The Obama administration recently hosted one of several conference calls with men of color as part of My Brother’s Keeper, a new five-year, $200-million White House initiative aimed at “helping young men and boys of color facing tough odds reach their full potential.”
But according to the initiative’s website, as well as the National Center for Educational Statistics, the biggest barrier to their success is already clear: inequitable schooling, not only for boys of color, but also for girls.
My Brother’s Keeper — which will bring together businesses and foundations to test strategies aimed at early childhood education, among other issues — is an important step with some promise. But if President Barack Obama really wants to improve the lives of young men and women of color, he needs to stop promoting educational policies like No Child Left Behind, which increases standardization and high-stakes testing, but fails to address racial inequities in schools.
In communities across the country, African-American, Latino and Native American males struggle in school. A report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education revealed that in 2010, only 58 percent of Latino males and 47 percent of African-American males graduated from high school. By comparison, the graduation rate for white, non-Latino males was 78 percent.
Although graduation rates for African-American and Latino males have improved in the last three years, the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education paints a disturbing picture. African-American, Native American and Latino students have less access to advanced math and science courses than their white peers, according to the Education Department, and are more likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers. They are underrepresented in gifted programs and advanced placement classes. African-American and Native American students are also suspended and expelled at disproportionate rates.