“If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher. Your country needs you.”

Earlier this week, during his state of the union address , Obama called for our nation’s commitment to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.  He referenced that nearly 1 in 4 of our high school students don’t graduate.  So I decided to dig a little deeper into those numbers.

What I found was staggering:

This means that only 25% of the high school class of 2011 will graduate from college within six years.

For some additional context, college graduates earn more than twice as much as those without a high school degree, and the unemployment rate for high school graduates (10.8%) is more than twice as high as college graduates (4.9%).

So, what are we doing about the other 75%?

This is a daunting question that a lot of really smart people have been asking and trying to tackle head on for decades.  I don’t know the answer but I know there’s not one silver bullet either.  However, I have confidence that the combined efforts of smaller scale reform efforts are making a dent.

Here’s just one of countless examples…

Success Preparatory Academy’s mission is simple:

“We develop college bound students for leadership and lifelong learning.”

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate to visit a friend’s charter school in New Orleans, LA.  Niloy co-founded the school in the fall of 2009 and welcomes more than 300 K-4 students through their doors every day to prepare them for college.  And they are truly preparing them for college.  During the morning Indaba (daily a.m. community meeting with teachers), Niloy continued to talk about how important it was to make sure the class of 2025 excelled on the upcoming tests.  When he finished, I asked him about the significance of the class of 2025.  Without hesitation his response was: “That’s when the kindergarten class graduates from college.”

We met in a School Reform class in graduate school six years ago and since then he has been doing exactly what Obama called on the rest of us to do the other night.  He and his team of talented, motivating, and dedicated teachers and staff are doing whatever it takes to give every child in New Orleans a chance to succeed.  This manifests itself in countless ways in the work they do every day (and night).  And as much as I miss it, I may not return to the classroom any day soon.  But I certainly walked out of Success Preparatory Academy with a new perspective.

Every child should aspire to graduate from college and each of us should believe that they will.  What will you do to make sure that they do?

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  • Neha Mehta

    The numbers are staggering. Great article, Julie.