Why Are More Black Males Dropping Out of High School?

In a new PBS special, Tavis Smiley investigates why factors such as generational poverty, unemployment, and the lack of positive male role models in schools are contributing to staggering drop-out rates in Black male youth.

PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley will make an inquiry into an alarming truth that is well known yet rarely discussed: the number of African-American high school dropouts, specifically males, is increasing at an alarming rate.


A 2006 study by The Manhattan Institute surveyed 100 of the largest school districts in the United States and found that only 48 percent of African-American males earned a diploma—that’s 11 percent less than African-American females. More troubling is the research showing that on an average day, one out of four Black males who drop out of high school will end up incarcerated.


High rates of placement in special education classes and disproportionate use of suspension and expulsion as discliplinary measures only exacerbate the problem.


“As we saw recently in the U.K., an entire society suffers when one part of a population is ignored," Smiley said in a statement. "A new focus on our Black boys is a renewed focus on America."


In the primetime special airing on PBS, Smiley will travel across the country and interview educational experts as well as the young men who have succumbed to this cultural epidemic.


Smiley’s special, entitled “Too Important To Fail”, premieres on September 13 at 8 p.m.


Too Important to Fail is also a national education initiative, including "parent summits" and a reading mobile truck tour that is aimed at reducing dropout rates by empowering the roles of teachers, parents, community leaders and government.  

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.