Leaders in some of the nation’s big-city school districts say they have new momentum—created by attention from President Barack Obama—to tackle one of the most vexing problems in urban schools: improving academic outcomes for African-American and Latino boys.
But despite the president’s high-profile call for action to improve the lives of boys of color in his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, doing so remains a monumental task for educators. There are no new federal funds to bring to bear, nor is there certainty that the current national focus on the well-being of minority boys will outlast the Obama administration.
Still, 62 big-city school systems—61 of them members of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools—joined the White House initiative this past summer, with a pledge to ramp up their efforts to steer boys of color to higher achievement, better graduation rates, and more successful lives. In the months since, district leaders from Long Beach, Calif., to Anchorage have been reassessing existing programs, partnering with local businesses and governments, and calling for honest conversations about the role race plays in their policies and practices.
While many of the strategies under way are not necessarily novel, district leaders said the collective impact of dozens of school systems working to improve achievement for boys of color holds promise.
“It’s not just one district that’s moving on its own,” said Felton Williams, a member of the Long Beach school board. “They are moving as part of a collective whole. The difference with what you’re seeing now is synergy. Everybody is rowing the boat in the same direction.”
Click here for Urban Districts Pledge Progress for Boys of Color, Denisa R. Superville, Education Week, November 3, 2014