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Detroit and Minneapolis Move To Create Schools for Blacks

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The Minneapolis and Detroit school boards moved this month toward creating schools tailored to black students, joining Milwaukee and New York City in a growing movement to address the special needs of minority children.

"It's no secret that in this school district and in others across the country, the academic achievement of African-American children leaves a lot to be desired, and that we are losing ground rather than gaining ground," Betty Webb, the Minneapolis district's associate superintendent for secondary education, said last week. "We knew that we can no longer afford to do nothing."

The Minneapolis school board voted unanimously Jan. 8 to create the Afro-Centric Educational Academy to serve 30 to 50 students, both boys and girls, in grades 6 through 8. Students will spend mornings at their home schools, then attend the academy beginning at 12:15 P.M.

School officials this week will begin recruiting the first 30 students from the Lincoln Fundamental School and Franklin Junior High School for the classes on black history and culture, scheduled to start Jan. 29. Children will be chosen based on their interest and on teacher recommendations, and will represent a broad spectrum of academic achievement, Ms. Webb said.

In Detroit, a proposal to create a K-8 school specifically geared to black males cleared its first school-board committee on Jan. 8. The plan must clear three more committees before coming to the full board for a vote, said Michele Edwards, a school-board spokesman, but approval is expected by the end of February. The school would open next fall, she said.

Ms. Edwards said that two board-sponsored conferences on "Saving the Black Male" and the "African-American Child in Crisis" convinced board members that "a major step needed to be taken."

The approach chosen in Detroit is becoming increasingly popular. Last October, the Milwaukee school board voted to create one elementary and one middle school that would address the academic and social Lneeds of black male children. Earlier this month, the New York City Board of Education expressed inter est in a plan to develop an alterna tive high school that would focus pri marily on black and Hispanic males. (See Education Week, Oct. 10, 1990, and Jan. 16, 1991.)

As in those cities, the board moves in Detroit and Minneapolis have touched off criticism that such schools represent a return to segregation.

Perhaps the loudest objection has come from the National Organiza tion for Women, which has said that such schools discriminate by sex and race, Ms. Edwards said.

Ms. Webb of Minneapolis counHL tered that although schools may have had some success with desegre4gation, no fundamental integration of cultures has followed.

"Desegregation is getting percentages and numbers so that they are acceptable by state, federal, and local guidelines," she said.3

"Integration," Ms. Webb contin ued, "is where all the learners are represented in the curriculum and activities, and their cultures are not only taught but are valued [and] nurtured and it's done in every ex perience that the children have."

Ms. Webb criticized programs that create entirely separate schools for minority children. Taking such children out of the education system at large, she said, does not support the the ideal of cultural integration.

The Minneapolis approach, she said, would ensure that children and faculty participating in the academy would carry their learning back into the school system.

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