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San Diego Blueprint Mirrors Obama Initiative To Improve African American Education

President Obama has announced a new initiative focused on academic excellence for the country’s African-American student. A similar effort within San Diego city schools just completed its first year.

— President Obama has announced a new initiative focused on academic excellence for the country’s African-American students.

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans aims to get more African-American kids into pre-Kindergarten programs and have fewer unnecessarily referred to special education services. It will also look to even out the use of harsh disciplinary measures suspension and expulsion and ensure access to college and career-track classes.

While African-American students across the country and in San Diego have made gains in areas like preschool attendance and standardized test scores, they still lag their Caucasian classmates. And federal data released earlier this year showed that black and Hispanic students were more likley than their white counterparts to be suspended or expelled.

San Diego Unified’s Blueprint for Accelerating the Achievement of African American Students has similar goals. The Association for African-American Educators began working on the blueprint in 2008 and it was adopted by San Diego Unified last year.

Rev. Wendell Bass is part of the group overseeing the blueprint's implementation and said its first year focused on families.

“ We increased the kinds of workshops that they’re doing for parents and are trying to get more workshops," he said. "Trying to get schools to have parent centers and then looking specifically at targeting African-American parents and how to get them involved in the education of their children.”

In August the Board of Education will be looking at specific goals in academic and other areas so that the district cantrack whether changes made under the blueprint are making a difference, Bass said.

"President Obama's initiative and ours line up pretty well," he said. "And all that does is just reinforce the need, that yes we need to be doing something. And thank God somebody's picking it up and trying to get something to occur nationally."

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