President Obama announced a new initiative that will help African-American students gain greater access to a complete educational experience, explained at an event in New Orleans. The initiative will give students access “to a complete and competitive education from the time they're born all through the time they get a career.”
Through this new initiative, the Department of Education will create an African-American Education office with a director appointed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The office will coordinate with communities and agencies to help ensure that the youth in African-American communities will be better prepared through high school to move on to higher education.
This move comes at a time when the president has faced criticism from Republicans and some Black leaders for not doing enough to help the African-American community during this economic down-turn's sluggish recovery.
“As black Americans, we all take pride in Barack Obama's historic election, but unfortunately his performance as president has not matched that enthusiasm,” Tara Wall, senior communications and coalition adviser for the Romney campaign said in a statement “He's disappointed black small business owners, failed to address rising black unemployment—which now stands at over 14 percent, and is double that among our youth—and failed to address the widening economic disparity gap.”
However, Obama has gained a lot of praise for his educational initiatives, which are seen as the beginning steps to solve many of the problems that African-Americans are facing right now.
“From allowing states to opt out of key No Child Left Behind provisions, introducing Race to the Top and releasing the Civil Rights Data Collection Report on educational disparities, President Obama continues to demonstrate the will to improve equity in education and access to college,” Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., a Howard University professor said to The Root.
According to a White House release, the initiative is on a mission to curb these disparities by:
• helping to restore the United States to its role as the global leader in education; strengthen the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages; and help ensure that African Americans receive a complete and competitive education that prepares them for college, a satisfying career, and productive citizenship.
• complementing and reinforcing the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative, and support enhanced educational outcomes for African Americans at every level of the American education system, including early childhood education; elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education; career and technical education; and adult education.
• helping expand educational opportunities, improve educational outcomes, and deliver a complete and competitive education for all African Americans by increasing general understanding of the causes of the educational challenges faced by African American students.
• increasing the percentage of African American children who enter kindergarten ready for success by improving their access to high-quality programs and services that enable early learning and development of children from birth through age 5.
• decreasing the disproportionate number of referrals of African American children from general education to special education by addressing the root causes of the referrals and eradicating discriminatory referrals.
• ensuring that all African American students have comparable access to the resources necessary to obtain a high-quality education, including effective teachers and school leaders, in part by supporting efforts to improve the recruitment, preparation, development, and retention of successful African American teachers and school leaders and other effective teachers and school leaders responsible for the education of African American students.
• reducing the dropout rate of African American students and helping African American students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career.
• increasing college access and success for African American students and providing support to help ensure that a greater percentage of African Americans complete college and contribute to the goal of having America again lead the world in the proportion of adults who are college graduates by 2020.
By doing these things the president hopes that this initiative will accomplish what a similar program, created in 1990 for Hispanic students, did in creating better opportunities.
“A higher education in a 21st century cannot be a luxury. It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford,” President Obama said at a National Urban League gathering in New Orleans.
Jillian Reed is a writer for 360 Education Solutions