In a recently released statement about the commemoration of Black History Month this February, acting Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. recognized the achievements of African American students and emphasized areas where more progress is needed.
“While we have made great gains in ‘unlocking the golden door of freedom’ and expanding equity and opportunity in education for African American students, there is much more work to be done,” he said in the statement.
King discussed three areas in which he will focus his efforts this year: ensuring equity and excellence throughout the nation’s cradle-to-career education systems, focusing on “lifting up” the teaching profession and school leadership, and ensuring that students who begin college and postsecondary training complete their studies, especially low-income and minority students.
“I encourage everyone to reflect on how we will work together toward strengthening the ‘golden door of freedom’ for all of our students,” King said. “It is only by doing so that we can continue to make sure that each of us are woven into the fabric of success desired for all of our nation’s children.”
In the statement, he also noted the nation’s record-high high school graduation rate, which is currently at 82 percent. At the same time, the gap between African American, Latino, and white students graduating continues to narrow. King attributed these improvements, in part, to the decreasing dropout rate among minority students.
In addition, there are a million more African American and Latino students in college today than in 2008. King lauded historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for aiding in the graduation of African American students. While HBCUs make up just 3 percent of all higher education institutions in the U.S., they produce 27 percent of African Americans with bachelor’s degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
King said he believes that Black History Month is the time to reflect on African American leaders who have helped make a difference in the quality of education that minorities receive today.
“Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate educators and civil rights leaders … who emphasized the importance of providing all students access to a quality education,” he said.