Fatherhood Is a Community Value

“Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.”

This sentence, said over and over again: night, after night. These words, the halfway mark in Margaret Wise Brown’s very famous children’s story, were among the last words my daughters heard every night at bedtime when they were little, shortly before “good night” and “I love you.” This sentence represents for me many aspects of what it means to be a dad, to show love as a father. Dads can provide warmth, routine, and consistency. Dads can help their children discover a love of reading and the joy of books. Dads can nurture connection, curiosity, and a sense of security. This is fatherhood.

JKwithKidsThis Father’s Day I was reminded that for many of us, fatherhood can come in many forms — anytime we strive to provide for young people in our lives, spiritually, emotionally, in times of need, and in times of triumph, this is fatherhood. Although my father passed away when I was young, I have been blessed with other father figures in my own life, and I would like to think I have played that role too in the lives of others, sometimes without even realizing it. There are the teachers who never give up on us, the coaches who never let us forget how much they believe we can succeed, the uncles and grandfathers who step in to provide advice and guidance when dad isn’t there, and the moms who are mom, dad, and everybody else. Fatherhood is about consistently stepping up and taking the time to reach out to and support a young person even when that young person does not know how in-need he or she is.

In many communities, this need to reach our youth and be there consistently for those who need guidance and mentoring is vast. So vast, in fact, that President Obama has charged all of us to stand up, reach out and remove barriers that too often prevent boys and young men of color and other young people from realizing their potential. The My Brother’s Keeper initiative has inspired communities across the country who have stepped up to ensure that all of our children, including our young boys and young men, are able to lean on and learn from those who came before them, and those who want to help guide their path forward to success. Mayors and school superintendents in cities all across the country are lifting up all students with their committed support and concrete actions like expanding summer jobs programs and launching mentoring initiatives. Being a young man of color should not mean you are a young man at risk—and a constant and committed figure of support in one’s life can make all the difference.

At ED, we take the President’s charge very seriously. From issuing new guidance to create more inclusive and supportive educational environments, to engaging communities and having honest conversations, from Denver to Chicago to Baltimore to Birmingham, our work has centered around our belief that we are all, in fact, our brothers’ keepers.

Father’s Day allows all of us to reflect on what it means to encourage and inspire “responsible fatherhood,” as the President said—both in our own homes to our own children, and to the millions of children without someone to call dad. Rise: The Story of My Brother’s Keeper, a new documentary, examines this commitment to our children and our next generation of fathers. For me, fatherhood is the nurturing love of a nightly bedtime story; it is words of encouragement, wise guidance, and a helping hand during a time of adversity; and it is the cultivation of confidence, security, and hope through caring and consistent support. My Brother’s Keeper is about building a world with more of all of those things for all young people. We all have a part to play in supporting the many faces of fatherhood and serving as our brothers’ keepers.

What is fatherhood to you? Please comment here, or reply to me on Twitter.

My Brother’s Keeper Initiative Helping to Ensure Access to Advanced High School Classes

This time each year, millions of students across the country are preparing to complete Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and other advanced course exams as part of their high school experience and in preparation for the rigors and opportunities of higher education. However, there are hundreds of thousands of students in our nation’s schools who demonstrate the academic readiness to participate in advanced courses, but aren’t enrolling for a number of reasons.

These “missing students” have the skills to achieve at the highest levels, but lack equitable access to a more rigorous curriculum that will prepare them for college and beyond. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to participate in the National Roundtable on Equitable Educational Excellence – a conversation between education, philanthropic and business leaders who will work together during the next three years to identify and enroll 100,000 low-income students and students of color in AP and IB classes across the country.

This is one of several independent commitments made over the last year in support of the goals of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative, aimed at addressing persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensuring that all young people can reach their full potential. In May of 2014, the MBK Task Force, comprised of 18 federal agencies, published a report with key recommendations for the public and private sector, including expanding students’ access to and successful completion of rigorous courses, such as AP, IB and dual enrollment options in high school.

A study by our National Center for Education Statistics found that a rigorous high school curriculum, which included at least one advanced course or exam taken, “was strongly related to their persistence in postsecondary education.” Encouragingly, 90 percent of high school graduates had at least one AP, IB or dual enrollment opportunity in their school. However, our Civil Rights Data Collection, which has surveyed every public school in the nation, found that, despite this widespread access, there are still disparities in the availability and number of advanced courses available to students.

In short, hundreds of thousands of qualified students are not enrolling in the courses for which they are prepared. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students are particularly under-represented in AP, and at many of the most diverse high schools, the advanced courses do not fully reflect the diversity of the student body. Moreover, young men of color lag substantially in their participation when compared with all other students. For example, 35 percent of White males were enrolled in AP classes compared to 17 percent of Black males and 25 percent of Hispanic males.

The time is now to make smart, strategic investments in our young people that will translate into real success.

The students and staff at Arvada High School in Jefferson County, Co., understand the value of such an investment first-hand. Last year, Arvada was recognized by the state of Colorado for achieving over 95 percent growth in the number of students passing AP exams. This accomplishment was made possible through a partnership between Arvada and the Colorado Legacy School Initiative (CLSI), which is funded, in part, by ED’s Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program, and by focusing on increasing the diversity of students who participate in and complete advanced courses.

We are excited to see schools, districts, and organizations across the country collaborating to expand access to college prep courses and make real what is possible in so many of our young people. We applaud the commitment of Equal Opportunity Schools, The College Board, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Tableau Software, and the International Baccalaureate Organization and their new effort to increase advanced course participation.

Students across the country are rising to the challenge of advanced courses and exams to pave a path toward success after high-school. We, as leaders in education, must rise to the challenge of bridging the gap to ensure more students graduate from high school with the tools they need to excel in college and beyond.

John B. King, Jr. is Senior Advisor delegated duties of Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

My Brother’s Keeper: A Year of Progress

This post originally appeared on The White House Blog.

When President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative one year ago, he did so with a powerful call to action to help more of our young people stay on the right track and achieve their full potential. Too many young people, including boys and young men of color, face daunting opportunity gaps and, like all of us, the President knows that America will be most successful when its young people are successful.

At the launch of MBK, the President called for government, businesses, nonprofits, schools, districts, and individuals, to commit to making a difference in the lives of our nation’s young people. Since then, nearly 200 cities, counties, and tribal nations from 43 states have accepted the MBK Community Challenge, a call to build and execute locally driven plans with a focus on achieving excellence and equity from birth through adolescence and the transition to early adulthood.

Last May, I joined young men in Denver, an MBK Community, for an open and honest discussion about their lives – their challenges, support systems, and visions for the future. So many of their stories – both heart-wrenching and inspiring – stick with me, but what perhaps struck me most were the words of Elias, who was once told he was “an exception to his race.” The words weighed heavily on him, as they did on me.

Elias told me that he doesn’t want to be an exception to his race. Rather, he envisions a system where schools partner with nonprofits and higher education to create a pipeline to success that will work for everybody.

The good news is that Elias’s vision is starting to take shape. Partners from across the country are recognizing the important work of MBK, with more than $300 million independently pledged by foundations and corporations. And, in July, AT&T, the NBA, and the NBA Players Association announced efforts that will expand opportunities for learning, mentorship, volunteerism, and jobs for all youth, including boys and young men of color. From nonprofits and foundations to businesses, private sector efforts are accelerating the work of MBK to promote academic and career success, and mentoring and public engagement.

The Department of Education is doing its part, too, by improving existing programs to better serve our youth, and by creating new and better public-private partnerships that best serve the needs of our young people. And, the Council of the Great City Schools is coordinating the leaders of 63 of the largest urban school systems in the country in an unprecedented joint pledge to change life outcomes by better serving students at every stage of their education.

In December, the Department of Education convened the White House Summit on Early Education, where we announced $750 million in new federal grant awards from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, to support early learning for over 63,000 additional children across the country.

And, I was pleased to join US Attorney General Holder in releasing a Correctional Education Guidance Package, which builds upon the recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force report. The guidance will help states and agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to the approximately 57,000 young people in confinement every day.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice released joint guidance reminding states, school districts and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential. The Departments also released additional tools and resources to help schools in serving English learner students and parents with limited English proficiency, including a toolkit to help school districts identify English learner students.

Great efforts are underway in communities across the country – but our young people still face great challenges. To truly change the face of opportunity in this country – to truly make the bounty of America available to the many, and not just the few – we must replicate and expand what’s working.

Our work is far from over. Let’s move forward, together, to do right by all our nation’s young people.

Read the My Brother Keeper’s Task Force one-year progress report to the President.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Painting a Different Picture of Education in the Juvenile Detention Center

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Secretary Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today announced a Correctional Education Guidance Package aimed at helping states and local agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to America’s estimated 60,000 young people in confinement every day.

This guidance package builds on recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force report released in May to “reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education.” Today’s guidance package is a roadmap that states and local agencies can use to improve the quality of educational services for confined youth.

Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder visited The Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center School to announce this new guidance. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, the art teacher, writes about the impact of the art program is having on the students in the detention facility.

When envisioning a juvenile detention center, people often think of an institution with barbed wire set away from a populated area; a forgotten place where children go to be punished and removed from the public eye. It certainly isn’t regarded as an educational institution where learning and creativity happen. My goal is to paint a different picture. It’s a picture of a place that offers hope in place of doubt, care in place of harm, and knowledge in place of ignorance.

Ghandi

One student’s artwork at the Norther Virginia Juvenile Detention Facility

The Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center School is housed within a single wing of the detention center. As you walk down our school’s hallway, you see artwork displaying where our students have been, where they are now, and where they hope to be in the future. Further down the hall, you might hear students presenting evidence discovered in a science experiment or discussing the personality traits of characters they read about in English class.

The classes at the Center are small, co-taught, and focus on project-based learning. Students receive differentiated instruction and individual attention from every teacher, which helps improve their academic skills. They frequently express that they benefit from this kind of education and insist they would have attended their former schools more regularly if it had been more like this.

The “d-center” school, as it is referred to by staff and students, has grown into a program that has helped students receive their high school diploma, obtain scholarships to community and state colleges, and, ultimately, have a positive impact in their own communities. Here, I have seen students slowly but surely remove the personal barriers they have so carefully built over the years. They trust the education program is here to offer them a chance for change and provide new opportunities. As educators, we realize this may be the first opportunity they’ve ever been given to explore different sides of themselves, tell their story, and truly practice being self aware.

At the end of the day, we measure our success by the small steps we see our students take on a daily basis. For some, it may be the first time they master math concepts, or speak in front of a history class. We don’t view our students as criminals or prisoners; to us they are students who deserve the best education a child can have. We foster an environment that sets high standards and encourages each one to discover their personal best. And in the process, we often end up finding our own personal best.

To learn more about the art education program at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center School please visit the Art room website

Kathleen Fitzpatrick works for Alexandria City Public Schools and is an art teacher at the Northern Virginia Detention Center School. In 2013, she received the 2013 Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award.

President Obama Announces the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge

Reposted from the White House Blog.

In February of this year, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative to ensure that all youth, including boys and young men of color, have opportunities to improve their life outcomes and overcome barriers to success. The initiative aims to bring together government, law enforcement, business, non-profit, philanthropic, faith, and community leaders around shared goals for young people in this country.

And now, the Administration is taking this effort local, by engaging Mayors, tribal leaders, and county executives who are stepping up to lead in their communities. In a speech this past Saturday at the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) awards dinner, President Obama announced the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, which will encourage communities (cities, counties, suburbs, rural municipalities, and tribal nations) to implement coherent cradle-to-college-and-career strategies aimed at improving life outcomes for all young people, consistent with the goals and recommendations of the White House’s MBK Task Force’s May, 2014 report. Rather than build a new federal program, or provide a top-down solution to problems that are often unique to local neighborhoods, the President has called upon local leaders, and sought to provide them the support and momentum they need, to design and implement strategies that are proven to work to address a set of challenges that are too often taken on in silos.

There is already incredible work being done by elected and community leaders around the country. This MBK Community Challenge is about harnessing that energy, expanding upon it, and operationalizing plans of action to functionally channel it at the local level.

“We need to address the unique challenges that make it hard for some of our young people to thrive,” the President told a packed house at Saturday’s CBC awards dinner. “[W]e all know relatives, classmates, neighbors who were just as smart as we were, just as capable as we were, born with the same light behind their eyes, the same joy, the same curiosity about the world — but somehow they didn’t get the support they needed, or the encouragement they needed, or they made a mistake, or they missed an opportunity; [so] they weren’t able to overcome the obstacles that they faced.”

The stakes couldn’t be higher for our young people, or our country, which is why we’re seeing such eagerness from local officials and community leaders. Already,135 mayors, county officials, tribal leaders, Democrats, and Republicans have signed on. And we’re going to keep welcoming them aboard in the coming weeks and months. These are the leaders that often sit at the intersection of many of the vital systems and structural components needed to enact sustainable change through policy, programs, and partnerships.

But even with leadership from the top in these communities, this must be an all-hands-on-deck effort. To that end, business leaders, non-profits, philanthropies, and local school-systems are organizing themselves independently to support communities’ efforts.

No child in this country should feel like they need to “beat the odds” in order to get ahead, and certainly shouldn’t feel like they are on their own as they try. Our young people deserve better than that, and as a country, we can’t afford to let so many of our children, our future workers, and our future leaders slip through the cracks.

Already on the ground in communities from coast to coast, leaders are responding to the President’s challenge. They are convening stakeholders, setting up data standards, setting goals and priorities, and preparing to redouble their efforts to give every young person a real shot at success, no matter who they are, where there from, or the circumstances into which they were born. Because when we work together to help all young people reach their full potential, we will be that much closer to reaching our full potential as a nation. The My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge is a call to action, and we all have a role to play.

Learn more about the Challenge and please visit MBKchallenge.org to accept the President’s challenge.

Broderick Johnson is an Assistant to the President, White House Cabinet Secretary, and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force and Jim Shelton is the Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education, and the Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force

 

My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam: Old World Values with New World Strategies and Tools

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Nearly 20 teams worked through the day on crafting compelling ways to show data and creative solutions to chronic challenges. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

When President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, he called on Americans to make sure that every American — including our boys and young men of color — can reach their full potential.  On August 2, over 150 people showed up early on a Saturday morning for a “Data Jam” hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with Georgetown University and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. The Jam took place at Georgetown Downtown in Washington, D.C.

The My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam brought together a diverse group of high school students, teachers, data scientists, data visualization experts, developers and community and non-profit leaders. The aim was to find new and better ways to use data to highlight opportunities and create solutions that can improve life outcomes for all students, including boys and young men of color. It was a powerful day.

A group of young men started us off with compelling spoken word performances that reminded all in attendance of the incredible challenges they face and enormous potential they hold. While acknowledging the role they had to play in changing the narrative of their own lives, they made plain the real danger and risks they face each day and expressed frustration in having to overcome the negative stereotypes that are applied to them and their peers.

The attendees then broke into teams focused on the six universal goals outlined in the My Brother’s Keeper 90 Day Task Force Report– entering school ready to learn; reading at grade level by third grade; graduating from high school ready for college and career; completing post-secondary education or training; successfully entering the workforce; and reducing violence and providing a second chance. The teams were designed to capitalize on the range of perspectives and expertise among the participants. The student and teacher team members almost uniformly commented that they had never before been engaged in developing or even asked about tools and resources that impact their daily lives.

Nearly 20 teams worked through the day on crafting compelling ways to show data and creative solutions to chronic challenges – ranging from strategies to reduce preschool suspensions and expulsions to websites that enable students to find career paths and the required education or training to access them. At the end of the day, seven teams were voted by other participants as having the most promising ideas, and those teams committed to moving these and other ideas forward.

We are excited about the ideas that emerged and anxiously await seeing these ideas in action. We are even more excited about the lessons learned from the day and how they will improve future Data Jams that I am sure other colleges and universities will be clamoring to host. But we are most excited by the demonstration of commitment and unbelievable energy of the individuals and teams that participated. With no cash prizes or press coverage, these people leaned in and showed a big part of what My Brother’s Keeper is all about – people coming together to help our young people and the country. The Data Jam simply applied a little technology and innovation to that simple but profound concept and left many of us feeling inspired.

Yet, nothing was as inspiring to me as the time I had during lunch with the youth in attendance. They asked how I got where I am; how I avoided and dealt with the violence in my neighborhood; how best to survive and excel on campuses where they, for the first time, might come across few people with similar backgrounds and experiences; and many other questions about life as they know it and imagine it. They shared their stories of struggle and triumph as well as their plans for the future and the impact they plan to have on the world. Their questions and their stories reminded me, as one young man said in the morning session, they are “overcoming every day.” So if we create ladders of opportunity, they are more than willing to climb. And, that, too, is a big part of what My Brother’s Keeper is all about.

Jim Shelton is Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

The My Brother’s Keeper initiative is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach led by an interagency federal task force to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of our young people, including boys and young men of color. Learn more about My Brother’s Keeper.

The Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation at Georgetown University exists to inspire and prepare students, faculty and global leaders with the necessary skills to generate and innovate solution-based social change both locally and internationally. It will promote collaborative spaces for fostering innovation and provide experiential opportunities to pragmatically impact the social sector. Learn more about the Beeck Center.

My Brother’s Keeper Initiative Resonates Personally for ED Intern

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ED summer intern Durrell Jamerson-Barnes. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

When I walked to the Financial Square Building at 32 Old Slip St. in New York City earlier this summer, I cried. I couldn’t even fathom the idea that I would be interning for the U.S. Department of Education. As a 22-year-old kid from the urban streets of Indianapolis, I recently read an article that stated that my hometown has had more than 50 homicides alone this summer. As I stared at the building, I could only think of what my brother Brandon once said: “Durrell, you’re going to do big things in your life, you’re gonna be on TV or something and when you do, remember me, remember us.”

Reflecting on my life so far, I recall one moment that became the landmark that set forth my career path. In an Advanced Placement class one day during high school, I was confronted by a group of Caucasian students who didn’t understand how young Black males are misrepresented. I told them in an outburst that they didn’t know what it took to wake up to a neighborhood with no hope of ever having a positive role model to set the foundation for the future. That was more than five years ago, and if there is one thing that I’ve taken from that encounter, it is the knowledge that we African-American males need successful role models.

I came on board as a summer intern fully aware of President Obama’s initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, and how it echoes the words of the great W.E.B. DuBois, “Our community is going to be saved by exceptional men.” Having a black man as our President is historic, and President Obama’s announcement of My Brother’s Keeper is just as significant because he is showing us through his policies and his actions what we need to do to ensure that all children in America can reach their full potential.

My Brother’s Keeper is critical for turning around a community because it shows young males of African and Latino descent that they too have a place in this world of success. Today marks the third anniversary of Brandon’s death, and the first anniversary of my brother Bryce Barnes’s death. These are some of the few people that I’ve lost to the streets. This opportunity to be a role model while interning at the U.S. Department of Education has not only shaped me and the way I think, but has also helped to shape my actions as well moving forward. I am now more than ever determined to be My Brother’s Keeper. What we have asked for was an opportunity and a voice to display our pain and share our stories. My Brother’s Keeper is the initiative that will give young minority males that opportunity and help ensure that all young people, including young minority males, can reach their full potential.

Durrell Jamerson-Barnes is a summer intern in the New York Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. He attends Eastern Michigan University.

 

My Brother’s Keeper D.C. Data Jam Announced

Cross-posted from ED’s My Brother’s Keeper website.

The White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and agencies across the U.S. government are leading an effort to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color, and to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential — the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK).

Georgetown University, in partnership with the Department of Education, is co-hosting a series of Data Jams to bring together developers, designers, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, researchers, statisticians, policy makers, educators, and students to create data visualizations of current challenges and build new tools in order to create ladders of opportunity for all youth, including boys and young men of color.

An Invitation

Come join us for the first My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam at Georgetown Downtown (640 Massachusetts Ave NW) on Saturday, August 2. We are bringing together a group of practitioners, experts, researchers, students, and educators to study the data and create inventive visualizations of the problems facing the young men and boys of color in our nation.

We hope to convene a diverse group of stakeholders to the MBK Data Jam and would greatly appreciate your sharing this event with anyone you think might be able to provide a unique perspective or add value (be it through expertise, past experiences, or a current skill set).

Resources & Get Involved

Nominate a Data Jammer: Form Here

Register for the Event: Event Registration Form

Join the MBK Data Jam Community: MBK Meetup Group

#code4MBK

President Obama at My Brother’s Keeper Town Hall: “America Will Succeed If We Are Investing in Our Young People.”

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama visited the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington, D.C., to participate in a town hall with youth, and to announce new commitments in support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

As the President said, “We want fewer young men in jail; we want more of them in college. We want fewer young men on the streets; we want more in the boardrooms. We want everybody to have a chance to succeed in America. And it’s possible if we’ve got the kind of team that we set up today.”

Watch President Obama answer questions during the town hall:

In February, as part of his plan to make 2014 a year of action focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans, the President unveiled the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

The Administration is doing its part by identifying programs and policies that work, and recommending action that will help all our young people succeed. Since the launch of My Brother’s Keeper, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans, through online and in-person listening sessions, who are already taking action.

Now, leading private sector organizations announced independent commitments that further the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and directly address some of the key recommendations in the Task Force ReportThese commitments include:

  • The NBA, the National Basketball Players Association, and the National Basketball Retired Players Association announced a five-year commitment in partnership with MENTOR: The National Mentoring PartnershipTeam Turnaround, and the Council of Great City Schools. The partnership will focus on recruiting new mentors and work with educators in at-risk schools to provide incentive programs that increase attendance and improve overall school performance.
  • AT&T announced an $18 million commitment to support mentoring and other education programs with a mentoring component.
  • Becoming A Man (B.A.M.) and Match tutoring programs announced $10 million in new funding to expand to 3-5 new cities over the next three years and support a large-scale study on the programs’ long-term effects.
  • Along with their partners from Silicon Valley and elsewhere, the Emerson Collective, founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, will collaborate with districts and educators to launch a competition to find and develop the best designs for next generation high schools. Together, they will contribute $50 million for this effort.
  • Citi Foundation is making a three-year, $10 million commitment to create ServiceWorks, a national program to help 25,000 young people in ten cities across the U.S. develop skills they need to prepare for college and careers.
  • Yesterday, the leaders of 60 of the largest school systems in the country, which collectively educate nearly three million of America’s male students of color, have joined in an unprecedented pledge to change life outcomes of boys and young men of color by better serving these students at every stage of their education.
  • The College Board is investing more than $1.5 million for “All In,” a national College Board program to ensure that 100 percent of African American, Latino, and Native American students with strong AP potential enroll in at least one matched AP class before graduation.
  • Discovery Communications will invest more than $1 million to create an original independent special programming event to educate the public about issues related to boys and men of color and address negative public perceptions of them.

Learn more about the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, including previous commitments and steps the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force is taking.

Cameron Brenchley is Senior Digital Strategist in the Office of Digital Strategy.

Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder Announce New Efforts to Address the Needs of Confined Youth

Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder meet with the members of the Federal Reentry Council in Washington, D.C. to discuss efforts to improve education and employment outcomes among persons reentering communities following incarceration. (Photo credit: Department of Justice)

Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder meet with the members of the Federal Reentry Council in Washington, D.C. to discuss efforts to improve education and employment outcomes among persons reentering communities following incarceration. (Photo credit: Department of Justice)

This past March, staff from our respective Departments met at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to hear from a group of seven formerly incarcerated youth. This amazing group – most of them now over the age of 18 – shared their experiences with the juvenile justice system.

No two stories were the same. Some youth shared that they received no educational services at all, not even books to read, during their time in the facility. While several youth had been identified for disabilities before they were incarcerated, many did not receive services aligned with their individualized education programs. Among the students who did receive instruction, the courses available did not provide credits toward a high school diploma.

We are grateful to these youth for their resilience, leadership, and bravery as they speak out about their experiences. It is time that we match our gratitude with a new commitment to reform, to ensure that every child placed in a facility has access to high-quality education services and the supports they need to successfully reenter their schools and communities.

Today, leaders from 22 agencies joined us for a Federal Interagency Reentry Council meeting to discuss actions to reduce reentry barriers to employment, health, housing, and education for individuals who are transitioning from incarceration to community.  The meeting comes on the heels of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report, submitted to President Obama last week, which recommends new action to address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by too many youth, particularly boys and young men of color, and ensure that all young people who are willing to do the hard work to get ahead can reach their full potential, including new efforts to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education.

In keeping with that recommendation, we announced to our federal partners that we sent a letter to each state school superintendent, and each state attorney general. The letter highlights the importance of supporting youth in facilities, describes how federal dollars can fund improved services, and signals our coming work to clarify the components of high-quality correctional education services.

This step continues recent work by federal agencies to support incarcerated youth in juvenile justice facilities. We’ve funded model demonstration projects for students with disabilities returning from juvenile facilities and commissioned a report from the National Academy of Sciences to better understand the developmental needs of incarcerated youth.  Moving forward, our departments will invest in a joint initiative to design an evidence-based education model for returning youth and to support demonstration projects in selected jurisdictions.

Our work builds upon the recent groundswell of state and local efforts, as well as private initiatives and investments in research, dedicated to strengthening services for incarcerated youth.  Last year, we were amazed by the efforts at Maya Angelou Academy at New Beginnings Youth Development Center to provide all youth with access to English, Math, Social Studies, and Science classes aligned with the standards of the District of Columbia’s Public Schools. During our visit to the facility, students were reading Night, by Elie Wiesel.

Maya Angelou Academy has set the bar higher for our youth in juvenile justice, and others are doing the same.

States such as Oregon, Indiana, and Pennsylvania are increasing access to technology as one strategy for connecting youth in juvenile facilities with academic content comparable to their peers in traditional schools.

Thanks to the Council of State Governments Justice Center, we now have consensus among researchers, practitioners, and advocates – from the fields of education, health, juvenile justice, and law enforcement – regarding the necessary steps to keep youth in school, prevent their entry into the justice system, and ensure that youth in facilities get the supports and services they need.

Plenty of work remains. Too many places still exist where youth in facilities do not have access to quality education services, or worse, receive no services at all. We know that there is often confusion among education and justice officials about who is responsible for students’ education once they are placed in a juvenile detention setting.  But we are heartened by the work of the Council of State Governments, the National Academy of Sciences, and others – an effort that represents growing national agreement that we have a collective responsibility to support, nurture, and prepare juvenile justice-involved youth.

That’s why we spoke up in a recent federal lawsuit in support of incarcerated youth with disabilities who alleged that they were placed in solitary confinement for 22 hours or more per day, discriminated against on the basis of their disability, and denied their right to a free and appropriate public education.

As noted in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force report – when young people come into contact with the juvenile or criminal justice systems, these interactions should not put them off track for life. The President has set a goal that, by 2020, our nation will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world and that all Americans complete at least one year or more of college or career training. We must ensure that our youth in correctional facilities can play their part in achieving that vision.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education and Eric Holder is U.S. Attorney General.