NY State Regents Will Recommend $50 Million to Address Opportunity Gaps | Teachers College Columbia University

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Urged by TC’s Sealey-Ruiz, NY State Regents Will Recommend $50 Million to Address Opportunity Gaps for Boys of Color


Thanks in large part to recommendations made by a blue ribbon committee that includes Associate Professor of English Education Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, New York may well be on its way to becoming the first state in the nation to develop a systematic program to assist young men of color as they travel the road through school to adulthood.

The state Board of Regents this week unanimously approved the recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Committee and Workgroup to Improve Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color and pledged to recommend $50 million in spending to coordinate a statewide version of President Obama’s 2014 My Brother’s Keeper program. That initiative provides mentoring, support networks and skill development programs to address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color in the United States.  While My Brother’s Keeper has forged many partnerships among the federal government, businesses, local agencies and school districts, it does not provide any mechanisms for systematic implementation at the state level.

The state funding, if approved by the Legislature and Governor Cuomo, would provide such a mechanism by building a new Office of Family and Community Engagement, expanding career and technical education programs, expanding and developing exemplary school models and practices, enlarging the Teacher Opportunity Corp , supporting school professional development programs, and providing additional incentives to local school districts. Those efforts would be targeted to combat systemic problems that currently leave black and Latino boys in the state more than twice as likely to drop out of high school as whites.

The Regents vote came after Sealey-Ruiz and other panel members presented their recommendations to the full board. Sealey-Ruiz focused specifically on the need for better teacher education and professional development to help teachers working with students of color, and the need for increased recruitment of African-American males – who currently comprise less than 2% of the nation’s teaching force -- into the teaching profession.

“The very idea that New York State could potentially be the first State in the nation to develop a statewide policy specifically addressing the goals of My Brother’s Keeper is historic and crucially needed,” Sealey-Ruiz told the Regents. (Watch Sealey-Ruiz’s remarks to the Regents.) “This goal cannot be met without supporting teachers, administrators, and pupil personnel services staff through ongoing professional development, and encouraging the State’s college and university teacher preparation programs to incorporate training that supports the expansion of knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to reach the Workgroup’s recommendations.”

Sealey-Ruiz spoke about her own work in the English Education program at TC “In my classes, for example, my students engage in what I call self-work – the getting at beliefs that impact practices and eventually set classroom and school policies that are often at odds with the everyday needs and realities of young men of color in the schools where they serve,” she told the Regents. “We engage in deep discussions on race, culture, linguistic and ethnic diversity, racism, and the skills and dispositions necessary to be an effective teacher of ELA and other content areas in high schools. I have learned over my almost 20 years of teaching at the college and university level, that without this type of self-awareness, it becomes difficult for the knowledge and skills I teach to have any traction or sustainability.”

The Regents established the Workgroup in May 2015 to identify priorities for the state that are in alignment with the goals of My Brother’s Keeper, including examining the educational challenges and opportunities faced by boys and young men of color, and recommend strategies addressing those challenges and identifying ways to expand opportunities for their success. The Blue Ribbon Committee was established shortly afterward in June. Other panel members who presented to the Board included David Banks, President and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation; Diallo Shabazz, Executive Director of One Hundred Black Men; Irma Zardoya, President & CEO of the NYC Leadership Academy; and N. Gerry House, President of the Institute for Student Achievement.  – Ellen Livingston

Published Friday, Dec 18, 2015

Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz
Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Associate Professor, English Education