My Brother’s Keeper

by Melanie Holland, CEI Intern.

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‘And that’s what ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is all about — helping more of our young people stay on track, providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future, and building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.’ President Obama

This past February, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum to establish the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force . The President is striving to create a broad coalition of backers to help create pathways to opportunity and address the barriers that show that too many young men of color are slipping through the cracks in our society. For example, 2013 statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that only 14 percent of black boys and 18 percent of Hispanic boys scored proficient or above on the 4th grade reading, compared to 42 percent of white boys and 21 percent of black and Hispanic girls.

The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force will strive to work across executive departments and agencies to:

  1. Assess and suggest improvements to Federal policies, regulations, and programs that apply to boys and young men of color.

  2. Create an Administration-wide ‘What Works’ online portal to disseminate programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color, while promoting incentives for private and public entities to develop and adopt strategies that have been proven to be effective.

  3. Develop a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education, that will assess, on an ongoing basis, critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color in absolute and relative terms.

  4. Recommend to the President means for ensuring this effort is sustained for years to come within government and across public and private sector

On May 28th, 2014, exactly 90 days after the President’s address, the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force released a progress report identifying six key life stages that many children of color start to fall behind, as well as their correlating recommendations for improvement opportunities:

1. Entering School Ready to Learn

  1. Close the Word Gap and support enriching home environments

  2. Ensure access to high quality early care and education

  3. Implement universal early health and development screenings

  4. Eliminate suspensions and expulsions in early learning settings

2. Reading at Grade Level by third grade

  1. Support joint book reading and in-home literacy

  2. Bring successful evidence-based practices to scale, starting with early literacy screenings

3. Graduating from High School Ready for College and Career

  1. Maintain momentum in turning around the worst performing schools

  2. Help schools and families recognize early warning signals and take action

  3. Encourage the use of fair discipline practices


Brothers Keeper
  1. Expand access to AP/IB courses and rigorous college prep

  2. Improve college advising services and support tools

  3. Aim higher in HS by encouraging FAFSA completion and postsecondary applications

5. Entering the workforce

  1. Enact broader growth and opportunity agenda

  2. Increase entry-level job, mentorship and apprenticeship options

  3. Help grow and improve summer jobs initiatives

6. Reducing violence and providing a second chance

  1. Reduce violence in high-risk communities by integrating public health approaches

  2. Encourage law enforcement and neighborhoods to work hand-in-hand

  3. Reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to keep youth on track

  4. Eliminate unnecessary barriers to reentry and encourage fair chance hiring options

In addition to these recommendations, the Progress Report announced that the following foundations will together seek to invest at least $200 million: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Kapor Center for Social Impact, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.