“You have to be authentic. You have to trust your instincts, and do not let inexperience stop you from asking questions and believing that you can affect change. Also, be comfortable with failure – it’s the only way we can learn.”

D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson had this advice for McCourt School and Georgetown students when she visited campus in an event hosted by the Georgetown EduWonks Club.

McCourt students had a rare opportunity to engage with the Chancellor on issues confronting DCPS and broader issues of education policy in an intimate setting. The event covered many topics, including Teach for America and how it has grown over time, the importance of human capital within education systems, and the need to restructure the teacher evaluation system to improve classroom outcomes.

Chancellor Henderson also discussed a disturbing trend in D.C. Public Schools- how young men of color lag behind their peers by almost any measure- all indicators of truancy, high school graduation rates, reading and math scores.

In response to this crisis, DCPS introduced the Empowering Males of Color initiative, a $20 million investment to specifically support the education needs of these students. Forty-three percent of DC public school students are Latino or African American males.

The investment supports a mentoring literacy program, which signed up more than 500 volunteers in its first week. It also builds DCPS’ first all-boys college preparatory school. Henderson enlisted the help of Tim King (F'89, L’93), CEO of Urban Prep Academies, to build the school east of the Anacostia River by 2017.