Black Educators Hail Rapid Progress Of Their ‘Effective Schools’ Blueprint

The principles that underpin the "effective schools" movement are being embraced by an increasing number of school districts and states, as stated by educators, parents, policymakers, and state officials who gathered at a conference last week. This movement was sparked by a concise document called "A Blueprint for Action II," which was created at a conference two years ago, according to participants of the 4th National Conference on Educating Black Children. Over the past four years, this annual event and the resulting blueprint have become the building blocks of a national movement to enhance education for minority children using the principles of "effective schools," they affirmed.

This year’s conference, attended by minority leaders and advocates from 27 states and the District of Columbia, served as both a platform for strategizing and a celebration of the progress made in the last four years. "At the first conference, we met amidst confusion and a lack of trust, but we ignited a flame of understanding that has sustained us," said Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and founder of the informal group that organized the meetings. Owen L. Knox, founding co-chairman of the National Conference on Educating Black Children and lecturer at the University of California-Los Angeles’s graduate school of education added, "Never did I imagine that just four years later, we would be discussing all these positive developments. Prior to the first conference, I was deeply troubled by what I perceived as our own involvement in our own demise. Now, things are changing."

The "Blueprint for Action II," a document formulated at the group’s conference in 1987, represents a consensus among participants that the most effective approach to achieving their goals is through the implementation of the "effective schools" approach, which was notably advocated by the late educator Ronald Edmonds. Edmonds believed that all children, regardless of their race or social class, could receive a successful education. Drawing from his research in various city schools, Edmonds concluded that successful schools serving black students possessed five key qualities: strong instructional leadership from the principal, a disciplined environment, high expectations where no students were allowed to underperform, a focus on teaching fundamental skills and academic tasks, and regular evaluations of student progress. The blueprint, which is based on this work, provides specific steps for students, teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers, and the community to turn around the often challenging conditions in and around urban schools, where 85 percent of black children are educated. At the recent conference, titled "Ensuring America’s Future: Educating Black Children," participants placed particular emphasis on strengthening parental involvement in education. The "Blueprint II" has served as a model for school improvement plans nationwide and has sparked discussions in numerous regional meetings organized by the National Conference.

"We cannot afford to think and act insignificantly," remarked LaVerne Byrd Smith, coordinator of the Virginia education department’s minority-student achievement program. "We must be proactive about this issue because time is running out." The blueprint has formed the foundation for draft recommendations developed by Ms. Smith to enhance the academic performance of minority students in Virginia. Her report, to be presented to the state board later this month, calls for coordinating all of the state education department’s initiatives within the overarching plan for minority achievement. A statewide plan is expected to be adopted by December. Educators from Delaware and California also shared the progress their states have made in implementing the blueprint’s recommendations, as did school officials from Portland, Oregon, New Orleans, and Frederick County, Maryland. Portland’s plan, known as "Success for Students At Risk," will guide each school in their planning for the 1989-90 school year, explained Michael L. Grice, a researcher for the Portland public schools. The plan stands out due to its focus on collaboration between the groups responsible for implementation and its emphasis on assessment and accountability, which was influenced by the city’s business community.

The National Conference on Educating Black Children, with its main base in Washington, is supported by a diverse range of educational and black associations. Generous contributions from corporations and philanthropic organizations ensure the yearly gatherings can take place. Mr. Knox expressed that despite the well-attended regional conferences, it has proven challenging to stay updated on the advancements being made. To address this issue, the organization intends to create a clearinghouse that will diligently monitor our actions and gauge the effectiveness of our blueprint implementation.


  • camdynelliott

    Camdyn Elliott is a 35-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. She has been writing about education for nearly a decade, and her work has been featured on sites like The Huffington Post and The New York Times. Camdyn is the founder of the education blog Education Week, and she is also the author of the book "How to Teach Like a Pro: A Guide to Effective Teaching Methods for College and Career Students."

Comments are closed.