Our Passport to the Future

          Malcolm X once stated, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

          Unfortunately for many African Americans, the educational system in urban communities has consistently been broken, which has led to too many shattered dreams and once promising futures ending in unfulfilled promise.

          Whether it has been because of lack of resources, support and/or master teachers, many urban schools have routinely performed below the standards set by their more affluent counterparts.

          This reality has left many African American students playing catch up in regards to standardized tests and college admissions.

          Nevertheless, the popularity of charter schools is leveling the playing field and giving parents who cannot afford elite private schools another option when traditional public schools in their neighborhood are not up to par.

          Houston’s Arrow Academy (3435 Dixie Drive), led by principal Tale’ Lockett, is one such school that prides itself on nurturing the entire child and their family, not focusing on a one-size-fits-all approach to learning.

          “You’re focusing on building the entire student,” Lockett said.  “You’re not just focusing on their academics but you’re focusing on their lives.  So when you invest in a student’s life like that, you’re getting the better result.”

          Charter schools across the country are definitely getting the better result with their innovative approach to education.

          According to the California Charter Schools Association, “Charter public schools serving African American students were more than three times as likely as traditional public schools to consistently outperform their predicted performance in a single year, and over time.

          “In addition, charter public schools have consistently earned higher African American Academic Performance Index (API) scores and proficiency rates statewide, in many urban districts, and across subjects.  Finally, while charters make up only nine percent of schools statewide, they represent 39 percent of highly effective schools for African Americans.”

          Furthermore, all 167 African American male seniors in the 2013 graduating class at Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy were accepted into college.  According to BET.com, it was the fourth consecutive year that 100 percent of the graduating seniors at the all Black, all male charter school received acceptance letters to a college or university.

          While Houston’s Arrow Academy is only beginning with elementary students, Lockett wants his students to already begin thinking about college and he believes exposing the students to higher education at an early age will make the success at Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy the norm for his students.

          Arrow’s administrators plan to accomplish this by implementing the blended learning model, which consists of hiring master teachers while utilizing advance technology and individualized instruction so they can meet the child where he/she is.

          Teachers will not just use a standard lecture and move on to the next topic even if students do not pick up on the material.  Lessons will include a lecture, a technology piece and a creative assignment to move students forward in the curriculum.

          Classes at Arrow Academy will be capped at 20 students, with the ideal class size being 15 or 16 students.

          To address behavioral problems that seem to be running rampant in American schools, students and teachers form social contracts to handle discipline problems.

          The rationale is that if you give students the opportunity to create the rules and subsequent punishment with the teacher, they will be more likely to adhere to the consequences.  It gives them ownership in the entire classroom process.

          And unlike many traditional public schools, Arrow Academy is flexible with parental involvement.

          If Lockett knows that most of the parents work evenings or nights, he is not opposed to having open houses during the day or even on the weekend.

          He is determined to build strong relationships with parents, and believes that it is imperative to not only contact parents when there is a problem at the school, but also when a child is achieving over and beyond their expectations.

          “We all know the old adage, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” Lockett explained.  “And so, we are the village.  We have the school.  You have your church or you have your community center where the students are already taking a part because they’re within the area.”

          That village that has been created would not be possible without the help of The FORGE, a community based organization that is lending its facilities to the students and administrators of Arrow Academy.

          The FORGE also provides after school programs for the children.

          According to The FORGE, “In 2005, two Third Ward outreach non-profits, Inner City Youth and Refuge Community Development Center, merged to form the FORGE for Families.  Inner City Youth began in 1995, to address children living in poverty.  The Refuge Community Development Center served an adult population struggling with dependence and joblessness due to incarceration.  The resulting organization, the FORGE, addresses the entire family with Christ centered programs and activities.”

          The school is also benefiting from partnerships with donors from the community, which has led to laptops and free uniforms for all students.  And administrators are positive that students and parents will benefit greatly from Arrow, which plans to provide them with the type of education that will give them a passport for the future.

          Arrow Academy will host open houses throughout the summer for families interested in the charter school.

          Furthermore, the system has a total of eight charter schools in the Houston area serving grades K-8.

          To learn more about the school visit www.arrowacademy.org.

          For more information on The FORGE visit www.forgeforfamilies.org.

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