JCPS to detail plans for new 'students of color' academy - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS to detail plans for new 'students of color' academy

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A Semple Elementary School classroom from October 2015 (WDRB News file photo) A Semple Elementary School classroom from October 2015 (WDRB News file photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After months of research and planning, Jefferson County Public Schools officials are expected on Tuesday to release plans detailing a new academy for students of color.

JCPS Chief Equity Officer John Marshall will provide a "high-level description" of what the school -- which is being referred to as the DuBois Academy -- will look like to board members during a 5 p.m. work session on Tuesday.

The school -- which JCPS officials have said they would like to being modeled after Lexington's Carter G. Woodson Academy -- would open in August 2017 at a site that has not yet been determined. 

"There's a need to consider a different approach to teaching our students of color," the report to the board states. "This presentation will give the fundamental stilts to what is needed in order for the school to be a success."

No other details about Marshall's presentation were publicly available on Monday.

However, back in March, Superintendent Donna Hargens told the school board during a work session that the district is looking to create a "research-based" academy for males of color that would educate students through the lens of African American history and culture.

As WDRB reported earlier this year, Marshall and Hargens and other district officials have been visiting the Woodson Academy throughout the past year as they attempt new, research-based approaches to addressing high-poverty, low-achieving schools.

JCPS' low-income and minority students continue to lag behind their peers across multiple content areas and grade levels. For example, in sixth grade, there is a 27-point difference between white students who are reading on grade level compared to their black counterparts.

"We know that Fayette County has had success with Carter G. Woodson," Hargens said. "There are lots of successful models, we believe we could create a successful model."

During the March work session, Hargens that "location, grades....would we need a Females of Color Academy as well, all those things are to be determined."

JCPS officials have not officially given this new school a name, but they have been referring to it as the DuBois Academy. W.E.B. Dubois was an American sociologist, historian and civil rights activist.

Hargens has not said when she will bring forth a plan for the new school to the Jefferson County Board of Education for approval, but it would have to be within the next month, as the district's Showcase of Schools is Oct. 28-29.

Woodson Academy is patterned after the "Black Males Working" program, a private educational enrichment program for young black males that was launched by Akins and her husband, C.B. Akins, at their church, Lexington's First Baptist Church Bracktown in 2005.

Although the school is open to all males in grades six-through-12, 86 percent of the 184 students in the traditional college-prep program at the Woodson Academy are black and 6 percent are Hispanic. Of the school's entire enrollment, 60 percent qualify for free and reduced price lunch.

The district spent an entire year planning and invested about $700,000 to get the school running; it opened in the fall of 2012, said Lisa Deffendall, a spokeswoman for Fayette County Public Schools. "It started with 25 students in grades 6 through 9; we have since expanded to twelfth grade."

Students are expected to read every day, attend after school tutoring or tutoring on weekends (if necessary) and maintain an acceptable grade point average in order to participate in sports or other extra-curricular activities. In addition, parents are expected to ensure that their sons come to school prepared and to visit the academy at least four times annually to talk with their sons' teachers, Akins said.

In addition to offering a strong curriculum that meets the new common core standards, the school also partners with colleges and universities and arranges trips so students may visit out-of-state colleges, she said.

Last year, 60 percent of Woodson Academy's middle school students were proficient in reading -- three percentage points higher than the Fayette County average and six points higher than the state average.

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Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter. 

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