Update from the Office of African American Male Achievement
To the Seattle community, As we settle into a new school year unlike any other, I’m eager to update the community on the progress of Seattle Public School’s Office of African American Male Achievement (AAMA). AAMA is a driver of systemic change, not a program. AAMA is committed to ensuring that schools and educators across the system proactively support the brilliance and excellence of Black boys and teens—no matter the learning environment.
Our mantra for community engagement is "Listen. Act. Repeat." We're actively involving Black students, families, partners, community elders, and the greater Seattle community in building a system that celebrates the brilliance of Black boys and teens throughout SPS.
AAMA is currently in phase one of our three-phase strategic plan, which is outlined below.
AAMA Three Phase Strategic Plan
Phase one: Discovery
Virtual classroom visits
Listening and learning campaign
Building the foundation of the Office of AAMA, including fundraising and hiring staff
Launch of AAMA Student Leadership Council
Phase two: Research and development
Landscape review of effective practices & research
Review of national models for educating Black male students
Interviews with national practitioners and system leaders that are changing the trajectories of Black male students
Phase three: Strategy Development
Gap analysis of SPS resources for Black male students
Pilot-test and refine programs
Black Excellence campaign
Training and convenings on competencies and strategic work
With support and input from AAMA's Student Leadership Council, we are fully engaged in our listening and learning campaign. Community input will directly inform district action and lay the foundation for development of a multi-year work plan. To overcome hurdles related to COVID-19, we’ve been connecting with students, families, and the community by hosting virtual events and socially-distanced, in-person opportunities. It’s a privilege listening to and engaging with students and families about how we can better support our Black boys and teens. We look forward to January 2021 when we can share everything we've learned from our Kings and community and continue to put our learnings into practice.
Speaking of community, I'm also proud to share some of the milestones AAMA has reached to date within our four strategic areas of focus: Culture, Conditions, Competencies, and Community Connection.
Four Strategic Areas of Focus
Culture: The rituals, routines, and practices that honor students’ strengths.
We audited central supports focused on Black boys and teens and conducted focus groups with some recent graduates and seventh-12th graders to identify aspects of school culture we need to improve and support systems that work well for them.
We worked to center Black male seniors during a time of remote learning and unexpected obstacles. In partnership with other departments, AAMA supported school staff in their work to check in with each student and ensure Black male seniors were on-track for graduation.
We hired Black male leadership—Adam Haizlip and Kevin Loyal—as managers of AAMA. They are incredible role models for our Kings.
We launched the AAMA Student Leadership Council in February 2020. The AAMA managers conduct bi-weekly remote meetings and individual check-ins to ensure Black boys and teens continue to have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that affect their lives and education.
Conditions: The policies, structures, and systems that support welcoming and safe learning spaces.
We collaboratively secured $1.8 million dollars from local philanthropies in service of AAMA’s work to create policies, structures, and systems designed for Black male students’ success.
We centered Black student voices in the decision-making process for initiatives such as COVID-19 planning, grading practices, anti-racism policies, student engagement, and Fall 2020 planning
We partnered with the Chief of Equity, Partnerships, and Engagement; the SPS Department of Racial Equity Advancement team; and other educational leaders and groups to build capacity for racial equity initiatives benefiting our Black boys and teens.
We worked with other departments to identify students and families in need of direct supports through the Right Now Needs Fund—an Amazon partnership with the Alliance for Education that helps principals, teachers, and parents collaborate to remove students' most basic barriers to learning such as the need for food, clothing, and housing.
Competencies: The skills and knowledge that educators must have to effectively reach and teach Black boys and teens.
Over 500 staff, educators, and community members had the opportunity to hear directly from Black boys and teens about their experiences and what they need to succeed in school. Throughout the four-day Liberation Through Anti-Racist Education Institute held in August 2020, AAMA worked with the Department of Racial Equity Advancement to create an opportunity for Black boys and teens to use and share their brilliance directly with the SPS staff, educators, and community members who attended.
Young people have told us that representation matters. AAMA is supporting the Human Resources team in hiring and recruiting more educators of color. For the 2020-21 school year, SPS has surpassed its diversity hiring goals by an average of 10%. One way the district is hiring more educators of color is the Academy of Rising Educators, a program helping those who are rooted in our communities, planning to teach long-term, and dedicated to anti-racist practices earn their teaching certificates.
In light of ongoing police violence and acts of anti-Black racism, AAMA provided guidance on district and school-based communications about discussing and acting on these important issues.
Community Connections: Direct service supports and community networking opportunities for students to thrive.
We're collaborating with the Department of Education and Early Learning, the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color, and other key stakeholders.
In partnership with the City of Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), we implemented Kingmakers of Seattle at four school sites. Kingmakers of Seattle is an elective with sessions for Black male students, facilitated by Black male educators. The course curriculum emphasizes Black history, cultural knowledge, positive self-identity, literacy and academic mentoring. Kingmakers of Seattle will expand to two additional schools in 2021-22 with support from the City’s Family and Education Levy.
We extended the Kingmakers of Seattle program in the 2020-21 school year. The virtual extension includes four cohorts of 10 sessions each that connect more Black male students across the district to share experiences, participate in affirming curriculum that addresses stereotypes and focuses on their cultural identity, and elevate their voice.
We joined Kingmakers of Oakland’s Learning Collaborative, a cross-functional, multi-generational group of district, student, families, city, and community teams sharing experiences, discussing lessons learned, participating in continuous improvement processes, and addressing problems of practice within African American male achievement.
With the Equity, Partnerships, and Engagement team, AAMA has joined a community taskforce of SPS staff, City of Seattle staff, and community partners to identify and audit community programs for Black boys and teens to provide more coordinated and collaborative supports.
AAMA is reconstructing Seattle Public Schools' educational environment across the system to support the brilliance and excellence of Black boys and teens. By listening to the experiences and solutions of students and inviting engagement from families and the greater community, we are calling out the systemic racism embedded in our school system, working with Black boys and teens to dismantle and reconstruct school systems and structures to meet their unique needs, advancing public education as a tool for transformation and liberation, and creating a strong learning environment that attends to the social, emotional, and educational needs of students. We are actively becoming an anti-racist educational system, ensuring that Black male students thrive and subsequently improving conditions for all students in Seattle Public Schools.
On behalf of AAMA, I look forward to collaborating with the Seattle Public Schools community to realize this vision for Seattle's Black boys and teens.
Dr. Mia Williams Chief of the Office of African American Male Achievement Seattle Public Schools