2014-12-01

This is the second installment of a three-part series on My Brother’s Keeper. In this article, we’ll explore how the city of Boston is participating in these initiatives. To read the first article on City Year’s Task Force, click here

By Sarah Cassell, Communications Coordinator

There is no shortage of national studies that show, on average, Black and Latino American males have significantly lower graduation and education rates than their White peers. Earlier this year, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and challenged cities, school, and communities to examine and to remove systemic barriers and to create greater opportunities for young men of color to reach their academic potential. 

Boston responded. 

In 2013, with support from the Barr Foundation and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, then Superintendent Carol Johnson commissioned a study to research and to examine the root causes of these disparities in Boston Public Schools (BPS). 

The results of the study are staggering. 

The report revealed a bi-track education system in Boston public schools. “One track prepares [students] for college and careers and one track doesn’t. This allows only a narrow minority of Black and Latino students to succeed,” Dr. Christina Makhtar, Principal Research Associate from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, said. 

Not only were Black and Latino boys more likely to be identified as having special needs in BPS, they were less likely to be enrolled in advanced work classes and exam schools. While Black and Latino males make up nearly 80 percent of all males enrolled in 4th to 6th grade at BPS in 2012, they accounted for less than half (48 percent) of males enrolled in advanced work classes. 

The laundry list of systemic disparities our young men of color face is long. (To read the whole report, click here.) But the commission didn’t just look at the causes of these disparities—they explored and recommended potential solutions to build the bridge toward educational equity in Boston. 

Boston and BPS are diverse. “Nearly two-thirds of Boston’s young men are Black or Latino,” Mayor Marty Walsh said during a community discussion of the report’s findings on November 13, 2014. But what the study also found was that even within those racial groups, our students and communities are geographically and culturally diverse, with individuals identifying as Caribbean, African, North American, or Central American. “We celebrate [our diversity],” Mayor Walsh said, “and we will leverage it to do more targeted interventions.” 

Several of these solutions suggested by the commission are already being put into action by BPS. One strategy BPS has already implemented was to hire a more diverse teaching and administrative staff, with whom the students might more easily identify. 

Change will take time. The journey to educational equity will be long and not with challenges. But Boston city officials encourage the public to become part of the conversation and planning to continue improving the future of our students. The next community forum will be Saturday, December 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more event information, click here.

To join the conversation online, check out #MyBrothersKeeper (nationally) and #path2equityBOS and #MBKboston (locally). 
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