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Should an Urban School Serving Black and Hispanic Students Look Like Schools for Affluent White Kids?

Should an urban school serving black and Hispanic students try to emulate schools for affluent white kids?

In many struggling cities like Oakland, the answer has been no, both in the regular public schools, where resources often don’t exist to replicate programs offered at high-income suburban or tony private schools, but also among the crop of urban charter schools intent on making up for those resource deficits. Urban charter schools, many of which are run by white leaders, have been stereotyped as embracing a boot camp-like environment that elevates test prep and tough discipline, while downplaying arts and athletics.

Jeff Duncan-Andrade, the founder of the two-year-old Roses in Concrete Community School believes that needs to change. At his school — for people of color, designed by people of color — the conventional wisdom about how to improve outcomes for black and Hispanic children has been turned on its head, Duncan-Andrade says. The school is designed to match up against even the fanciest independent school, with students immersed in art, extra-curricular activities and athletics, and less emphasis on test prep.