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Office of Black Male Student Achievement

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Unique program aims to close achievement gap

Lindsey Seavert, KARE
13 hours ago
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn – The leaders inside Minneapolis Public Schools knew only a drastic move could change the course of the district’s achievement gap and the disparities of its lowest performing students.

MPS is now the second district in the country to create an office dedicated solely to boosting the academics of young black males.

Unique program aims to close achievement gap
Michael Walker, a former Roosevelt High School assistant principal and basketball coach, is now is the new director of the Office of Black Male Student Achievement. The district said the position was created to reduce chronic absenteeism and raise low graduation rates.
“They represent the largest part of the achievement gap and the opportunity gap I would say as well as when you look a suspension and explusions,” said Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, the district’s superintendent.
She selected Walker in part because he overcame that fate. Walker is spending the first few weeks of school meeting with students and parents. This week he met with 7th and 8th grade boys at Lucy Laney Community School in North Minneapolis.
“I see myself. I see myself in every last one of you,” he told the students. “My ultimate goal is I want you guys to graduate from high school and I mean on time, in four years. That is what I expect and that is what you should expect.”
Walker grew up in north Minneapolis before he graduated from Roosevelt High School. He attended Southwest Minnesota State University for his undergraduate degree, where he also played basketball. He later attended the University of Wisconsin – River Falls for his master’s degree in education. Before coming to work at Minneapolis Public Schools, Walker worked at the YMCA, where he specifically created programs for young black youth, which he believes positioned him to take on a tough role for the district.
“I work for you guys,” he told the kids. “I am a licensed counselor by trade, and my thinking my training has always taught me that we all have the answers inside of us, to our own issues and problems. The issue is that some of us are never asking the right question to pull it out.”

Unique program aims to close achievement gap
Walker joined more than a dozen fathers and male role models in North Minneapolis as they rallied outside the school to support students, high fiving and encouraging students as they walked off the bus. Community leaders call it the “Million Father March,” a movement to bring more positive black male role models into the lives of children, many who are fatherless.
“I can understand we can never be a blood birth father but we can be father figures,” said KG Wilson, a community activist leading the charge. “This is call out to every and any man that has a heart inside of his chest.”
The district hopes the movement of male support can be modeled at other schools in the district. The effort will include door knocking, outreach and mentoring. Walker has already immersed himself in that process.
“That is why I took that role and I want to make sure I am giving back. I am taking my time to talk to educators and families because I know how important this work is,” said Walker.
Walker and his wife have three children, two of whom attend MPS.
His job is modeled after similar position in Oakland, California, which was the first in the country, and proved to reduce suspension and increase graduation rates.



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