In January 2015, DC’s Mayor and the Chancellor of DC Public Schools announced a new $20 million initiative called “Empowering Males of Color” (“EMOC”). The initiative launches an EMOC grant program for existing schools, programs to celebrate achievements of, and provide tutoring and mentoring for, young men of color, and a new all-boys “Empowering Males High School,” modeled on the Chicago-based Urban Preparatory Academy.
Shortly after that announcement, this feature report focused on questions about the initiative: First, we provided background about the realities behind Urban Prep’s purported success and asked: “Has anyone in DCPS seriously examined the track record of Urban Prep?”
A report released this past week by the American Civil Liberties Union answers, sadly, in the negative.
They write in Leaving Girls Behind:
Records related to evaluations of other schools or programs simply do not exist: DCPS does not appear to have considered any other school prior to Urban Prep’s selection as a partner/model, much less conducted a competitive bidding process, or to have solicited or received any formal proposal from Urban Prep.
— Leaving Girls Behind: An Analysis of Washington D.C.’s EMOC Initiative
Full ACLU Report Here
Instead, the ACLU report continues, DC Public Schools was approached when the Chicago school sought to expand. In public remarks, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson emphasized that Tim King, founder and CEO of Urban Prep, was her mentor in college and that she visited and was impressed with the Chicago charter schools.
DCPS’s apparent failure to explore and evaluate is significant from a legal standpoint, the ACLU argues: “It demonstrates DCPS’s failure to conduct any assessment whatsoever of whether the all-boys model of Urban Prep would be more effective than a coeducational model, or even whether a coeducational school could achieve the same results.”
Moreover, data shows black and Latina girls, as well as boys, lagging behind white counterparts in graduation, Advanced Placement participation, attendance, and other measures within DC schools. See, e.g., “ACLU Questions Legality” in Washington Post
Single-Sex Education: THE Answer?
Back in early 2015, this feature report noted that there is slim evidence supporting single-sex education and that experts believe it only succeeds when teachers are offered professional development focusing on gender and learning. Therefore, we asked: Would DC students be better served by investing millions in professional development that helps all schools avoid gender stereotyping and promote the needs of all students – boys, girls, and students of fluid gender?”
The ACLU’s report discusses some of these issues. In the end, they conclude, DCPS mistakenly narrowed their focus to boys, failing to address the problems facing girls of color while also perpetuating sex stereotypes.
Regarding the all-boys school in particular, the ACLU writes:
DCPS should…revisit the decision to offer an all-boy’s school at all. That decision, which was taken in this case without adequate deliberation, public input, or research into efficacy, was legally unsupportable and should be abandoned.
The ACLU is considering a lawsuit and meanwhile declares that the most straightforward remedy for legal and policy concerns would be for DCPS “to ensure that girls of color are immediately made eligible for participation in all of the opportunities provided under the EMOC.”
Beyond Gender Concerns
The ACLU report focuses on gender equity and does not thoroughly address another point we raised in 2015: DC’s population of young men of color includes many Hispanic and Latino students and a substantial number of English Language Learners. DC’s chosen model, Urban Prep, has no experience – absolutely none – with English Language Learners. (See our Feb 2015 report.)
The Education Town Hall plans a discussion of the report and ACLU’s recommendations in the near future. Stay tuned.