Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Meeting the People Where They Are: The Promises and Perils of Attempting an African Centered Institution in a Public School System

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Meeting the People Where They Are: The Promises and Perils of Attempting an African Centered Institution in a Public School System

Article excerpt

Introduction

African-centered schools orient students toward having an African worldview (Shujaa, 1991) and involves them in a process of cultural reattachment (Shockley, 2010). Many scholars have argued that African centered schooling is the only form of schooling that can address the academic failure and cultural needs of Black children (Shockley, 2010, Akoto, 1999). Scholars have noted that within African centered schools, the factors that often contribute to the academic failure of Black children are eliminated. Those factors include high rates of suspension and dropout, lower scores on standardized tests and the problem of overrepresentation of Black children receiving special education services.

Given the glaring issues that traditional public schools are having with the aforementioned factors, it is no wonder why communities across America are demanding alternative educational models such as African-centered schools. While the Council of Independent Black Institutions (CIBI) asserts that in order for a school to be African centered it must be independent, educators and communities throughout the country are attempting to adopt the African centered model into the public domain. For example, in states such as Missouri, New York, Florida, Oklahoma and the District of Colombia, charter and public African-centered school have been attempted.

The increase in the number of African centered schools has created the need for more research. Currently, numerous researchers (Shockley, 2015; Lomotey, 1992; Shujja, 1991) have written articles on African centered education; however, there is a lack of available research on charter and public schools attempting to implement a version of African centered schooling. To address this gap, we conducted a qualitative research study at a public school that was allowed by the superintendent and board to become an African centered school. The research site is a school named African centered Public School (ACPS). At ACPS we (the researchers) explore the school using this research question: "what are the experiences of an African-centered principal and teacher with transforming a school from a regular public school to an African centered institution?"

Purpose and Overview

The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of an African centered principal and teacher with transforming a school from a regular public school to an African centered public school. We focused on the principal and the teacher because they self-identify as being African centered, and they are leading the school in their work with non-Afrocentric educators. The principal and the teacher have pseudonyms "Principal Obenga" and "Baba Baye". They understand the conceptual and theoretical tenets of African-centered education and serve as the vital supports for other educators, many of whom are having their first experience in an African-centered environment.

The research question emerged in part from literature indicating the need for additional research on African-centered educators (Hilliard, 1998; Shockley, 2010). While there is literature on the important pedagogical practices that are necessary for reaching Black children (Asante, 2017), there is a lack of literature that focuses on public schools that use an African centered model. According to CIBI, African-centered schools by definition must be independent, and the newly conceived ideas that African centered schools can be charter or public has come under intense scrutiny by stalwarts. Thus, by exploring the experiences of an African centered principal and teacher who are transforming a school from a regular public school to an African-centered public school we will provide insight into experiences of these leaders as they attempt to graft an institution that can work for children. The study was conducted in the State of Missouri at ACPS. ACPS is a public urban institution that is located in a metropolitan area. Currently 500 students are enrolled in the school and nearly 100% are Black; 85% of the teaching force at ACPS is Black. …

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