Oklahoma City Public Schools is among 60 of the nation’s largest districts throwing their support behind a presidential initiative meant to ensure more students of color are succeeding academically.

While promoting his initiative Monday, President Barack Obama said 60 districts signed a pledge to participate in the initiative called My Brother’s Keeper. Obama first unveiled the program in February.

The goal of the initiative is to improve graduation rates among black and Hispanic male students, improve academic performance and ensure students are ready for college or the workforce.

Districts pledging to support the program Monday educate a third of the nation’s black and Hispanic students, according to the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition comprised of the nation’s largest districts.

Black and Hispanic students tend to struggle academically compared with their white peers, a trend known as the achievement gap.

According to 2013 fourth-grade National Assessment of Education Progress math scores, a national test used to measure and compare academic performance, the average score for a white student in Oklahoma was 245. Hispanic students averaged 229 and black students averaged 219.

The initiative is slated to receive $200 million in funding from philanthropies and businesses, according to the White House.

Districts supporting the program pledged to:

• Better help male students of color with academic and social development.
• Implement elementary and middle school programs meant to ensure students are on track to succeed in high school. This includes increasing the number of students in advanced placement, honors and gifted and talented programs.
• Keep student data and develop protocols to intervene when students show signs of struggling.
• Reduce the disproportionate number of students who are absent, suspended, expelled or placed inappropriately in special education classes.
• Work to improve graduation rates for male students of color, and to increase the number of students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms to receive financial aid for college.

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