April 3rd, 2008
04:59 PM ET

Education crisis in American cities

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FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The education crisis in America's largest cities is assuming frightening proportions.

Only about half of all students who attend the main school systems in the 50 largest cities actually graduate from high school. A study by the non-profit "Editorial Projects in Education Research Center" describes graduating from high school in these cities as quote "a coin toss." This rate of 52% is far below the national graduation rate of 70%.

The main school districts of Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Baltimore had the lowest rates in the country, all below 40%. In Detroit, Michigan the high school graduation rate is 25%.

Not surprisingly there is a sharp contrast between urban and suburban schools. In 35 of the nation's largest cities, graduation rates were lower in the city than in the suburbs. Sometimes the difference was more than 35 percentage points. In Baltimore, 82% of students in suburban districts graduated; only 35% of the kids in the city did.

Nationwide, almost one in three high school students drops out before graduation – that's about 1.2 million dropouts every year. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell calls the dropout rate not just a crisis, but a catastrophe. He's the founding chairman of the group that presented the report.

Officials say more community involvement is needed, and leaders of business and faith-based groups are being urged to make graduation a priority when they talk with students.

Here’s my question to you: How can the U.S. compete globally when only about half the students in our largest cities graduate from high school?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?