Seattle’s African American Academy, funded by taxpayers, was supposed to be a model for educating black children.*
After almost two decades, it has come to represent the district’s continuing failure to raise black students’ academic achievement.
Seventh-grade math test scores at the K-8 school are the lowest in the district. Enrollment has declined, from a peak of 508 students six years ago to 339 today. When the district chose someone from outside Seattle to take over as principal this fall, the school’s backers protested the decision, a controversy that threatens to drain more students from the school’s half-full building on South Beacon Hill.
Now, as part of a new commitment to boost low-performing schools in the South End, the district is pledging $462,769 this year — enough for six teachers — to the academy, along with a math coach and a reading coach. If the school doesn’t show progress over the next few years, the district may close it.
“We are making that change, putting the supports in, holding them accountable, and if that doesn’t work, we have to look at other options,” said Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno.
“Letting it limp along is a mistake we’ve made.”
A longtime dream
The African American Academy was the longtime dream of black education activists who were frustrated that even with integration efforts like busing and school choice, black students weren’t doing well in school. They wanted a school the African-American community could rally around, where black students felt accepted. When it opened in a shared Central Area building in 1991, 167 students were turned away because of a lack of space.
They planned a K-12 school where any student could enroll, but with an African-American focus, where curriculum is grounded in cultural principles such as unity, purpose and creativity, and where African-American history doesn’t start with slavery. Students wear uniforms and are called “scholars.” Some of the curriculum focuses on identity issues. For example, in one unit, middle-school kids watched the evening news and discussed its portrayal of African Americans.
* Hypocrisy is the act of condemning another person, where the stated basis for the criticism is the breach of a rule which also applies to the critic and of which the critic is in breach to a similar or greater extent. A person engaged in hypocrisy is called a hypocrite. Imagine then if a pioneering group of European Americans constructed and maintained an ethno centric school — at taxpayers expense — and the vicious never-ending outcry that would result from all quarters. Below is the ‘creed’ the “scholars” of the African American Academy is required to learn and live–but with a corresponding European American comparison:
The mission of the European American Academy (African American Academy) is to meet the needs of European American (African American) and all children, providing them with an academic and European (African)-centered education: nurturing them, in order to meet their emotional needs, while helping them to develop positive social and cultural skills which will enable them to become leaders of tomorrow.
WE, the family of the European American Academy (African American Academy), will prepare our children to meet the future and to flourish in it
WE, the staff, parents, scholars, and community make up the Euro-Tribe of the European American Academy (Village of the African American Academy) of Seattle Public Schools. We shall persevere in the scholarly traditions of our ancestors that enriched civilizations around the world, that gave birth to leaders, and provided knowledge of our beauty, unity and hope extending from our elders to our present and future generations.
WE, together, will achieve our vision through the embodiment of the principles of Nine Noble Virtues (Nguzo Saba), catalyst for the rebirth of our ancestral heritage and the renaissance of our rich and regal history. — Frank Roman, BOD, EAU