Robert Balfanz, a senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins, is among 10 education leaders named White House "Champions of Change" for their commitment to furthering education among African-Americans. He was honored in ceremonies Tuesday afternoon at The White House.
Balfanz is a national expert who focuses on America's dropout crisis, chronic absenteeism, and the warning signs that show as early as sixth grade which students are likely to drop out of high school. He works with low-performing schools across the country, many in high-poverty neighborhoods, through Talent Development Secondary, a comprehensive school improvement model created at the university's Center for Social Organization of Schools.
"My professional work has revolved around figuring out what it will take to enable all our students to graduate from high school prepared for adult success," Balfanz wrote in a blog prepared for the White House website. "It is driven by the belief that ... far too many of our students, especially students of color who live in poverty, fail to graduate from high school. It is an affront to what America can and needs to be."
Balfanz is a professor at the university's School of Education and is and co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center. He is also the founder and director of Diplomas Now, a national model for school improvement that combines the work of three nonprofit organizations in some of the nation's most challenging schools in 12 cities. In 2010, Diplomas Now was awarded a federal $30 million Investing in Innovation grant to expand the program and evaluate its effects.
The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama's Winning the Future initiative. The White House regularly features individuals, businesses, and organizations that are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.
"President Obama has made providing a complete and competitive education for all Americans—from cradle to career—a top priority," said Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett in a statement released by The White House. "This week, we look forward to welcoming Champions of Change who have been working to ensure that all African American students receive an education that fully prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers."