Blog: Latino Ed Beat

DC Public Schools Aim to Invest Millions in Latino, Black Males

DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson -- pictured here reading to students at a U.S. Department of Education event -- announced Wednesday the district will be investing $20 million in support programs and a new school for black and Latino male students. Source: Flickr/ U.S. Department of Education (CC BY 2.0)

The District of Columbia Public Schools could soon be making a large investment in the education of Latino and black males, who comprise 43 percent of the district’s student population and who historically tend to fall behind in reading and math, and have lower attendance and graduation rates. 

Kaya Henderson, DCPS chancellor, announced the $20-million plan Wednesday, which includes support programs and a new all-boys college preparatory high school east of the Anacostia River, a minority-heavy area, opening in 2017. The project falls under the district’s “Empowering Males of Color” initiative, according to an article by Michael Alison Chandler in The Washington Post.

By fourth grade, nearly half of the the District’s Latino and black male students are reading below grade level. Only 57 percent of Hispanic male students and 48 percent of black male students graduate in four years, while 66 percent of their classmates do, Chandler writes. 

“The boys are not the problem,” Robert Simmons – DCPS chief of innovation and research, who was hired last July to help improve outcomes for African American boys – said at a news conference Wednesday. “We are not doing enough to empower them, support and engage them.”

The support plan includes a call for 500 volunteers to act as tutors and mentors for the boys — a program that was high on the students’ wish list. 

The funding for the initiative will reportedly come from public and private sources alike. Henderson told the Post she’s working to raise funds outside the district’s operating budget.