Crossposted from the Rules for Engagement blog.
By Evie Blad
District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Wednesday launched Empowering Males of Color, an effort aimed at improving outcomes for black and Latino male students.
Through the initiative, the city’s school system will spend $20 million over the next three years through mentoring programs, targeted grants, and opening a new, all-male college preparatory high school in a high-need area.
Washington is one of many cities around the country that have launched formal efforts targeted at boys of color, in part motivated by President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
“We serve more Black and Latino boys than any other group of students, and overall, they are lagging behind their classmates—this is the greatest need we see,” Henderson said in a press release. “We can’t do this work alone. We will not be able to succeed, and these young people will continue to falter, unless we change the way we approach this work and unless the community steps up to help us change lives. Now is this time for the type of change we know is both absolutely necessary and absolutely possible.”
Around the country, district-level My Brother’s Keeper efforts have taken special aim at non-academic factors, such as attendance, student supports, and issues like cultural proficiency for teachers.
The District of Columbia school system plans to determine the success of its initiative by evaluating improvement in early literacy, attendance, college readiness, high school graduation rates, student satisfaction, and participation in “meaningful postsecondary activities.”
The district plans to recruit 500 volunteers to mentor boys of color with a particular focus of helping them read on grade level by 4th grade. Nearly half of black and latino boys are reading below grade level by the time they reach 4th grade, the release said.
Mentors will serve in schools weekly, working with the Reading Partners and Literacy Lab programs to help students. Recruiting has already started. The city sent out a release seeking volunteers shortly after the announcement.
Under another portion of the initiative, schools will be able to make pitches for grant funding to help support the academic, social, and emotional needs of their male students of color.
“The model will allow school leaders to decide what will work best for their school communities,” the release said. “These grants require schools to focus their efforts in one of three areas: academic development, family engagement and social-emotional supports.”
In 2016, the district will open an all-male college prep high school in partnership with Urban Prep Academies, a network of all-boys high schools in Chicago, Henderson announced. That school will have a goal of 100 percent admission of its students to four-year universities, the release said.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.