1.2 million students drop out of high school every year in the United States — that’s one student every 26 seconds.
Who are these students? And what happens to them after they drop out?
Studies consistently show they are predominantly children growing up in poor and low-income families. In fact, a recent report found a majority of children in the U.S. public school system come from low-income households, meaning they are eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced Lunch program. The report also found that in 21 states, mostly in the South and West, half or more of students in public schools qualify for free or reduced lunches. In 19 additional states, students from low-income households comprise 40-49 percent of public school enrollment.
In recent years, research has helped us develop a deeper understanding of how detrimental poverty can be to academic performance, and ultimately, the adult lives of poor children.
The results are staggering.
Students from low-income families are five times more likely to drop out of school than students from higher income families, and without a high school diploma, these students have a limited earning potential compared to those with a high school or college diploma. Another report found median annual income for 25- to 34- year-old adults with a college education was more than twice that of those without a high school education.
Moreover, individuals without a high school diploma are more likely to be incarcerated, become single parents, and use public assistance programs – further perpetuating the cycle of dependency.
And, Dallas is no exception to poverty or the impact it has on students.
A recent D Magazine article showed that half of Dallas households make less than $50,000 per year, and 28.6 percent make less than $25,000. That means Dallas has the highest number of people living 185 percent below the poverty line of any American city and the second highest number of people living 100 percent below the poverty line.
The tragedy of poverty in Dallas is compounded by the consequences that trickle down to children of poor families. In fact, the Dallas News reported that the city has the worst childhood poverty rate of the country’s 10 biggest cities with about 38 percent of Dallas children living in poverty – worse than Philadelphia, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago, among others. Of that 38 percent, roughly 50,000 children live in extreme poverty, which is defined as a family of four living off half the $24,000 poverty line.
It’s a city-wide problem, but South Dallas/Fair Park is one of the hardest hit areas:
- From 2005-2015, the average percentage of students categorized as economically disadvantaged was 93% and 85% in the two cities, respectively.
- 50% more economically disadvantaged kids in South Dallas/Fair Park performed unsatisfactorily on standardized Math & Reading tests in 6th & 7th grade compared to similarly economically disadvantaged kids across Texas.
These low reading proficiency statistics are particularly alarming when you consider how fundamental literacy is to surviving, let alone thriving, in the modern world. From restaurant menus, emails, billboards, television shows, text messages, and food labels, we read, by some estimates, thousands of words every day. Literacy affects nearly every aspect of life – from checking email, to driving to work, to reading the news, a recipe, or a job application.
Study after study stresses the importance of early-childhood reading proficiency as a predictor of future academic success.
For example, one report showed that 16 percent of children who cannot read proficiently in third grade do not graduate high school on time – a rate four times higher than for proficient readers. And, 35 percent of children who were poor, lived in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty and could not read proficiently failed to graduate.
The connection between literacy, graduation rates and poverty is clear, and compared with other Texas cities, Dallas has the highest percentage of individuals without a high school diploma and the lowest percentage of residents who hold college degree.
Clear Issues that Require Complex Solutions
Though the problems are clear, the solutions are deeply complex — which is precisely why Stand Together and Deion Sanders launched Prime 5 to tackle the key drivers of poverty in Dallas, one of which is educational failure. The educational system in Dallas can’t be fixed overnight. But, we can help students tackle these barriers, gain access to better education, and have hope for a future.
ACE recognizes that too many low-income students are trapped in schools which cannot provide them the resources and environment they require, while other students thrive because of the educational opportunities afforded to them by their choice of school which suits them. So, in 2000, ACE Scholarships was founded to help students in grades K-12 gain access to quality private school education. All recipients are low-income and qualify for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program, and with financial resources and support, ACE issues scholarships to low-income students to attend the private school of their choice.
The opportunity to receive a high-quality education radically changes not just the lives of kids, but families too, and the results have been astonishing:
- 90% of ACE students graduate from high school
- 73% of ACE students are directly enrolling in college
- 23,000 scholarships provided
- $52 million in scholarship commitments
- 368 private school partnerships
Organizations like ACE Scholarships are critical to the revitalization of the Dallas community. And, with the support of Prime 5 and Stand Together, we can truly begin to change the game for students in our hardest hit communities.
Want to learn more about ACE Scholarships? Join us in October for our very first “Catalyst Spotlight”! We’ll take you inside the hearts and minds of the remarkable folks that drive ACE’s success, and give you a firsthand look at how Stand Together is helping them maximize their impact in Dallas.