FACT SHEET & REPORT: Opportunity for All: My Brother’s Keeper Blueprint for Action

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

FACT SHEET & REPORT: Opportunity for All: My Brother’s Keeper Blueprint for Action

The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report to the President can be found HERE.

Over the past five years, the hard work and grit of the American people pulled our economy back from the brink of collapse. We are now moving forward again. But there is more work to do, and for decades opportunity has lagged behind for some, including millions of boys and young men of color. Boys of color are too often born into poverty and live with a single parent. And while their gains contributed to the national high school graduation rate reaching an all-time high, in some school districts dropout rates remain high. Too many of these boys and young men will have negative interactions with the juvenile and criminal justice system, and the dream of a college education is within grasp for too few. Our society can and will do more to help remove barriers to all young people’s success, because America prospers not only when hard work and responsibility are rewarded but also when we all pull forward together.

Rebuilding that core American value—community—is why the President launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative designed to determine what works to help young people stay on track to 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. Cities and towns, businesses, foundations, faith leaders and individuals have made commitments to helping youth get a strong start in school and life and later connect them to mentoring, support networks and specialized skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way up into the middle class. As President Obama has said, “We are stronger when America fields a full team.”

Today, the President met with his Cabinet to discuss the Task Force’s initial assessments and recommendations and the President called on the American people to get engaged through mentorship opportunities nationwide.

Call to Action

The President is calling on Americans interested in getting involved in My Brother’s Keeper to sign up as long-term mentors to young people at WH.gov/mybrotherskeeper. This effort will engage Americans from all walks of life to sign up to develop sustained and direct mentoring relationships that will play vital roles in the lives of young people.

It is important that all children have caring adults who are engaged in their lives. But too many young people lack this support. For example, roughly two-thirds of Black and one-third of Hispanic children live with only one parent. Moreover, research suggests that a father’s absence increases the risk of his child dropping out of school among Blacks and Hispanics by 75 percent and 96 percent respectively. We see significant high school dropout rates—as high as 50 percent in some school districts—including among boys and young men from certain Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander populations. And some 27 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in poverty, compared to 11.6% of White Americans.

Presidential Task Force 90-Day Report

As part of its 90-day report, the Task Force has identified a set of initial recommendations to the President, and a blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit, philanthropic, faith and community partners.

In developing its recommendations, the Task Force identified key milestones in the path to adulthood that are especially predictive of later success, and where interventions can have the greatest impact:

  1. Getting a healthy start and entering school ready to learn;
  2. Reading by third grade;
  3. Graduating from high school ready for college and career;
  4. Completing post-secondary education or training;
  5. Entering the workforce;
  6. Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.

By focusing on these key moments, and helping our young people avoid roadblocks that hinder progress across life stages, we can help ensure that all children and young people have the tools they need to build successful lives. Focused on areas of action that can improve outcomes at these key moments, the President’s Task Force today presented him with recommendations including:

Cross-Cutting Recommendations

  • Launch a public-private campaign to actively recruit mentors for youth and improve the quality of mentoring programs.
  • Make the status and progress of boys and young men of color and other populations more visible by improving data collection and transparency.

A Healthy Start and Ready for School

  • Eliminate suspensions and expulsions in preschool and other early learning settings.

Reading at Grade Level by the End of Third Grade

  • Close the word gap by launching a public and private initiative to increase joint and independent reading time outside of school and build a reading culture in more homes.

Graduating from High School

  • Increase focus on transforming the schools and districts producing the majority of the country’s dropouts.

Completing Post-Secondary Education or Training

  • Increase college completion by expanding students’ access to and successful completion of rigorous courses, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment options in high school.

Entering the Workforce

  • Increase awareness about youth summer employment and use of pre-apprenticeships as good entry-level jobs.

Reducing Violence and Providing a Second Chance

  • Institutionalize community oriented policing practices in the field and employ methods to address racial and ethnic bias within the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

The recommendations identified by the President’s Task Force mark the starting point of what must and will be a long-term effort. The Task Force and public, private and philanthropic actors will continue to develop recommendations and support community solutions well beyond this 90-day progress report.

In addition to today’s announcements, in coming weeks and months, leading foundations will independently announce specific commitments to help ensure young people can succeed. The following foundations will together seek to invest at least $200 million: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Kapor Center for Social Impact, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

HBCUs are My Brother’s Keeper

By: Ivory A. Toldson, Deputy Director, The White House Initiative on HBCUs

One out of every 10 Black males who are enrolled in college attends an HBCU.  Research demonstrates that HBCU graduates enjoy greater financial success in their careers, and U.S. rankings consistently show that HBCUs are among the top producers of students who continue their educations through graduate and professional schools.  However, a myriad of social factors, as revealed in the Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study, disrupt the best efforts to recruit, retain and graduate Black male college students.

Systemic inequities and racial biases within schools systems are contributing to Black males being overrepresented in the colleges with open admissions standards, including community colleges and for-profit colleges, and underrepresented at colleges and universities with selective admissions standards, including many HBCUs.  Black males currently comprise 39 percent of all HBCU students.  Today, of the 1.2 million Black males currently enrolled in college, more than 529,000 (43 percent) are attending community colleges, compared to only 11 percent who attend HBCUs.  Another 11 percent of Black males attend for-profit universities, such as the University of Phoenix, which as a single institution enrolls the largest number of Black males in the nation. 

The Pipeline from Secondary Education to HBCUs for Black Males

In the current educational environment, even our most gifted Black males with the most dedicated parents can leave high school underprepared.  Often, students with very low GPA, low ACT/SAT scores, and key math and science classes omitted, have difficulty gaining acceptance to traditional 4-year institutions.

Today, approximately 258,047 of the 4.1 million ninth graders in the United States are Black males.  Among them, about 23,000 are receiving special education services, and for nearly 46,000, a health care professional or school official has told them that they have at least one disability.  If Black male ninth graders follow current trends, about half of them will not graduate with their current ninth grade class, about 20 percent will reach the age of 25 without obtaining a high school diploma or GED, 45 percent of Black males will attempt college, however only 16 percent obtain a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25.

In 2012, the Department of Education released the Civil Rights Data Collection (pdf) report. The study suggests that opportunity gaps that exist between Black and White males across the country center around three key areas: (1) Schools routinely offer Black children a less rigorous curriculum that omit classes required for college admission; (2) Schools discipline Black males more harshly by suspending them for behaviors (e.g. tardiness) that rarely result in suspensions among White males; and (3) Black students are the most likely to have the lowest paid teachers with the fewest years of classroom experience, and who become teachers through alternative teacher certification programs.

Recent evidence suggests that most Black males persist through high school and aspire to attend college at rates that exceed White and Hispanic males.  In a national survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 87 percent of Black students who were in the 9th grade in 2009 were in the 11th grade by 2012. In addition, Black students were more likely to advance ahead than fall behind or drop out.  About 64 percent of Black high school males expect to eventually graduate from college.  However, Black students are behind their peers in the percent who are taking college preparatory classes.  Fifty-three percent of Asian students, 24 percent of White students, 16 percent of Hispanic students, and 12 percent of Black students are taking pre-calculus or calculus by the 11th grade.

HBCUs and My Brother’s Keeper

HBCUs have the potential to play a major role in expanding college access to school-age Black males.  However, HBCUs need coordinated and proactive strategies to disrupt a system that underprepares Black males for postsecondary education and restricts their higher education options to the least competitive institutions of higher education. HBCU leaders should be active in crafting policy solutions for HBCUs to resolve inequities in U.S. public schools that impede academic progress of school-age Black males.  HBCU students can change the public perception that school-age Black males are disaffected and incapable of adapting to the educational system.  HBCU academic affairs administrators can promote a pathway through AP classes that can help Black males transition from public schools to colleges and universities. Through teacher education programs and trainings, HBCUs can examine the impact of teacher preparation on the academic achievement of Black males and aid in breaking the discipline gap barrier in our nation’s schools.

In February 2014, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper – a new initiative to help every boy and young man of color break barriers and get ahead.  The initiative surveys and builds on the work of communities and institutions that are adopting approaches to promote success among males of color.  Many HBCUs have initiatives that can contribute to the national agenda to help Black males to reach their full potential, contribute to their communities and build successful lives for themselves and their families.

The White House Initiative on HBCUs (WHIHBCUs) will work with the HBCU community and the Interagency Task Force that will oversee My Brother’s Keeper to do the following:

  • Use research and programs published by HBCU scholars to recommend Federal policies, regulations, and programs that would benefit boys and young men of color and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving lives for Black males.
  • Survey HBCU male initiatives to contribute to the administration-wide “What Works” online portal to disseminate successful programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.
  • Confer with HBCU researchers and administrators to recommend critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color for a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education.
  • Connect HBCU administrators and scholars to the philanthropic and corporate partners of My Brother’s Keeper so that they can learn how to access the revenue necessary to start and sustain programs for boys and young men of color.

To achieve these objectives, in February 2014, the WHIHBCUs began a series of sessions to bring together students, educators, policymakers and other interested in the advancement of Black males to discuss key policies and strategies for increasing their college preparation, recruitment, retention and graduation.  The goal is to promote the academic success of Black males at HBCUs through leadership, scholarship and civic engagement.  The first session was in Charlotte, NC, with additional sessions planned for Little Rock, Philadelphia, Memphis, and New Orleans.  In addition, the WHIHBCU student ambassadors (aka HBCU All-Stars) have participated in conferences calls with the Administration to instruct them on how to facilitate our priorities to uplift boys and young men of color, on a grassroots level.

The WHIHBCUs look forward to working with HBCUs students, faculty and staff, as well as HBCU advocacy groups and the media to demonstrate that HBCUs are “My Brother’s Keeper.”