Seven California districts join Obama’s initiative

July 21, 2014

President Obama announces commitments from 60 of the nation's largest urban school districts to join My Brother's Keeper Initiative during a town hall meeting in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

* Story has been updated to include San Diego Unified as one of seven California districts participating in the initiative.

Seven California school districts are among 60 in the nation that are joining President Barack Obama’s initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper,” which supports African-American and Latino boys, beginning in preschool.

Collectively, the districts educate a third or more of the nation’s African-American and Latino students and nearly 40 percent of low-income boys of color, according to a press release issued today by the Council of the Great City Schools, based in Washington, D.C.

The California districts, all unified, are Los Angeles, San Diego*, Long Beach, Fresno, San Francisco, Sacramento City and Oakland.

The districts pledge to carry out 11 specific actions, including:

Some of the California districts have already taken steps included in the initiative. Los Angeles and San Francisco have led the way in eliminating “willful defiance” as a reason to suspend or expel students because they considered it subjective and data showed that it was used disproportionately against African-American students. Oakland Unified has an African-American Male Achievement initiative.

L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy and the district’s board have been outspoken supporters of the Obama initiative.

“It was an honor to stand with President Obama and school board members from across the nation as we pledged to make real what is already the new reality in Los Angeles: we will support our young men of color as we collectively transform outcomes through changes in policy, investments, but most of all mindsets,” said L.A. Unified’s board Vice President Steve Zimmer in a press release.

The announcement listed a wide range of businesses and nonprofits that will be supporting the initiative, including Palo Alto-based Emerson Collective, founded by the late Steve Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell Jobs. The collective, which has pledged $50 million to the effort, plans to launch a competition to develop the best designs for next generation high schools.

“My Brother’s Keeper” is about “helping more of our young people stay on track, providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future,” Obama said while unveiling the initiative in February. He called on educators to build on what works “when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.”

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