‘Life-Changing’ Event Hosted by American Reading Company Sparks Actionable Solutions to Address the Needs of Black and Latino Boys in Public Schools
Scholars, educators, and thought leaders from across the country gathered at the offices of American Reading Company on May 22 for a day-long conference and action planning session centered on how to best educate Black and Latino boys and young men. The sharing of research findings, best educational practices, and personal stories shaped a day that captured, inspired, and instructed more than 250 school district, organizational, and business leaders. The meeting established the foundation of a soon-to-be-issued Action Plan that harnesses the energy of the day and articulates the best path to ensuring that this American and global challenge is met.
“This was an impactful and yes, life-changing session,” said Denise Mendez of Abington School District in Pennsylvania. “The collaborative spirit in the room was palpable, and I believe each participant left better than he or she had arrived. Whether better informed, better inspired, better motivated, or better determined to DO SOMETHING—we can all respond with a resounding ‘CHECK.’”
Jane Hileman, Founder & CEO of American Reading Company, said, “I’m grateful to the hundreds of school leaders who traveled from across the country to participate in this important discussion. American Reading Company will continue to host these types of events to accelerate actionable solutions that rely on coordinated efforts across government, community groups, nonprofits, and private business.”
The morning session was keynoted by Dr. Pedro Noguera, the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. Dr. Noguera’s presentation, “What About the Boys? Providing Academic and Social Support to African American Males,” provided a powerful framework for the conference and the panel discussion which followed. The model focuses on three interlocking areas: structure, culture, and agency. Dr. Noguera identified the barriers to success faced by Black and Latino boys and young men in each of these areas, and identified research-based practices that have been shown to increase their school engagement and accelerate their academic achievement.
The panel discussion that followed provided an opportunity for a diverse group of panelists to share experiences and research connected to Dr. Noguera’s keynote address and its themes. Mr. Emilio Garcia, a recent graduate of the School District of Philadelphia and former president of its district-wide Student Council, spoke movingly about the caring teachers in his life and the critical role they played in supporting the school engagement and success of boys of color. Mr. Johnny Walker and Mr. Rahim Islam from Universal Companies Charter Schools spoke about the role of leadership in transforming school culture through the creation and nurturing of a common vision and mission, and tying decision making to that that mission and vision. Dr. Irvin Scott, Deputy Director of Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, shared powerful stories—in both poetry and prose—of teachers who set high expectations and challenged him to meet them by building bridges of relevance between his life and the life of schooling. In the remarks of Mr. Ron Waters, Executive Director of The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color, participants were reminded of the importance of rituals, ceremonies, and rites of passage that connect boys to the school experience and bolster their emotional and social development. Finally, Mr. Stephen Peters, author of Do You Know Enough About Me to Teach Me?, reminded attendees of the importance of honoring student voice and of making sure that educators of boys of color truly believe that they have to “deliver the same quality to other people’s children that they want delivered to their own.”
The afternoon action planning session brought participants together in small groups facilitated by school district leaders. Led by Dr. Noguera, the session provided an opportunity to identify replicable, measurable principles, policies, and practices that have been shown to work. A set of important principles emerged from these discussions—principles to be more specifically articulated as policies and practices in the emerging Action Plan.
These principles, based on Dr. Noguera’s Six Essentials for Educating Black and Latino Students, include:
The importance of mainstreaming students receiving special education services;
The importance of de-tracking;
The importance of providing linkage coordinators and building structures and processes through which information about all aspects of a child’s life are shared in an integrated framework;
The importance of ensuring that instruction is personalized, outcome-driven, and collaborative;
The importance of providing rigorous school evaluations with clear rubrics focused on student engagement and achievement;
The importance of using real-time, meaningful data, and of being skeptical of “junk” data;
The importance of embedding leadership development strategies;
The importance of increasing the relationship-building capacity of teachers;
The importance of ensuring that students receiving targeted support are not stigmatized;
The importance of building the capacity of all stakeholders to make schools a stereotype-free zone and in confronting the “stereotype threat” faced by many boys of color;
The importance of understanding childhood and adolescent development and of making it foundational in instructional practices.
American Reading Company is pleased to join the national and international conversation about how best to educate Black and Latino boys and young men. As Dr. Noguera noted on Tuesday, “The dilemma faced by boys of color is not a Black problem, or a Latino problem, or some other community’s problem. It is not even an American problem; it is a global problem.” It will take political and personal will and the best efforts of all of us to overcome the human challenges presented by this dilemma.
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