Grosso Statement on Empowering Males of Color Program

Councilmember Grosso (I-At Large) released the following statement to reiterate his support for DCPS’ Empowering Males of Color (EMOC) initiative that was announced by Mayor Bowser and DCPS last month:

For decades, jurisdictions throughout the United States have recognized that targeted additional funding and support is necessary to improve the academic achievement for groups our past discriminatory laws have disadvantaged. Title I funds go to schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families; through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, we provide additional funding to ensure that children with a developmental delay or disability have equal access to public education. In the District of Columbia just last year, the Council unanimously passed the Fair Student Funding Amendment Act of 2014, which provided LEAs with additional funding to serve at-risk students.  This was necessary because we recognized that certain students, like our homeless and foster youth, face unique challenges that require additional school support in order for them to succeed. The EMOC initiative, in my opinion, is no different.

The District of Columbia, through DCPS, has an exceedingly persuasive justification for moving ahead with this program. Currently, male students of color make up 43 percent of the overall DCPS student population. By fourth grade, nearly 50 percent of Black and Latino males are reading below grade level. According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, although D.C.’s scores improved overall in 2013, 8th grade Black and Latino students reading scores continued to lag behind White students’ scores.  Further, only 48 percent of Black male students and 57 percent of Latino male students graduate in four years, compared with 66 percent of their peers.

The achievement gaps persists and has widened. Instead of challenging the current investment in these students, we should be asking why we haven’t invested sooner.

I in no way believe that DCPS moving ahead with their EMOC initiative means that they will somehow abandon their commitment to ensuring that our young women also succeed. I recognize that there are unique issues facing young women of color and as the Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I will continue to push our public schools and my colleagues to address the inequities in areas like school discipline and mental health.  However, I know that the overall academic success of DCPS must include improving academic outcomes for our young men of color to ensure that they are able to go further faster.  I will continue to support this effort to ensure that we are closing the achievement gaps.