The folks at J.S. Chick Elementary School had better watch themselves. If they don’t have one already, they might wind up with a waiting list. Or with a longer one. That’s because this Kansas City public magnet school is accomplishing the reverse of what so many other schools are failing to do. It is attracting and keeping black students -- and closing in on the achievement gap -- by showing them that they matter. That they don’t have to be society’s afterthoughts, but its architects. Chick is doing that by basing everything it teaches around the history and culture of Africa and its diaspora. And so far, it’s working. According to The Christian Science Monitor, its 300 students -- 99 percent of whom are black -- are posting achievement test scores that are well above the statewide average. It manages to accomplish that, a feat that flies in the face of conventional wisdom that accepts that black achievement must always be tethered to assimilation, by incorporating things such as African rites of passage into academics as well as lessons on leadership and esteem. It’s about time someone tried that approach. It’s easy to believe that if a school focuses only on academics, then the esteem will take care of itself. But what we forget is that when children come to a school, they’ve already absorbed messages and beliefs about themselves that stain whatever canvas that we expect the academics to stick to. That’s especially true for many black students, most of who have repeatedly heard Africa referred to as the Dark Continent, and who only see it through the prism of suffering and stereotypes. These same students are also now grappling with a hybrid black culture that has been spawned from a core of negativity. I mean, we’re now debating whether we ought to continue to vilify “******,” as the ultimate hate word, or defang it by continuing to use it as a term of endearment. What that means is that many times, a black child has to unlearn stuff to begin to believe that he or she can learn at all. Not surprisingly, the Chick program has garnered acclaim. According to the Monitor, educators from countries such as Japan and Brazil have visited it, and other districts with large numbers of black students are looking to replicate it. Yet, even with all the promise shown by such an approach, there’s still a catch. The catch being that even though this is a new program, one underpinning needed to guarantee its success is based on an old truth: Any school is only as good as the students and the forces that are behind them. But at least the people who put the Chick program together understood that. Somehow, they managed to harness the frustration of black parents who were tired of seeing the fate of their children’s learning shackled to the outcome of desegregation decisions. So they built a community coalition that worked to develop the school’s curriculum, and to ensure the success of the students there. That, in and of itself, was a miracle. In many black communities, where parents work two and three jobs, coalition building often doesn’t get such a high priority. Coalitions mean a lot of meetings. But apparently, in this case, the interest of education trumped fatigue, and it worked. But now, the problem is keeping it going once the children of the parents who originally started it graduate, or once the teachers and administrators either move, or are transferred. The rope of unity can be so easily frayed. And there’s the chance that the next group of folks in charge won’t share that same vision. Obviously, those are issues that must be wrestled with in the future. Yet right now, it’s good to see that a group of black people took charge and decided to make the public education system work for them. More communities -- at least those black communities that can muster the will and the social capital -- ought to try it. It makes sense to do so. After all, more and more white people are abandoning public school systems, so black people shouldn’t be shy about trying to incorporate programs that bolster their kids’ achievement. There are lots to think about. But here’s what’s key. The coalition that came up with the Chick program didn’t wait for the fate of black kids to be decided upon by others. And for that, they deserve an A-plus. http://www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/sayitloud/weathersbee614 ----------------------------------------------------------------------- who said it was impossible?They started at home,organized,and now they have an enitre school.Similiar things (after school/summer programs) are in Chicago that are Afrikan-centered and I hear similiar things are going on in the East Coast of America. AND you have the Jamaicans re-building their land in Jamaica (re-establishing)along with repartriates that return to Afrika and buying land (small in number).