Filed Under:  Education, National, News, Politics

President creates initiative on Black education

6th August 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Zoe Sullivan
Contributing Writer

“I believe strong communities are built on strong schools,” President Obama told the crowd at the opening of the National Urban League conference. “If this country is about anything, it’s about passing on even greater opportunity to the next generation.” This was how the President introduced his new White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Afri­can Americans. He signed this executive order on Thursday, July 26. President George H.W. Bush signed a similar order focusing on education for Latinos in 1990, and all subsequent presidents have re-affirmed that order.

As he outlined some of the steps his administration has taken to promote access to education, Obama also reminded the crowd to stay on its toes. “Of course, that means all of you all have got to hit the books,” he quipped after describing expansions to the Pell Grant program that will help 200,000 African Americans attend college along with efforts to support Head Start and to improve teaching standards.

“That’s part of the bargain—America says we will give you opportunity, but you’ve got to earn your success.”

According to a statement released by the White House, the executive order fits in with the President’s goal of having the United States claim the largest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. It also stated that new resources would be allocated towards this goal through “rigorous and well-rounded academic and support services to enable African-American students to improve their educational achievement and prepare for college and career.”

The initiative will be housed within the Department of Education, and will use “evidence-based best practices” to strengthen academic achievement among Black students. The White House statement said that the initiative will complement the administration’s existing efforts to bolster Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The order also establishes the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans and a Federal Intragency Working Group on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

Some of the goals that the initiative will pursue include increasing the numbers of Black children who are ready for kindergarten through early-learning programs; monitoring African-American access to rigorous course work that will prepare them for college and life; ensuring Black students have “equitable access to effective teachers and principals” and “supporting efforts to improve the recruitment, preparation, development and retention of successful African-American teachers and principals,” and ensuring that African Americans are not disproportionately subject to school discipline or referral to special education programs.

A spokesperson for the state Department of Education, told The Louisiana Weekly in an email statement that the state agrees with the President’s goals. “Students’ access to a high-quality education should not be determined by their zip code, income, or race.” The statement also affirmed that Louisiana is moving to ensure quality education for all children “through the implementation of the nation’s most aggressive education reforms.”

University of New Orleans education adjunct professor Rashida Govan told The Louisiana Weekly in an email statement: “We cannot compete successfully in the global marketplace if we do not address the inequities and habitual failure of the American education system on America’s most vulnerable populations.” Data released by the Organization for Economic Coop­eration and Development placed the United States 33rd among developed countries for student performance on reading, scientific and mathematical literacy scales. Govan also affirmed that “the obstacles faced by African-American youth in American schools prevent them from gaining social mobility, largely due to systemic issues beyond their control.”

This article was originally published in the August 6, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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