On June 6, 2013. I visited the SEED Foundation’s SEED school in Baltimore Maryland. My interest in the school is rooted out of a vision I believed could help low-income young males escape poverty: boarding school education.
As a low-income (which I didn’t know I was) young male, the communities and environments that most of us come from are filled with influences that are counter to what helps people get out of poverty. Some of those influences: easy access to drugs and the drug trade business, fatherless homes, working single-parent homes, violence, criminal gangs, and the ills that we hear about regularly from the streets of Chicago, IL to the streets of Lorain, OH.
I learned of the Seed Model after watching the documentary “Waiting for Superman.” My eyes lit up at the thought that this idea was already being implemented and was showing success. Therefore, I knew I wanted to visit the school. So with the support of the Nord Family Foundation, I drove from Elyria, OH to Baltimore, MD with my daughter Octavia and we toured the SEED Maryland School.
When I arrived I felt a similar feeling that I did upon a recent trip to Cedar Point: excited, in awe, and anxious beyond measure. I was excited about the fact I was blessed with this opportunity to see something that I dreamed of. I was in awe at the size of the campus and the sophistication of the facility including cameras and security gates. And finally I was anxious about whether I was equipped to be able to carry such a mantle and after this tour, would I feel that my dream would not become a reality?
Upon entering through the trailor door into the administrative office, I was greeted by friendly staff members and then by a large yet friendly security officer. I let them know I had arrived almost 2 hours early with hopes of beating traffic, so they were deciding what they should do with me. I was content to just be witnessing the operation as I sat in the office watching the receptionist interact with each student as if it was her nieces and nephews.
Finally, I was greeted by a young man who looked my age; he was the Community Outreach and Admission Coordinator Alan. He was accompanied by a SEED student DeJuan. He told me that he didn't mind showing my daughter and me around and giving us a tour while we waited for my official tour guide. As we toured the school, he greeted students and inquired of each how things were going while providing me with details of what it was like at the school.
A part of why I believed in having a boarding school just for boys was because I believed that most boys in general learn different than girls and also that boys are easily distracted and that being around girls didn’t help them. I was impressed at their model of gender specific core classes for middle school student and the transition to co-ed classes once a student reached high school. I had never considered that and found that to be brilliant! Also their model of being on campus Sunday evening through Friday morning I found brilliant, because it allowed for students to be immersed in the culture on campus but yet and still keep their roots with their community.
The school was full of engaged, respectful, and knowledgeable students as we toured through classrooms and talked with students. Students were taking Advanced Placement courses in the ninth grade, which could potentially lead to them attaining college credits. The school also had partnerships with local universities for their graduating class to be able to attend their colleges at no costs if they maintained a certain GPA and got accepted into the school. I also got a chance to speak with the Head of School Mr. Kirkland and with his passion and knowledge he was definitely a reflection of why the school was successful.
I left the school inspired, informed, and even more driven to bring something like this to my community in Lorain County, OH . I spoke with the SEED Foundation's Director of New Schools Fundraising LouAnne about the potential of bringing something like this to my community and she mentioned that the SEED had already done a lot of groundwork in Ohio and that they would be more than interested. With my limited understanding of how charter schools work, I do understand charter management organizations and I am unsure about how receptive my community would be to having an organization outside of Ohio managing the school and we talked about the potential of the SEED Foundation consulting with a group from my community about forming its own school whether in partnership with the local school district or through the creation of a charter management organization. That is currently an ongoing discussion. But as the local school district here has just faced a recent state takeover due to academic performance I think this community is ready to try something new that has proven it works.
I am scheduled to meet with our State Sen. Gayle Manning on June 26 to discuss our state policies around the urban boarding schools and about the potential of bring a SEED (or SEED-like) school to Lorain County. I am looking forward to what the future holds. To Be Continued….
After reading Roland Fryer's publications and seeing his interviews and speeches on urban education I wanted to hear his thoughts on two matters: Our local failing school which has recently been taken over by the state and to receive some guidance for my aspirations to get involved in school leadership.
In my pursuit of contacting him I was referred to speak with the Executive Director of the Harvard Education Innovation Labs June Daniel. In our hour and a half conversation filled with passion and insight she referenced a study that they conducted (see below) that found 5 fundamentals that each of the highly performing schools had:
1. A Focus on Human Capital - making sure teachers are getting immediate useful feedback from instructional coaches and administration.
2. Student Data that was used to drive instruction - Conducting regular in-depth assessments to track progress and, if needed, adjust tutoring or student goals.
3. Provided High Dosage Tutoring - whether a student is failing or excelling whether in clusters or individual sessions these schools had mandatory tutoring for all students.
4. Extended Time on Task - to make time for changes, such as tutoring, these schools had more schools days or longer schools days.
5. A culture of high expectations - students enter a school with college banners and goals of high expectations posted on the walls and they know everyone there is their to help and expects them to succeed
Yes these changes may require a little more work and resources but schools like HCZ Promise Academy, KIPP, Democracy Prep and others show it is possible.
So what's the hold up?
Read the Report Here:
Learning from Successes and Failures of Charter Schools by Roland Fryer