MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Public Schools has one of the worst graduation rates for black males in the country. In response, the district is starting a Black Male Initiative office to address and correct the problem of low graduation rates.

Only two other cities in the nation have such offices and MPS is learning from the director in Oakland, California how to deal with this issue.

“The numbers are alarming,” James Burroughs, MPS director of Equity and Diversity, said.

Low graduation rates for black males in MPS has reached crisis-level.

“We’ve actually had a gain in African-American graduation rates from 36 percent in 2012 to 43 percent graduation rate in 2013 and that not by any means acceptable,” Burroughs said.

The district has created a Black Male Initiative office, and brought in Chris Chatmon who heads that same office in the Oakland, Calif. school district.

“There is a subgroup of which is furthest away from opportunity who we’ve least served, ” Chris Chatmon said.

Chatmon spoke with teachers and community members about changing the current culture. Burroughs says he will take these lessons and apply them here in Minneapolis.

“Doing some innovative things about manhood development classes that are part of their curriculum and teaching everybody that the value and self-esteem of a young black boy is just as important to the education you put in through the traditional teaching methods,” Burroughs said.

Burroughs says the district is also addressing the high number of black male suspensions and referrals to special education.

“It has to be a collective effort in order to be able to address it. It just can’t be on the school alone to address it,” Olson Middle School Principal Kalon Cunningham said.

Cunningham says it takes volunteers, community partners and help from the county and social services to help the children deal with issues that affect their academic success.

Burroughs believes it will take a village to make changes. He is looking for 150 men to mentor black males at Patrick Henry High School.

It’s called 100 Strong Who Care, they will meet on Friday at 8 a.m. at the school to share their experiences and a little of their time to help these young men succeed.

Click here for more information.


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