Last year, GCP reported President Obama’s establishment of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans (“President Obama’s Plan to Help African American Students Succeed”, July 28, 2012). The President defined the mission of this Initiative as “[strengthening] the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African-Americans of all ages”.

Here’s an update: This month U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan appointed David J. Johns as Executive Director of the White House Initiative. Johns will work across federal agencies and with communities nationwide to identify evidence-based best practices to improve African American student achievement—from cradle to career. Johns is a graduate of Columbia University (with a triple major in English, Creative Writing and African American Studies) who went on to earn a master’s degree in sociology and education policy at Teachers College of Columbia University. He comes to the position of Executive Director from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where he was a senior education policy advisor.

Throughout his career, Johns has worked on issues affecting low-income and minority students, neglected youth and early childhood education, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). His research as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow served as a catalyst to identify, disrupt and supplant negative perceptions of black males within academia and society. You can read the full press release on his appointment here.

As we noted in our earlier post, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans has a very broad-based mission, and is an ambitious but welcome effort to come out of this administration. Looking forward to hearing about Johns’ plans to move this mission forward. Will keep you posted.