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Inside One School’s Approach to Educating Young Black Men

Students walk between classes at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School.

—Jared Soares for Education Week

In “Raising Kings,” our three-part audio series that documents the first year of a public high school for young men of color, Education Week and NPR explored how a single school in Washington, D.C., is trying to solve one of the most intractable challenges in K-12 education: low achievement for African-American boys.

The statistics for black males are as sobering as they are well-known. In America’s public schools, they are disproportionately suspended or expelled. They are among the least likely to graduate from high school and go onto college. And they are more likely than any other group to be incarcerated.

Upending those outcomes is the mission of Ron Brown College Prep, a citywide public high school that is now in its second year.

The school provides single-gender education. Its faculty is predominately African-American men. It has a CARE team of social workers, counselors, a psychologist, and other professionals devoted solely to the social-emotional needs of the school’s students.

At the center of the school’s ethos is restorative justice, which holds students accountable for their misbehavior by making amends with the peers or teachers they offend, rather than suspending or otherwise excluding them. Students regularly visit college campuses, take overseas trips, and meet high-profile leaders in city government, journalism, and other fields—opportunities for enrichment that are rare in low-income schools.

None of those interventions by themselves is unique, but perhaps unlike any other school, Ron Brown is betting on a robust investment in all of them that together, the school’s supporters believe can make a significant difference in the lives of its young men.

To dive deeper into the complex issues highlighted in our reporting on Ron Brown College Prep, we’ve curated a list of Education Week articles and Commentaries:

Single-Gender Education:

Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, the executive director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia explains the legal hurdles to opening single-gender schools in the public school sector.

Erin Pahlke, an assistant professor of psychology at Whitman College, discusses what research has shown so far on the effectiveness of single-gender education.

• Single-Gender Schools Prove Best for Some Students
• Study Finds Single-Sex Schools Benefit Some—But Not All
• Black Boys’ Educational Plight Spurs Single-Gender Schools
• Commentary: Why Science Doesn’t Support Single-Sex Classes

Restorative Justice:

• VIDEO: Psychologist Explains How Restorative Justice Works in High School for Young Men of Color
• A District That Ditched In-School Suspensions
• ‘Restorative Justice’ Offers Alternative Discipline Approach
• Commentary: How We Stopped Sending Students to Jail
• Commentary: Restorative Justice: The Zero-Tolerance-Policy Overcorrection

Black Male Educators:

• Study: Black Students More Likely to Graduate If They Have One Black Teacher
• Black Male Teachers a Dwindling Demographic
• Commentary: Black Teachers Matter. School Integration Doesn’t
• Commentary: Where Are the Black Male Teachers?

Effects of Poverty and Trauma on Students:

• VIDEO: Teaching Empathy to Combat Trauma
• Author: To Reach Struggling Students, Schools Need to Be More Trauma-Sensitive’
• Commentary: Student Trauma Is Real. But Connection Can Heal.
• Commentary: The Brain Science Behind Student Trauma
• Commentary: Five Steps for Trauma-Informed Ed. Leadership

Grading/Social Promotion:

• Districts Weigh Student Retention With Stigma of Being ‘Held-Back’
• More States Retaining Struggling 3rd Graders
• Commentary: There Is No Such Thing as Social Promotion

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