graduate large numbers of students, in particular low income students of color. To further complicate the issue, the California High School Exit Exam requirement for the class of 2006 will mean that more than 50,000 current seniors who have failed at least one section of the test will not get their diploma next June. (Some estimates are as high as 100,000 students won’t graduate because of the Exit Exam.)
At the hearing we also focused on collaborative solutions to this crisis facing our community. We heard the latest research on “school to career” programs such as ACME Animation, the San Francisco Law Academy and the Berkeley Biotechnology Education, Inc. ACME Animation is a series of interactive courses linking professionals from PIXAR, Disney, Warner Brothers and other smaller companies with animation students in 27 high schools in California. The programs, most of which are offered in schools with high dropout rates, give students real hands-on skills development opportunities that can lead them to community college, CSU or the work world.
The San Francisco Law Academy and the Berkeley Biotech programs give young people internships with mentors to help them experience the work world along with the related academic classroom instruction. These two programs have been in existence for more than a decade and have graduated students capable of working in office or lab environments.
For more information about the Berkeley Biotechnology Education, Inc. go to http://www.bbei.org and for the San Francisco Law Academy to http://www.sfbar.org/charitable/lawacademy.aspx.