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After Demonstrating Success, Oakland’s Black Male Achievement Program Being Copied In Other Cities

Black boys in classYoung Black students in Oakland are doing better in school because the African-American Male Achievement Office is placing an emphasis on how to educate them—and other cities are taking notice.

The AAMA was created in 2010 under the Oakland Unified School District to make systemic changes to give young Black males a better chance to succeed academically. The AAMA focuses on seven key areas: improving achievement, attendance, literacy, graduation, middle schools and decreasing suspensions and incarcerations.

Christopher Chatmon, executive director of the office, told the Contra Costa Times that the graduation rate of African-American boys has risen from 42 percent to 57 percent since the program started. The rate of high school sophomores who pass the exit exam increased from 28 percent to 38 percent and literary placement test scores have increased by 10 percent.

The AAMA developed a prevention strategy called the Manhood Development Program that teaches life skills and case management guides for young Black students and engages parents by offering training them with student advocacy skills. The program reaching about 650 young Black males in several different Oakland schools.

Vajra Watson, director of research and policy for equity in the UC Davis chancellor’s office, interviewed some of the 650 students in the manhood development programs and found that they have a new understanding of what it means to be Black men.

“After they went through the manhood development classes, you start to see this reconceptualization of who they are,” Watson told the Contra Costa Times. “They talk about how important it is to be Black and smart.”

Chatmon told the Times that the attitude of the students “went from a negative deficit model to one that’s more filled with hope.”

These results were impressive enough to encourage Minneapolis to create a similar office nearly two thousand miles away. In July, Minneapolis Public Schools appointed Michael Walker as the first director of the district’s Office of Black Male Student Achievement. According to the MPS website, the department will start off with a $200,000 budget and it is expecting to spend more in the future to fully support the office’s work.

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