The Keys To Our Future Are in the Hands of Black Educators

July 24, 2017

Education is one of the central pillars in the Black community and has long been considered the primary way to achieve upward mobility in America. During slavery, many risked their lives to become literate.

While nationwide Black students are graduating high school and entering college at lower rates than kids from other racial groups, there are some Black schools that are leading the way in defying these odds.

High school is a pivotal time where students are on the cusp of adulthood and decisions like graduating, dropping out, or going to college have significant implications for the rest of their lives.

In this article, we have decided to highlight 7 top high schools serving predominantly Black students across the country and producing incredible results.

Each of these schools use college-preparatory curriculums and between 80% and 100% of students attend college after graduating. Additionally, a significant percentage of their students receive free or reduced lunch and come from some of the most poverty-stricken parts of their respective cities.

Instead of comparing GPAs, SAT/ACT scores, AP scores, or graduation rates (because all of the included schools excel in those categories), the list focuses on the philosophies, teaching techniques, or cultural resources available at each institution that are helping to drive student success.

Recent research from U.C. Davis and Johns Hopkins University confirms that even having one Black teacher dramatically improves the success of Black students. The following schools show just how much more we can excel when those numbers are increased and paired with the right philosophy.

Urban Prep Academies

Founded in Chicago by a collective of African-American educators and business leaders, Urban Prep is a network of tuition-free all-male schools that encourages its students to defy stereotypes and overcome low expectations.

One of the cornerstones of this network’s success is the thriving positive culture that is cultivated by one-on-one peer mentoring, personal and college counseling, as well as a mutual respect for the school and community.

Mastery Charter Schools

Located in the heart of Philadelphia, Mastery Charter Schools are responsible for transforming several failing schools into some of the most prominent minority-serving institutions in the country.

What separates these schools is a key focus on teaching social-emotional skills and shaping the curriculum around the racial and cultural identities of students in order to keep them engaged.

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School

Named after the revered Black scientist, Benjamin Banneker AHS is a highly selective public school in Washington, DC with strong roots in math and science through its nationally recognized AP and IB programs.

Beyond academic rigor, this school requires students to participate in nearly 300 volunteer hours over their 4-year experience, which they assert “develops good citizenship, increases knowledge of the world of work and promotes awareness of career goals.”

The Preuss School

This unique school is actually located on the campus of University of California-San Diego and is committed to low-income students who will become the first in their families to attend college.

Like Urban Prep, the college-bound culture and access to mentoring/counseling resources really accentuate the academic program at The Preuss School.

Additionally, being located on a college campus provides an enhanced experience for students to connect with older minority students who are in the positions they aspire to be upon graduating.

Imhotep Institute Charter High School

Unlike another other school on this list, Imhotep in Philadelphia operates from an African-centered education model that combines a challenging curriculum with the principles of Ma’at and seven principles of Nguzo Saba.

By infusing our rich cultural heritage into the school’s day-to-day operations, students acquire a sense of belonging and connectedness to something much larger than themselves. They are encouraged to be lifelong learners with a commitment to the global African diaspora.

Thurgood Marshall Academy

Washington, DC’s Thurgood Marshall Academy aims to equip students with the skills any good lawyer would have such as ”the ability to solve complex problems, think critically, and advocate persuasively.”

By promoting democracy and advocacy ideals through coursework, after-school programs, and key community partnerships, the academy produces servant leaders who are ready to actively take on social justice issues in college and beyond.

Piney Woods Country Life School

As one of the oldest historically Black boarding schools in the U.S., Piney Woods is truly a jewel of the South. Located 20 miles outside of Jackson, Mississippi, this school blends academics with a Christian doctrine while emphasizing chores and strict discipline.

Out of all the schools on this list, Piney Woods provides the closest to a “college-feel” for students given it is residential and boasts a full 2000-acre campus.

This list is in no way exhaustive and there are plenty of other schools across the country transforming our brightest minds into the leaders of tomorrow as well.

However, there is something to be said about the academic and social benefits students attending these Black schools are receiving by being surrounded with like-minded high-achieving individuals who look like them.

These schools have figured out winning formulas and perhaps it is time for more of our schools to follow suit.

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