Friday, June 14, 2013

Superintendent Eric Becoats proposes all-boys academy

I’m sick of looking at the numbers.

3,002 black males were handed short term suspensions during the 2011-12 academic year.  That’s compared to 560 Hispanic and 259 white males.  Of the 363 students who dropped out of Durham Public Schools that year, 233 were black.

There are enough statistics to make you upchuck. The worst part is the continuing widening of the gap between white and black academic achievement.  Even more frustrating is how the hard work and dedication of countless people seems futile in crushing the trends.  There have been successes, but not enough.

The cries from the community boom the ache of the nation.  No, Durham is not alone, but Durham is entrusted with addressing the dismal state of black and brown males. The rise in incarceration, crime and poor academic performance combine in a way that forces a deeper dialogue related to a more active response.

This mess has to stop.  Not later, but as soon as possible.

Durham should be grateful for the leadership of Superintendent Eric Becoats.  Becoats has forced a conversation that may be viewed as counter to the agenda of an integrated public school system.  Becoats is pressing the creation of an all-boys academy. Becoats plans to open the academy during the 2014-15 academic year.

Due to state laws, DPS will open an all-girls academy to counter the argument of discrimination based on gender.  It’s certain that many parents will opt to send their daughter to that school, but the real need is for black and Hispanic boys in need of the type of attention and structure that an all-boys school provides.

Critics of the all-boys academy assert it segregates students.  It’s the same claim by those disputing the expansion of charter schools.  Many contend the charter system is a suitable endorsement of schools separated by class and race.  Those fighting for an all-boys academy contest the impression of enforcing a similar agenda.

On surface, it is difficult to dispute that assertion. Most people are invested in the notion of a public school system filled with students from every demographic.  Parents are also concerned that their children aren’t compromised by their endorsement of that agenda.  Selecting schools becomes a tussle between their vision for the community and concern for their own children.

Most parents have been granted options. Parents with resources are able to select from a long list of education options – from private, charter and home schooling.  The academic performance of their children is often measured by the force of their resources – be it knowledge of options, economics or the time to commit to offering the support their children require.

The cry for integration is relegated to talk regarding ways to encourage white parents not to walk away.  Integration is no longer about satisfying the needs of all children, but it has become more about conciliating the interest of white parents.

Thus, public schools have been rich in efforts to formulate strategies to segregate white students within the existing public school system. Magnet schools are designed to lure white students after countless threats to select among the numerous education options.  These magnets are packed with an overwhelming majority of white students while black and brown students continue to grapple within a system designed to maintain the status quo.

The claim of re-segregation is disingenuous when understood within the context of Durham’s ongoing labor to contend with the myriad of consequences regarding race, gender, class and cultural disparity.  We are credulous in thinking all systems mend all needs.  The history of Durham’s public education system since merger proves a willingness to adapt and concoct new ways to address the needs of those in danger of walking away.

Why not do the same for those being suspended and who dropout?  Why not strategize for those students most at risk of being lost due to poor academic performance and disciplinary problems?  Why not grant the same energy and support for those most troubled rather than to hide behind rhetoric that counters the work done to protect a few?

Becoats proposal was included in the strategic plan approved by the board of education in 2010.  “DPS will explore the feasibility of opening a college-preparatory/public boarding school to serve minority males in partnership with the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC),” the plan reads in goal 12.6. It’s time for the school board to honor its commitment to the strategic plan.

The original plan has been modified due to cost.  Becoats isn’t proposing a boarding school.  That would be nice, but the system can’t afford that option.  Although we can’t afford a boarding school, we can’t afford not to make minority boys a priority.

Let’s show them we care.


  1. Well, at least you can change your mind. Refer to .

    Some of the charter schools have already tried the single sex school in order to eliminate distractions. Look to successes in other communities, like Harlem Academy, to prove that one way to achieve academic success is to separate the sexes and wear uniforms. In today's blog, you have come full circle and recognized that parents of all races just want a secure environment that places value on learning for their children and are willing to experiment to get it.

    Now, if Dr. Becoats fills the all boys school with some of the same old non-performing teachers from the old schools, then it will fail. Keeping and paying the better teachers will require frequent evaluation (and, yes, teacher testing) to weed out those who are unfit for the job. Educator unions elsewhere have blocked those moves, even as Obama and Duncan campaign for them to occur. In North Carolina, without strong teacher unions, other social groups have acted to protect the weaker teachers, especially if the fired teacher claims race was involved. This has to stop if we're to properly educate ALL students.

    1. It's not a full circle argument. It's a continuation of the same placed within a different context. As for charters, it is more empowering for DPS to make a statement by forming an all-male academy versus leaving it up to a charter or private school (Nativity School) to do the same. The difference relates to the broader community statement it makes.

      As for the Harlem Children Zone and other schools that utilize the all-boy format, I've argued that Durham needs to build based on the culture and history versus replicating an already existing model. There are advantage to other models, but the real strength of what can be in Durham is what we, as a community have to offer.

      The issues of teachers is dealt with in the education model implored under recent reform. Take a look at the annual teacher review process. I suggest you look at the teacher turnover rate in the DPS as evidence that counters your claim. You lift valid concerns, but none fit within the conversation placed on the table in this blog.

      My Jan 1 blog actualy supports the argument of this blog rather than negate all claims

  2. Heidi Carter, DPS Board of EducationJune 20, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    The claim that DPS "...magnets are packed with an overwhelming majority of white students while black and brown students continue to grapple within a system designed to maintain the status quo" is just not accurate, as these stats on the percent white students in each of the DPS magnets/year-round/choice schools show:

    Burton IB Elementary 3%white
    Club BLVD Elementary 29%white
    George Watts Montessori 31%white
    Morehead Montessori 37% white
    RN Harris Core Knowledge and Integrated Arts 1%white
    WG Pearson Elementary Gifted and Talented 5%white
    DSA 35%white 42%Black 14%Hispanic
    Hillside IB 2%white
    Lakewood Montessori Middle 32%white 34%Black 28%Hispanic
    Shepard IB 1%white
    WG Pearson Middle 6%white
    Easley Elem Year Round 66%white 19%black 7%Hispanic
    Holt Year Round Elem 6%white
    Pearsontown Year Round Elem 25%white
    Rogers Herr Year Round Middle 17%white
    JD Clement Early College High School 3%white
    City of Medicine Academy 9%white
    Performance Learning Center 8%white
    Middle College High School 48%white 28%black
    Southern School of Engineering 2%white
    Hillside New Tech 4%white

    Except for Easley Year Round Elementary School and Middle College High School (a joint program at Durham Tech between Durham, Chapel Hill and Orange Co Schools) , the magnet programs have a majority Black and Brown students. Clearly, the magnet schools are not packed with white students.

    Magnet schools were created in an attempt to offer novel, innovative programs and/or to prevent racial or socio-economic isolation in schools. The stats show that Durham has a long way to go in achieving integrated schools, but Black and Brown children are in traditional and magnet schools with quality leadership, teaching, programming, and support services. Our goal is to offer excellent educational opportunities to all of our Durham children.