Sunday, July 29, 2012

NEW Executive Order, President Obama launches White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

On July 26, 2012, the White House released news that President Obama signed an Executive Order launching the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (the Initiative) to significantly improve educational outcomes for African Americans, thereby providing substantial benefits for the whole country.  It intends to ensure equality of access and opportunity to rigorous and well-rounded academic and support services that prepares African Americans for college, a satisfying career, and productive citizenship.

This Executive Order complements the President's White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Executive Order 13532 of February 26, 2010 and focuses on improving all levels of education to produce a more effective early childhood education through postsecondary and adult education continuum. 

In the Executive Order, President Obama acknowledges that African American men and women have strengthened America even while barriers have been broken down since the 1950s Brown v. Board of Education landmark Supreme Court decision.  Although that civil rights lawsuit transformed the nation's public education system on many fronts, substantial obstacles to equal educational opportunity still remain in  in the system. Whether this Executive Order will have teeth to change embedded dysfunction and racism remains to been seen let alone whether it will receive adequate support and funding.  Arguably, it is a long awaited step.

The Executive Order outlines the education problems Americans face as:

African Americans lack equal access to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools, and challenging college-preparatory classes, and they disproportionately experience school discipline and referrals to special education. African American student achievement not only lags behind that of their domestic peers by an average of two grade levels, but also behind students in almost every other developed nation. Over a third of African American students do not graduate from high school on time with a regular high school diploma, and only four percent of African American high school graduates interested in college are college-ready across a range of subjects. An even greater number of African American males do not graduate with a regular high school diploma, and African American males also experience disparate rates of incarceration.

The Executive Order does expresses its mission and function, which basically is to help restore the United States to its role as the global leader in education and to strengthen the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages.

Objectives of the Initiative include increasing an understanding of the causes of the educational challenges faced by African American students, increasing the percentage of students who enter kindergarten ready for academic success, decrease the disproportionate number of referrals from general education to special education by addressing the root causes of the referrals and eradicating discriminatory referrals (bravo), implementing reform strategies and practices girded in high-level, rigorous course work, strengthening school leadership and effective teachers, reducing dropout rates, increasing college access and success, and more.

The Initiative is housed in the Department of Education and directed by an Executive Director with collaboration among a newly formed Federal Interagency Working Group on Educational Excellence for African Americans (comprised of senior officials from many federal agencies) and a President's Advisory Commission (comprised of 25 appointed members). It is to be funded by the Administration subject to the availability of appropriations and implemented consistent with applicable laws. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland is chairman of the new Commission.

"A higher education in a twenty-first century cannot be a luxury.  It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford," said President Obama.  And afford a college education is something we hope every American can do in this century given the uptick in college tuition and the lackluster success of the No Child Left Behind legislation.

Read the entire Executive Office on the White House website link by clicking here.