If someone came up to me and said, “Can you make a school full of African American boys that gets outstanding test scores?” I would say, “If that’s the kind of school you want, I can make it happen. I have a list of non-negotiables: It must be a full-district magnet without a resides. It can’t be a school you send kids with bad behavior. It can’t have high levels of poverty. I need a good counseling staff, teacher pay incentives, and full access to any needed resources. Oh, and it needs to have a high-level of parental involvement, and having kids for additional enrichment time would be good, also.”
If they honored these “non-negotiables,” I could build a school with parental involvement, relatively low poverty, low behavior incidents, more-than-adequate resources and I could hand-pick my students and get rid of anybody who didn’t meet my standards. I would be able to build a SUPERSCHOOL.
I could create an ideal school for a small handful of students who will probably be successful at whatever school they attend. I will drain the best and the brightest from the other schools in Jefferson County. This school, on paper at least, would just kick so much ass. It would give Manual a run for its money, because it would basically do what Manual does — hand-pick the best students from across the district and exit anyone who steps out of line. I wouldn’t take kids with lots of discipline issues or from high concentrations of poverty. On top of that, the only students who could get into my school would be the ones whose parents already have the means and the engagement to give up a Saturday every month to be involved with the school and its staff.
The kids in poverty, the traumatized students, the students who don’t have the involvement at home for a variety of reasons — those kids will be left behind. They’re the ones who need the most help and they will be tossed aside; someone else’s problem.
I would pluck the shining stars out of every school in Louisville and bring them to my school. There, they will continue their trajectory of success… success that they’re likely to achieve wherever they go because they already have many advantages. But there will be empty desks at Frost. There will be empty desks at TJ and Knight and Farnsley and Moore and Highlands and Westport. And the students who once looked to these peers as an example to model and learn from will not have that positive influence anymore.
Having said ALLL of that, let me just say for the record that I don’t actually have a problem with the concept of an Afrocentric school specifically for young men of color. That doesn’t really bother me the way that it seems to bother many others. I know that even the most successful black students face roadblocks and hardships that do not typically affect even the most mediocre white students. But a young black man who comes from a middle-class background and has parents with the means and the inclination to give up at least one Saturday every month being involved in the school… that student has advantages many of his peers couldn’t begin to dream of. If I fill a school with this type of student, *of course* it will be successful. I’d be much more impressed by a school that took 100 of the most troubled students living with some of the worst trauma you can imagine, and helped them become successful. Where are the non-negotiables for THAT school?