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Mayor Bowser and DCPS Launch Bold, New Initiative to Empower Males of Color

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
District’s My Brother’s Keeper efforts centered around mentoring, targeted funding and new partnerships

(Washington, DC) - Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson launched Empowering Males of Color. The effort is part of the Bowser Administration’s effort to advance achievement and opportunity and reduce racial disparities for boys and men of color across Washington, DC. Currently, male students of color make up 43 percent of the overall DCPS student population and those students as a whole are not meeting their potential. Black male students in particular have the lowest attendance and student satisfaction rates.

While the District’s overall efforts in these areas are improving, the Bowser Administration will invest $20 million over the next three years in Empowering Males of Color to target the most urgent and persistent challenges.  In partnership with the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper effort, DCPS will use three key strategies to address the urgent needs of male students of color: mentoring, targeted funding for grants to schools, and a new all-male college preparatory high school.

“In Washington, nearly seventy percent of all males between the ages of 5 and 24 are black and Latino and too many of these young men are not reaching their full potential. We need to fundamentally change that dynamic,” said Mayor Bowser. “That’s why my administration is committed to advancing achievement and opportunity and reducing disparities for boys and young men of color in the District. My Administration is committed to looking for new, innovative ways to engage with our young men of color and improve outcomes throughout their lives.”
“We serve more Black and Latino boys than any other group of students, and we need to give them the tools to succeed,” Henderson said. “We can’t do this work alone, we will not be able to succeed, and these young people will continue to falter, unless we change the way we approach this work and unless the community steps up to help us change lives. Now is the time for this type of change we know is both absolutely necessary and absolutely possible.”

Mentoring and Fostering a Love of Reading

By fourth grade, nearly 50 percent of Black and Latino males are reading below grade level.

To launch this work, DCPS is recruiting 500 volunteers to serve as mentors to males of color throughout the city working to increase the percentage of males of color reading at grade level by the fourth grade. Through partnerships with Reading Partners and Literacy Lab, mentors will volunteer in schools on a weekly basis and help students improve their reading skills. Both Reading Partners and Literacy Lab have proven track records of success with DCPS students. The influx of volunteers will allow these organizations to expand their work in DCPS, help struggling readers and challenge exceptional readers. 

"This game-changing partnership with DCPS will allow us to provide even more students with additional one-on-one tutoring support to acquire the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and beyond," said Lisa Lazarus, Reading Partners' Vice President of Regional Operations.

Targeted Funding to Schools

Black males are the least satisfied with school, with satisfaction rates 16 percentage points lower than the district’s most satisfied students.

Through this new initiative, DCPS will offer schools the opportunity to create initiatives for males of color to improve academics, as well as support their social and emotional needs. Schools will apply for grants through the “Proving What’s Possible” model. The model will allow school leaders to decide what will work best for their school communities. These grants require schools to focus their efforts in one of three areas: academic development, family engagement and social-emotional supports.

“Proving What’s Possible grants will empower school leaders to innovate based on what is best for their students and families,” said Dr. Robert W. Simmons III, DCPS Chief of Innovation and Research. “The wisdom, insight and passion our educators show every day to support their students will be on full display as a result of this new investment, and I am confident they will, in fact, prove what’s possible and exceed all expectations.”

New All-Male College Preparatory High School

Despite recent gains, Black and Latino males are still graduating at rates lower than their peers; 48 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

In 2016, DCPS will open a new high school for males of color. Through a partnership with Urban Prep Academies, a highly successful network of all-boys high schools in Chicago, DCPS plans to open the first Urban Prep school in DC. Among Urban Prep’s many accomplishments, for five consecutive years 100 percent of its graduates have been admitted to four-year colleges and universities. Urban Prep graduates, who come from similar circumstances and backgrounds as DCPS students, enroll and persist in college at rates higher than national averages for Black males. 

“I earned my college and graduate degrees at Georgetown University and began my education career in Washington, D.C., first as a tutor in Sursum Corda and then as a teacher in a Northeast D.C. high school. So, I couldn’t be more excited by the prospect that Urban Prep’s first school outside of Chicago be in the city that, in a way, is where it all began,” said Tim King, the founder and CEO of Urban Prep Academies. “After an extensive national review process of school districts for Urban Prep to expand to, it’s clear that D.C. is the right place.  And The Empowering Males of Color initiative and the leadership of Chancellor Kaya Henderson demonstrate clearly that this is the right time.”

DCPS will measure the success of the Empowering Males of Color through six metrics: improving early literacy, attendance, college readiness and high school graduation, as well as increasing student satisfaction and meaningful postsecondary activities.

To learn more, visit  A fact sheet is available here.
Praise from other supporters of this work:

"As a principal, my mission is to prepare 100 percent of my students to succeed in college.  I take the 100 percent goal seriously, and right now, there is a gap for the young males of color in my school.  This gap is unacceptable to me and to DCPS. This is the reason why every day, I am searching, and requiring my staff to search, for ways to make this goal a reality for ALL of our young men of color. I am excited about this new work to expand our support to improve equity. There can be no equity in society if we do not do everything in our power to create equity in our schools.” – Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) Principal Maria Tukeva

"Mentoring through literacy speaks directly to the Educational Development Thrust of Delta Sigma Theta's Five-Point Program.  To be able to match our commitment to education with the overwhelming need of boys and young males of color in the District of Columbia is an opportunity we will cherish and an initiative The Federal City Alumnae Chapter is honored to have been called to participate in.” – Vania M. Smith, President of Federal City Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta