Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Obama Initiative Targets Latino, African-American Boys

The My Brother’s Keeper initiative aims to close an achievement gap that goes beyond race, and acknowledges the gaps that exist between boys and girls in the black and Latino community.

While discussions in years past may have addressed certain cultural pressures that held back Latina girls, Latinos boys are actually faring worse.

President Obama first announced the initiative in February. The New York Times reported that on Monday, the president announced that 60 large school district were joining on, representing about 40 percent of all black and Latino males living in poverty.

The Times reported that the percentage of fourth-grade students scoring proficient or above on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) demonstrated the disparities. Passing rates were 42 percent for white boys, 18 percent for Hispanic boys, 14 percent for black boys, and 21 percent for Hispanic and black girls.

My Brother’s Keeper seeks to connect with local governments, foundations and businesses to support the academic achievement of boys so that they go on to higher education. These efforts will be accomplished through programs such as mentoring.

The Washington Post reported that the president announced that $300 million in funding has been secured, and that he will remain committed to the initiative after his time in office ends.

Supporters of the initiative include the Citi Foundation, AT&T, College Board, and Discovery Communications.

However, the article acknowledged that some critics are concerned that young minority women are being left out of the federal campaign, and face their own challenges. The Post earlier reported that activists met with White House officials to ask that young girls of color be included in the initiative.

The article reported that hundreds of people signed a letter stating that they were “profoundly troubled about the exclusion of women and girls of color from this critical undertaking.”

The controversy ignites an interesting conversation — should there also be a special program for minority girls launched? Does focusing on only boys ignore the larger achievement gap?