Schools have been deemed failing if their students have not made Adequate Yearly Progress toward the goal of 100% proficiency by 2014 as required by No Child Left Behind. Most states by the end on 2010 should be achieving at least 50% proficiency across all grades. Proficiency is defined by school attendance rate and most importantly passage of a standardized exam. In Michigan, the standardized exam is the Michigan Merit Exam comprising the ACT and Work keys exams.
Most urban schools have been deemed failures by not achieving proficiency on college admissions exams like the ACT. The irony is that NCLB has highlighted the educational malpractice these schools have inflicted on urban students. Today’s, globally competitive world requires a Bachelors degree, yet many urban schools are only preparing 10% of students for college, albeit many of those not sufficient to graduate from college. “The other 90% is prepared for underemployment and the illegal drug trade,” states Ida Byrd-Hill, President of Uplift, Inc. a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit Idea Incubator located in Detroit. The sad part is “solution to this urban dilemma is quite simple.”
Researchers have noted in urban families are suffering with “Anti-intellectualism.” Anti-intellectualism is a social stigma of ‘acting white.’ “Minority adolescents ridicule their minority peers for engaging in behaviors perceived to be characteristic of whites. For example, when psychologist Angela Neal-Barnett in 1999 asked some focus-group students to identify acting-white behavior, they listed actions that ranged from speaking standard English and enrolling in an Advanced Placement or honors class to wearing clothes from the Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch (instead of Tommy Hilfiger or FUBU) and wearing shorts in winter!” As quoted by Dr. Roland G. Fryer, in his article, "Acting white": the social price paid by the best and brightest minority students, Education Next, Winter, 2006. ‘Acting white’ or anti-intellectualism culture persists in every urban environment across ethnic groups and has now crept into suburban environments through the rapid growth of Hip-Hop music. Students and families are ridiculed for speaking proper English, for striving for academic excellence and for even attempting to graduate from high school.
Indeed, negative peer-group pressure has emerged as a common explanation for the black-white achievement gap, a gap that cannot be explained away by differences in demographic characteristics alone. Ethnographers have found similar tensions between self-advancement and community integration. Indeed, variants on acting white have been spotted by ethnographers among the Buraku outcasts of Japan, Italian immigrants in Boston‘s West End, the Maori of New Zealand, and the British working.
Even President Obama has noted its existence, in his Keynote Address as senator at the 2004 Democratic National Convention when he stated, "Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white."
There are only two things to counter “Anti-intellectualism.” Discovering the secret dream of each and every individual student and creating schools that allow students to embrace both their urban and intellectual cultures, simultaneously. In 2006, Ida Byrd-Hill founded Hustle & TECHknow Preparatory High School, a cyber school, which is a blended model of a traditional brick–and–mortar building and a virtual curriculum, where students, grades 9-12, are immersed with 21st Century Skills to prepare them to rise into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries.
Hustle & TECHknow Preparatory High School, while located in the Compuware headquarters in Downtown Detroit with a student population of 93 Students comprising 70 Boys and 23 Girls, 30 % Adjudicated Youth 81% Economically disadvantaged youth who were former high school dropouts, achieved this success:
Ü Created unique English class to solve illiteracy problem
Ü Class moved schools’ collective Lexile Reading grade level from 4.2 to 7.8
Ü Sent three quarter finalist to the National Vocabulary Championship
Ü 80% graduation rate, 100% postsecondary matriculation
Ü Educational Program of the Year 2007, Automation Alley
Ü Waitlist of approximately 500 students the entire timeframe it was open.
The cornerstone of its success was a 12 week career exploration program where each student discussed their future lifestyle goals, documented those goals in a lifestyle treasure map, discovered their personality types and matched those personality types to a career and college programs. The end result is every student had a pictorial collage of their future lifestyle goals, an Educational Development Plan (EDP) and guidance of how to achieve those goals utilizing school. Students, former high school dropouts, maintained an 85% attendance rate.
Hustle & TECHknow Preparatory High School, piloted under a contract with Detroit Public Schools, was closed by former Superintendent Connie Calloway due to politics. Parents are still lamenting its closure. “My son has always hated school. We finally found a place where he could get individualized attention and they closed it. He actually cried when it closed. So did I,” states Yolanda Domineck Mitchell, parent of Stephen English.
The only thing that remains from the school are memories and this program turned into a book, Follow Your Inner Compass Teen. The back drop of Follow Your Inner Compass Teen is the solo sailing voyage of Bill Pinkney, the first African American to sail alone around the world. Students are then guided to create their own outrageous odyssey and future lifestyle beginning with goal setting followed by discovering their personality type matched to a career. If they surf they companion interactive website, www.followyourinnercompass.com, they can view with virtual tours of college campuses as they plan their real escape to college. Young people need to escape from the drugs, gun battles and negativity that surrounds them constantly. Follow Your Inner Compass Teen is retailed on Amazon.com, but can be purchased in mass quantity with a group discount by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 877-429-2370.
“If school systems are really serious about achieving AYP, then they will meet the needs of urban students where they are. Right now, they are experiencing Anti-intellectualism. Follow Your Inner Compass Teen meets a student where they are and moves them to high school graduation and then college,” states Ida Byrd-Hill. Ida Byrd-Hill is the mother of 15 year old Juniors, who attend Detroit School of Arts. Despite the fact, they are negatively called “Bourgie” and criticized for speaking proper English, they are on their way to college. “She challenges urban school systems to create the largest college matriculation of urban students ever.” Join her, purchase, Follow Your Inner Compass Teen.