Giving Compass' Take:

• Seattle Public Schools department is launching a reading program to support black male achievement at critical stages, as well as search for more teachers of color. 

• How is your school system supporting students of color and black male achievement? 

• Learn about philanthropic support for black male achievement. 

Immediately after launching her tenure as Seattle Public Schools superintendent, Denise Juneau was faced with a troubling statistic: Only about about 30% of the district's African American 3rd-grade boys were meeting the state reading standard.

Knowing that figure had to change, she and her team set off on a “listening and learning tour” with the intention of finding a solution.

The group focused on attending community centers and meeting places where families of color congregated. They went into their worlds, rather than asking them to come to the district, said Sherri Kokx, senior advisor to the superintendent.

What they heard was disheartening.

“The families told us about their experiences of frustration, anger and sadness,” Kokx said. “It was hard to hear from our underserved families how we’ve let them down.”

Though the 53,876-student district is only about 14% African American, it is known for its racial achievement gap. About half of its African American boys are clustered in 13 schools.

A Stanford analysis found the Seattle achievement gap starts early, with the typical white student scoring 2.2 years above grade level and African American students scoring 1.5 years below grade level. This gives Seattle the ninth-widest achievement gap out of 200 districts measured nationwide. The gap breaks up between the years of 3rd and 8th grades, presumably due to the level of education students receive in the district.

The district wants to see 70% of those students reading at the state standard level within five years, with a goal of eventually raising that figure to 100%. Its action plan includes the formation of the African American Male Achievement department, lead by Dr. Mia Williams. The new department will ensure African American boys get the educational support they need while focusing on improving 3rd-grade reading proficiency.

Read the full article about how reading programs support black male achievement by Shawna De La Rosa at Education Dive.