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Poised for Much Needed Transformation: A Response to Saving Black and Latino Boys by Pedro Noguera

Written by Janelle Bence
February 28, 2012

This article teaches us that there is no magic formula to successfully serving our Black and Latino male students. In some cases, separating by ethnicity and gender worked. In some cases, it did not. There are arguments for and against any type of school.

The difficulty arises when considering all the elements that need to exist in a school that is effective with these populations, as well as all other populations. These schools focus on community, culture, individual learning networks, mentoring, relevant curriculum, rigor, character, ethics, and a respect for learning. That’s a tall order.

<>The situation becomes even more complicated when attempting to transform a campus. My campus received a $6 million TTIPS grant to transform our campus. We are focusing on creating academies 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 students engaged—many of our students aren’t aware of their interests in an educational setting. And if they are aware, they have had little to no occasion to speak or act on these interests. We are needing to create contexts that invite discussion, ignite curiosity, boost inquiry into possibilities. We are also dealing with shrinking enrollment due to feeder pattern changes and changes in demographics. We need not only to recruit new students to our academies but also having to re-recruit, in a sense, our current students for them to realize that education can be different and more meaningful to them.

This change isn’t limited to our students. 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 original educational values that drove teachers to education in the first place. Many of us have become so accustomed to the climate of high-stakes testing, the pressures from the powers that be to deliver test results, that we have felt forced to sacrifice or hide our meaningful literacy instruction because it was so at odds with the assessment world. In response to this, we began the transformation process by attempting to empower our educators to believe that it’s time to return to what we know works. It’s time to return to putting students first by having high expectations, rigorous and relevant lessons, and focusing on what works. It takes courage to confront those above us still saying that the test results are our top priority.

Because no matter what we do, the testing climate continues to exist. We are deemed worthy or unworthy of future grant funding based on data that in part is assessment-based. So will the transformation be successful? Will we be able to strike the fine balance between what we know is right and effective for all of our learners with the increasing demands of high-stakes testing?

Only time will tell. I remain optimistic not because I am naive or idealistic but because I know it has to happen. We have to provide a quality education for all of our students. One thing for sure, I am more motivated than ever to find ways to reach not only our Black and Latino males but all of our students.  Reading this article bolsters the notion that the entire school community contributes to the success of these critical groups.

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