DOE Rejects plan to educate young African-American and Hispanic males
By Stephen Witt
The city’s Department of Education (DOE) was not among 60 of the nation’s largest school districts pledging support of President Obama’s initiative to improve the educational futures of young African-American and Hispanic boys beginning in preschool and extending through high school graduation, this paper has learned.
The districts are part of the 67-member Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS), which was established in 1956 and includes the city’s DOE. Its mission is to educate the nation’s urban public schools to the highest academic standards and prepare them to contribute to our democracy and the global community.
“We sent the pledge to all 67 of our school district members and they (NYC DOE) were definitely aware of the pledge but the chancellor and their board did not sign off on it,” said CGCS spokesperson Tonya Harris.
The CGCS pledge comes after a recent National Assessment of Educational Progress study found only 14 percent of black boys and 18 percent of Hispanic boys scored proficient or above on the fourth-grade reading tests in 2013, compared with 42 percent of white boys and 21 percent of both black and Hispanic girls.
The pledge called for 11 specific actions including ensuring that preschool efforts better serve males of color and their academic and social development; adopting and implementing elementary and middle school efforts to increase “the pipeline” of males of color who are on track to succeed in high school, and increasing the numbers participating in advanced placement, honors and gifted and talented programs; keeping data and establishing protocols to monitor the progress of males of color and intervene at the earliest warning signs of problems; and reducing the disproportionate number of males of color who are absent, suspended, expelled or placed (inappropriately) in special education classes.
The DOE refusal to sign onto the pledge comes as it has steadfastly refused to institute a much-sought-after gifted and talented program in the largely African-American District 16 in the heart of Central Brooklyn. At the same time, it allows several gifted and talented programs in districts that encompass whiter areas of Brooklyn.
At press time, the DOE did not reply to questions on why it did not sign on to the pledge or why it has not appointed a representative as of yet to the CGCS. A DOE spokesperson referred all questions on the matter to the White House and the federal government.
The pledge came as part of Obama’s ramping up last week of his “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative”, to mentor and better educate young males of color. It is funded with $200 million in private sector money, including the National Basketball Association, AT&T, J.P. Morgan Chase and the Emerson Collective, founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steven Jobs.
When the initiative was first announced in February, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) applauded the move, but some differences among caucus members and the White House on the program have emerged.
A source familiar with both the CBC and the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative said the White House is galvanizing around social and competitive world issues. That by not starting this initiative, there will be a loss of productivity and cost the country in the long run for those men of color that fall through the cracks, the source said.
“The program is still being defined and we’re waiting to see what the White House will put forward other than press releases,” said the source. “Some CBC members would like to see how this ties to the ground where there are partnerships on a very local level with community-based organizations that have been providing some of these services for years.”