This article teaches us that there isno magic formula to successfully serving our Black and Latino male students. Insome cases, separating by ethnicity and gender worked. In some cases, it didnot. There are arguments for and against any type of school.
The difficulty arises whenconsidering all the elements that need to exist in a school that is effectivewith these populations, as well as all other populations. These schools focuson community, culture, individual learning networks, mentoring, relevantcurriculum, rigor, character, ethics, and a respect for learning. That’s a tallorder.
The situation becomes even morecomplicated when attempting to transform a campus. My campus received a $6million TTIPS grant to transform our campus. We are focusing on creatingacademies to make education more relevant and responsive to student interests.Along with that since we are an urban campus with many who are considered”at-risk” students, there comes the charge of keeping studentsengaged—many of our students aren’t aware of their interests in aneducational setting. And if they are aware, they have had little to no occasionto speak or act on these interests. We are needing to create contexts thatinvite discussion, ignite curiosity, boost inquiry into possibilities. We arealso dealing with shrinking enrollment due to feeder pattern changes andchanges in demographics. We need not only to recruit new students to ouracademies but also having to re-recruit, in a sense, our current students forthem to realize that education can be different and more meaningful to them.
This change isn’t limited to ourstudents. There is a need for a philosophical shift for the teachers. Clearly,it’s not a completely new mindset, but rather, a return to the originaleducational values that drove teachers to education in the first place. Many ofus have become so accustomed to the climate of high-stakes testing, thepressures from the powers that be to deliver test results, that we have feltforced to sacrifice or hide our meaningful literacy instruction because it wasso at odds with the assessment world. In response to this, we began thetransformation process by attempting to empower our educators to believe thatit’s time to return to what we know works. It’s time to return to puttingstudents first by having high expectations, rigorous and relevant lessons, andfocusing on what works. It takes courage to confront those above us stillsaying that the test results are our top priority.
Because no matter what we do, thetesting climate continues to exist. We are deemed worthy or unworthy of futuregrant funding based on data that in part is assessment-based. So will thetransformation be successful? Will we be able to strike the fine balancebetween what we know is right and effective for all of our learners with theincreasing demands of high-stakes testing?
Only time will tell. I remainoptimistic not because I am naive or idealistic but because I know it has tohappen. We have to provide a quality education for all of our students. Onething for sure, I am more motivated than ever to find ways to reach not onlyour Black and Latino males but all of our students. Reading this article bolsters the notion thatthe entire school community contributes to the success of these criticalgroups.