By the beginning of the 1990s, school reform issues had become entrenched in school districts nationally. However, some researchers began to criticize these reform movements because of their lack of attention to the cultural dimensions of schooling ( Mirel, 1994). This was particularly important when instituting reform efforts in urban communities that are characterized by cultural diversity among students but also by structural factors that affect individual and family functioning ( Noguera, 1996; Williams & Newcombe, 1994).
In this chapter, we focus on the efforts made to convert the African American Immersion elementary and middle schools from a traditional to an African-centered educational orientation. As some of the first public schools in the nation to attempt to implement such an orientation on a school-wide basis, these schools could be considered pioneers. There were some models of African-centered schools available in independent schools ( Hoover, 1992; Lee, 1992), and individuals working to develop the African American Immersion Schools availed themselves of information about them when possible. However, there was little empirical data available that provided information about the processes of transforming schools into African-centered models of education. Furthermore, as public schools, the African American Immersion Schools did not have the flexibility of independent schools. Many of their policies and procedures were dictated by the district, and they had to incorporate new ways of doing things while continuing to implement these district policies and mandates.
Given this situation, it is important to understand how the schools attempted to transform themselves from entities that were known, although ineffective, into entities that would stress African and African American cultural orientations as foundations for teaching and learning. This chapter focuses on school-level transformations. Specifically, we describe and analyze overall changes that occurred in each school over