Conspiracy of Care

Designed for input on individual and group efforts to improve the education of Black Males in America. Sponsored by the Delores Walker Johnson Center for Leadership of Atlas Communities.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Below are excerpts from an article in today’s Los Angeles Times. The article highlights Stephen Strachan, principal of Jordan High School in Watts, a no nonsensene administrator who has an unofficial experiment going on in his school. It is his his all-male academy, which is in fact a group of young men who have taken all their classes exclusively together for the past three years. It’s only one part of Jordan High School’s program but it clearly has a special place in Strachan’s plans.

You can see many similarities to The Eagle Academy in this small program.

And when he needs to recharge his batteries, Strachan retreats to a classroom filled with boys: his all-male academy, a daring, unofficial experiment that he will not allow to fail.

We heard these statistics before.

AT Jordan, as at many urban schools, boys are more likely than girls to cut classes, fall behind, fail, drop out and wind up as adults in dead-end jobs — or, worse, prison cells.

David Banks returned to teaching when he read in the New York Times that Black Males were becoming an "endagered species."

"Our men are going to be extinct in the inner city if we don't do something," Strachan says. Prodded by his sense of desperation, he built his experiment on research that suggests boys can thrive in single-sex classes.

The Eagle Academy has the advantage of the kids wanting to be in a singler gender school.

His first year at Jordan, he picked 30 freshmen boys at random — half black, half Latino — and assigned them to take all their courses together, with no girls in their classes.

The boys were not happy. Some parents were wary, "but they were open to anything that would save their sons," Strachan says. "I got very little push-back when I explained what I was doing."

But a brewing culture of success seems to propel the group forward. Last spring, 85% of them passed the state's graduation exam, compared with 24% of Jordan's other sophomores. This year, their curriculum includes Advanced Placement courses and college-level math, science and literature.

"They're struggling, but they're beginning to see education as a tool, a ticket out of the inner city," Strachan says. "When there's a problem, they come to me. Some are thinking about college, [saying] 'Teach me how to study.' "

Eagle Academy hopes to become a 6-12 school with six to ten more like it in New York City.

Word of the boys' progress has begun to spread; the nearby King-Drew Medical Magnet began its own all-male classes this fall. And new rules, announced last week by the U.S. Department of Education, will make it easier for other schools to try single-sex classes.

"There are days when I walk this campus and I visit other classes and I don't see that level of expectation and engagement," Strachan says. "Then I get in that class and feel the energy…. We're doing things different, stepping out of the box."

He speaks bluntly to his all-boy class, not just about the challenges of junior year, but of his belief that "designed racism" threatens to keep them trapped. It's "cultural change" Strachan is going for, "trying to instill leadership values among them as men."

Sound familiar?

He gets groans when he suggests a new dress code: a collared shirt and tie one day a week, and blue Jordan High polo shirts the rest of the time.

Three years in, the boys haven't stopped complaining about the gender segregation. "I hear it all the time," Strachan says. " 'Can't we get some girls in here? Or at least a couple of cute female teachers?' They protest, and I listen. But I think adults need to make the decisions."

THIS year he's giving his all-boy class a chance to take one elective — with girls. The first week of school, he visits to talk about their schedules, asks if there are any problems with their new classes.

A hand goes up. Strachan braces for a complaint about lunch menus or polo shirts. Instead, the boy asks if he can change his elective from the computer class he had requested.

"I'm having trouble with math," he tells the principal. "Can I take another algebra class?"

Strachan swallows hard and smiles, but his voice never changes. "I think we can arrange that. An algebra class."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

David Banks said a lot of important and interesting things last week at the Wheelock Atlas seminars, but certain things struck me as particularly insightful.
Here's one:

"Looking at a young black male who is good in math/arithmatic, we need to see a Future Scientist not a nice little kid who we hope will get through school, get a decent job, and stay out of trouble."

That's another form of high expectations and has to do with how we look at our kids.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I found this information on the Mass Mentoring Partnership and thought if you were having trouble finding mentors this might help. Here is their basic statement of purpose.

Mass Mentoring Partnership exists to ensure the availability of high-quality mentoring programs to meet the needs of youth statewide.
Our Vision: That all young people are connected to caring adult mentors who will listen to them, stand by them, and guide them.

Also here is an ad in Mass Volunteerism from the Dennis Yarmouth School District looking for Mentors and describing its program. An ad from your school community may lead to mentors.

Dennis Yarmouth Schools Mentors Needed

Work with a 4th-8th grade student after school, or in the community, an hour a week for minimum of a year. Working on class projects, homework, reading or just talking about life, career, sports, music is all o.k. Mentors and Mentees receive a lot of support from the agency. The requirements? Commitment and genuinely caring! These kids are "one hour away from success" . . the hour you can spend with them. Trainings are offered 2-3 times a year and highly encouraged. Occasional non-mandatory Mentor meetings are offered to get together to talk about issues. We have volunteers from age 16-81!!
This opportunity is sponsored by: Dennis-Yarmouth Schools Mentoring Project
We need volunteers who are free at these times


This volunteer opportunity is available to the following types of volunteers

Adults (26-54)

Dennis-Yarmouth Schools Mentoring Project

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth, primarily through a professionally supported One-To-One relationship with a caring adult. To assist them in achieving their highest potential as they grow to become confident, competent, and caring individuals, by providing committed volunteers, national leadership, and standards of excellence.
The DY Mentoring Project started 9/30/04 with a USDOE grant to work in 5 schools, grades 4-8, in the Dennis Yarmouth Regional School District. Volunteers spend one hour a week after school with their Mentee during the school year. They also see them in the summer on a less regular basis. BBBSCC&I has been on the Cape for 32 years.

Last updated on October 20, 2006