New Research Report Makes Clear the Predictors for Student Disconnection
from School and Workforce for Black and African American Youth in Montgomery County
County Leaders Unveil Study Findings which also Include Recommendations for Improvement
and Follow-up Strategies to Ensure Success Across Montgomery County
(October 23, 2015) SILVER SPRING, MD — A research report released today finds that stronger social and academic supports are needed to connect Black and African American youth to education and the workforce. The report, Connecting Youth to Opportunity: How Black and African American Youth Perspectives Can Inform a Blueprint for Improving Opportunity in Montgomery County, Maryland, presents the findings and implications of a study that looked at disconnection from the perspectives of 1,210 youth, ages 14 to 24, who were high school students, high school graduates, and youth who left high school before graduating. The report was commissioned by The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region (The Community Foundation). It was conceived and written by The Community Foundation, Montgomery College, and BETAH Associates, Inc., and researched by BETAH Associates, Inc.
The study found that disconnected youth reported less support from parents and teachers to get through school, lower grades, more suspensions, more involvement with law enforcement and the justice system, and less economic stability than high school graduates. The survey asked young people questions regarding family environment; social connections; socialization; physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being; school climate and performance; labor market skills; and employment. The study builds upon a 2013 study of Latino youth in Montgomery County that was commissioned by The Community Foundation and conducted by Identity, Inc. for much the same purpose and with similar findings.
For many Black and African American disconnected youth, the path to disconnection may begin in school settings, but it does not end there – because the opportunities for meaningful work are limited for Black youth. The study found that only 31% of youth who dropped out of school were working, and nearly one-half (48%) of youth who dropped out reported their economic condition as “bad or very bad,” compared to 29% of high school graduates and 14% of high school students who responded.
In the context of school, the study found that compared to high school graduates, youth who left school before graduating were 11 times more likely to have a GPA of 0.5 or below and over twice as likely to have been suspended during their last year of school. They were also less likely to receive help from teachers to stay engaged in their classes, or to believe that their teachers expected them to finish high school or to attend college.
Parental support and expectations also had an impact. Youth who dropped out of school were 50% less likely to receive encouragement from their parents to do well in school and 40% less likely to receive support from their parents to complete high school, to discuss their future after high school with their parents, or to believe that their parents had high expectations for them to go to college.
Despite multiple differences across groups, the youth in the study had strikingly similar levels of contact with local law enforcement. Thirty-one percent of high school students, 49% of graduates, and 64% who dropped out of school reported they had been stopped by the police.
“In this report, these young people are telling us what they need. And we must listen. Being out of work and school in the late teens and early twenties creates a cycle of poverty that has a devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities – now and in the future,” said Anna Hargrave, Executive Director of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region in Montgomery County. “Moving the needle will require committed collaboration across the public and private sectors in Montgomery County. Our recommendations outline what must be done to help ensure that all our County’s young people are connected to opportunities to succeed.”
The report provides a starting point for the County to begin working toward its goal of guaranteeing every young person the support, education, and training he or she needs to achieve lifelong success, with the four recommendations from the report also making clear that this will take a community-wide commitment:
- Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) should work with key stakeholders to change policies, practices, and resource allocation to lower the dropout rate and close the achievement gap for Black and African American students.
- Montgomery County should create a coordinated array of services and supports designed to reconnect disconnected youth to education and the workforce.
- The Black and African American community along with local law enforcement, State’s Attorney’s Office, MCPS, and Montgomery County government must find ways to reduce disproportionate minority contact with the justice system.
- The philanthropic sector, community organizations, the faith-based community, and civic engagement organizations should use the momentum generated by this report to galvanize support for a coordinated countywide campaign to reconnect disconnected youth.
“Looking closely at the factors that help young people stay engaged in school or at work is vital to crafting successful policies in education and workforce development in Montgomery County,” said Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard, Montgomery College president. “At Montgomery College we are using this data to inform our strategies for student retention and completion.”
“This report affirms the important work we are doing to improve educational experiences and outcomes for all students; increase the cultural proficiency and diversity of our staff; and better engage our families and community members,” said Larry A. Bowers, interim superintendent of schools for MCPS. “I appreciate the work that the Community Foundation has done to reflect the voices and experiences of our youth and I look forward to working with our partners to ensure our children have the knowledge, skills, and opportunities they need to graduate from high school and be successful in college and the work place.”