District residents are weighing in on what they believe should be part of the curriculum for a forthcoming all-boys academy in the city.
Chicago’s Urban Prep High School, which the proposed southeast D.C. boys high school would be modeled after. (AP photo)
The creation of an all-male public high school recently cleared a hurdle with the legal blessing of D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. The school, supported by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, is a component of the city’s Empowering Males of Color initiative, designed to improve the academic performance of the District’s boys of color in the school system.
Anthony Lorenzo Green, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member district 8B04, said the school curriculum shouldn’t just focus on teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses.
“The school should offer students personal counseling and seminars on self-improvement,” said Green, who dropped out of H.D. Woodson Senior High School before earning his GED. “The students at the school should learn how to build their self-confidence and how to love themselves.”
Green said that the school’s leadership should develop a personal academic plan for each student.
Statistics compiled by District school officials show that 48 percent of Black male students and 57 percent of Latino male students graduate from high school in four years, compared with 66 percent of their classmates. Only 33 percent of boys of color are proficient in reading and math by the time they graduate, according to standardized tests, compared with nearly 60 percent of students who are not boys of color.
The all-boys academy will be modeled after the successful Urban Prep Academies in Chicago, which has a reputation for producing college-ready students despite their economic backgrounds.
Louis Henderson, the founder and president of the African American Enterprise Resource Center and Siblings Together USA, said the academy should focus on rites of passage. A rite of passage is a process that boys in some cultures must complete to be designated a man. Often he is tested in areas such as decision-making and personal responsibility.
“The students at the academy need to be taught life skills,” said Henderson, who once lead a national non-profit dedicated to helping foster care children and adults. “A part of the rites of passage is how you treat an individual. It is more than how you relate to people of the opposite sex, but a general love of humanity.”
Sandra “S.S.” Seegars, candidate for the Ward 8 D.C. Council vacancy, said there needs to be a course that teaches males how to deal with females.
“A boy’s social behavior is very important,” she said. “Some boys may not know how to socialize with girls and as a result, the boys can become abusive. I think learning how to deal with females should be taught perhaps as an elective.”
While Black boys will comprise the majority of its students, the school will enroll a number of Latino youths, too. Joshua Lopez, an international business consultant, said students should have the chance to learn other languages.
“I would like to see an emphasis on dual languages, which means learning English and a second language,” he said. “Our boys will be competing in a global economy and they will need to know how to communicate in different languages in order to marketable for jobs and business opportunities.”
Green and Lopez said students should learn history that emphasizes the accomplishments of people of color in the context of American and world history.
There is a general consensus in the District that STEM classes should be stressed, but Henderson said even that should be extended.
“There needs to be a focus on STEAM ,” he said. “These young men should have the chance to express themselves in an artistic fashion so they can be well-rounded individuals.”