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Oakland, Calif. School District Launches Effort to Support Black Girls

Encouraged by the success of its program designed to help black boys succeed in school, the Oakland, Calif., school system is launching a similar effort for girls.

The African American Girls and Young Women Achievement Program aims to better serve black female students and give them a "place where they can find support and encouragement," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The effort comes six years after the district began laying the foundation for its African American Male Achievement Program, which started in 2010.

Oakland was the first school district in the nation to create a department with the sole focus of helping black males. Since the initiative began, suspensions and absences have fallen for participating students, and graduation rates are on the uptick. Also, the participants in a related mentorship program have higher grade point averages than peers who don't participate.

Christopher Chatmon, the district's deputy equity chief and the founding director of the office of African-American Male Achievement, wants to offer that same support to black girls. Chatmon was among Education Week's 2015 class of Leaders to Learn From.

Researchers have begun to spotlight the challenges that black girls face in U.S. schools. According to 2011-12 data from the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, black girls are 16 percent of the female student population in public schools in the United States but more than one-third of all female school-based arrests.

"Ultimately, we want to create an extraordinary learning environment that helps girls of color meet the goals of graduating and being college-ready or community-ready," Chatmon told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We have work to do."

The district has hired Nzingha Dugas, formerly director of the University of California, Berkeley's office of African American Student Development, to lead the program, KQED reports.

Related Stories and Opinion Pieces

Districts' Boys-Only Programs Prompt Legal Questions

Educator Leads Campaign to Transform Lives of Black Boys

Los Angeles District Approves Plans For Two Girls-Only Schools

Study Finds Single-Sex Schools Benefit Some—But Not All

Policing Girls of Color in Schools

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