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Addressing The Racial Divide In Las Vegas Schools

 In honor of Black History Month, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will address students, teachers, administrators and public officials at UNLV Friday to share what's being done at a federal level to improve opportunities for black students.

David Johns, appointed by the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2013, works to identify practices to improve African-American student achievement by working across federal agencies and communities across the country.

Johns told KNPR's State of Nevada that Clark County is not unique when it comes to the disparity in achievement for students of color. 

"Our kids are brilliant and if we give them access to opportunity they will exceed our highest expectations," Johns said.

It's been 60 years since the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court ruled segregation in schools is unconstitutional. But racial discrepancies still exist.

In Las Vegas, more than 70 percent of the black student population qualifies for free and reduced lunches, and at the start of the 2014-15 school year, there were 110 openings for teachers in schools with more than a 25 percent black population.

Alyse Williams is an African-American woman who is a sophomore at Syracuse University, but she grew up southern Nevada and attended Clark County School District schools.

She says she wasn't considered for the gifted program because the school assumed she wouldn't pass. Williams' mother had to convince the school to test her. They did and she made it.

She believes school administrators and teachers need to open their eyes to what African-American students can do.  

"They need to throw out the stereotypes about students of color," Williams said.

Johns believes a key element to changing the racial divide is high-quality early education. 

"We quite frankly spend too much time attempting to catch up and remediate and spend time on development and we could save and re-purpose those funds, if we would only start early," Johns said.

Johns points out it is not just about what happens in school that can determine a student's success. He believes students should be given opportunities for internships and programs outside of school that help build them up as people. 

"There is nothing more important than investing in the learning and education of our children," Johns said.

The African-American Student Summit will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, at the Stan Fulton Building, 801 E. Flamingo Road.

GUESTS:

David Johns, executive director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

Alyse Williams, sophomore, Syracuse University and Clark County School District graduate
Copyright 2015 KNPR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.knpr.org/.

David Johns, executive director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

Alyse Williams, sophomore, Syracuse University and Clark County School District graduate

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.