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'My Brother's Keeper' First-Year Report Highlights Focus on Minority Males

A year ago, President Barack Obama asked the nation to commit to improving both educational and career opportunities for the nation's young men of color as part of his My Brother's Keeper Initiative.

Last week, the task force formed to spearhead those efforts released a one-year report on the steps that have been taken at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as those by foundations, private corporations, and non-profit organizations, to help move those goals forward in both the policy arena and in practice.

When the president announced the effort in February 2014, about $200 million had been pledged by corporations and foundations to help finance programs to support the initiative. To date, more than $300 million has now been committed from the private sector in grants, in-kind contributions, or other resources. And more than 200 mayors, tribal chiefs, and county executives from across the country have signed on to the compact and have taken concrete steps to address cradle-to-career opportunities for boys of color and address issues of equity, according to the report.

"[My Brother's Keeper] is important because our nation will be most successful when all of its young people are successful," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and task force chairman Broderick Johnson wrote in the report's executive summary. "There is evidence indicating that, when so many of our boys and young men of color and other young people grow up in poverty, drop out of school, have trouble finding meaningful work, or get involved in the criminal justice system, we lose the contribution of their talents and abilities in our communities and in the larger economy."

Steps include the commitment by the Council of the Great City Schools, the Washington-based organization that represents the nation's big-city school districts, to boost graduation rates in its constituent districts, reduce suspensions, and expand early-childhood education; local collaborations in places such as Fulton County, Ga., where the county is working on improving trust between the local community and law enforcement; and Lansing, Mich., where the "Mayor's Young Lansing" is working with the Board of Water and Light to expand an apprenticeship program. The College Board also made a $1.5 million commitment to ensure that all African-American, Latino, and Native American students who show potential to succeed in Advanced Placement classes take those classes; and JP Morgan Chase & Co's pledged $10 million to expand mentoring and training programs for young men of color.

Michael Casserly, the council's executive director, issued a statement marking the one-year anniversary and highlighting the steps under way in the member districts.

"The activities that our Great City Schools put into motion will last well beyond this administration and will be sustained until every one of our students has access to the highest academic standards and attains their full potential," Casserly said.

The report also highlights federal action, including efforts to improve equity in schools by pursuing strict enforcement of civil right laws and issuing guidance on school discipline and the education of incarcerated youths, expanding Promise Zones and implementing programs aimed at breaking down barriers to success for Native American youths, to name a few. The president's free community college push is also listed among those federal-level initiatives.

My Brother's Keeper was criticized by some for its lack of emphasis on minority girls, who also face similar challenges as their male counterparts and whose outcomes also lag their white peers. The administration responded to those concerns by convening experts to focus on challenges that black, Latina, and minority girls face.

We've written extensively about the My Brother's Keeper-aligned initiatives in the past 12 months on the District Dossier blog and elsewhere on this site. The full report can be viewed here.

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