MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Public Schools has rolled out a new achievement program that will specifically address the needs of the largest demographic group within the district — black males.

The Black Male Student Initiative program was designed to deal with lagging academic performance and to increase graduation rates.

Chronic absenteeism and persistently low graduation rates are just a few things that seem to keep black males at the bottom of Minneapolis Public Schools’ performance statistics.

“My goal and my focus will be to change the trajectory of our young men,” said Michael Walker, who’s been tapped to head the new Office of Black Male Student Achievement.

Walker, Roosevelt High School’s assistant principal, says he must first change the mindset of all the players involved in the education of black men.

“We have to change the belief of our young men, we have to change the beliefs of our community, we have to change the belief systems of our educational, system so it’s going to be a lot of work with changing mindsets,” he said.

The academic performance of black male students is unacceptable, Walker said, and there needs to be a focus on all things that keep these students from succeeding in the classroom and at life.

“Math proficiency, we look at readying proficiency, we look at graduation rates, we look at attendance rates, and our young men are the bottom or near the bottom of those successes indicators,” Walker said. “And then when you flip that around, you look at our suspensions, our referrals and our expulsions, they are at the high end.”

He is using community partners, like the YMCA and other organizations to help address these needs. He is also looking to parents and individuals in the community to help him help give these kids what they need to be successful.

Walker hopes to increase the number of students in advanced placement and honors courses. He started three weeks ago, and has already reached out to 20 organizations he hopes will be partners in the effort.

Watch & Listen LIVE