Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans to Deliver Commencement Address at Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia

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Khalilah Harris, deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA), will deliver the commencement address for Mastery Charter School, Shoemaker campus, in Philadelphia on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Commencement ceremonies will take place at Temple University. Harris will encourage graduates to give back and to seize opportunities to become leaders who are committed to building their communities. She also will challenge students to reach higher, to push themselves to be better than the generation before them and to dispel myths of low expectations that others may have of them by being the best that they can be. In addition, Harris will highlight the Initiative’s work across federal agencies and communities to help improve educational outcomes for African-American students such as themselves.

Data released earlier this year from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics show that U.S. students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before. The nation’s high school graduation rate hit 81 percent in 2012-13, the highest level in the nation’s history. Graduation rates for black and Hispanic students increased by nearly 4 percentage points from 2011 to 2013, outpacing the growth for all students in the nation. What’s more, the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students receiving high school diplomas narrowed over that time, the data show.

Today’s economy calls for critical skills that go beyond the basics. To ensure the economic strength of our country, students must graduate high school ready for college, careers and life. The Department has invested more than $1 billion in early education; implemented strategies that improve achievement and close opportunity gaps, and awarded billions of dollars through such grant programs as Race to the Top,Investing in Innovation and School Improvement Grants, as well as expanded college access and affordability for families.