David J. Johns is an adjunct professor at American University in Washington, DC. David most recently served as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and was appointed to lead the Initiative by President Barack H. Obama. The Initiative works across federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students. Under his leadership, the Initiative studied the experiences of students—leveraged a partnership with Johnson Publishing Company—Ebony Magazine—to produce a series of Summits (AfAmEdSummits) at college campuses throughout the country where the only experts who sat in front of the White House seal were students, as young as elementary school. The recommendations students made at AfAmEdSummits have been used to improve policies, programs and practices designed to ensure that students thrive—both in school and life.
Prior to joining the Department, Johns was a senior education policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Johns has worked on issues affecting low-income and minority students, neglected youth and early childhood education and with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Johns obtained a master’s degree in sociology and education policy at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he graduated summa cum laude while simultaneously teaching elementary school in New York City. He graduated with honors from Columbia University in 2004 with a triple major in English, creative writing and African American studies.