theGrio’s 100: David Johns, closing the achievement gap for black students

Who is David Johns?

David J. Johns, 31, lives, breathes and sleeps education. A former NYC elementary school teacher, Johns has risen through the ranks to achieve prominent roles in politics and federal government.

He was a senior education policy adviser in the Senate for five years and a policy adviser to the Obama campaign in Nevada.

Throughout his career, Johns has worked on issues affecting HBCUs, minority and low-income students, under-served youth and early childhood education. His research as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow served as a catalyst for a better understanding of negative perceptions of black males within academia and society.

His career success is backed by impeccable academic qualifications. Johns graduated with honors from the ivy league school Columbia University in 2004 with a triple major in English, creative writing, and African-American studies. He earned his master’s degree in sociology and education policy at Teachers College of Columbia University, where he graduated summa cum laude.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Johns has recently been appointed executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans. As executive director, Johns has been asked to identify evidence-based best practices to improve African-American student achievement.

The goal of the initiative is to work with federal, state, and local agencies as well as community groups to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African-American students.

What’s next for David Johns?

He told theGrio that he aims to work towards President Obama’s goal for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

“I want to continue to strive to meet the president’s ambitious goal of leading the world by college graduates by 2020,” he said. “I recognize that the work of the initiative can help go a long way towards fulfilling this goal.”

“It’s important that we are supporting our African-American students, schools and communities throughout their educational journey from cradle to career.  Expanding access to high-quality early childhood programs, raising standards for our elementary and high school students and making sure that college is affordable are among the key factors I look forward to continuing to work on in the years ahead.”