Aug 20 2013
WASHINGTON — All through his years of schooling, David Johns was one of the few African-Americans in his classroom, from the high school in Los Angeles that was nearly an hourlong bus ride away – but that his mother insisted he attend – to Columbia University in New York.
Even when he taught elementary school in Manhattan, not a single black student sat behind one of the desks before him.
Now Johns sits behind a desk – at the U.S. Department of Education, no less – where it’s his job to lead a presidential effort to improve education for African-American students everywhere.
No small task, to be sure. The challenges are many, from a lack of high-quality programs to low test scores to the high dropout rate.
“Educational excellence is not often used in the same sentence when talking about African-American student achievement,” Johns said in an interview. “Traditionally, and in popular conversation, particularly in the media, whenever black kids are talked about with education, it’s negative. Or we will have infrequent moments where we will celebrate exceptions, but we sort of highlight them as exceptions.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan appointed Johns to become the first executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans earlier this year. His mission, by an executive order of the president, is to “help ensure that African-Americans receive a complete and competitive education that prepares them for college, a satisfying career and productive citizenship.”
African-American students face an array of obstacles, the order says, among them an achievement gap in test scores, a “lack of access to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools and challenging college-preparatory classes,” and disproportionate school discipline and referrals to special education classes.
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/08/14/199382/white-house-chief-of-black-education.html#storylink=cpy