A Three-Part Audio Series From Education Week/NPR

Episode 2

'They Can't Just Be Average'


—Kavitha Cardoza/Education Week
A Three-Part Audio Series From Education Week/NPR

Episode 2

'They Can't Just Be Average'

By Kavitha Cardoza, Education Week and Cory Turner, NPR
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If you’ve been following this audio series, you know about Ron Brown College Prep, the remarkable new D.C. school designed specifically to meet the needs of young men of color.

In episode one, you met the principal and learned about the school’s core philosophy—placing high expectations on its students—known as “kings”—and infusing love into their schooling experience.

In the second episode, Ron Brown's unique CARE team and the teaching faculty continue their focus on nurturing students' social and emotional growth. But their time becomes increasingly dominated by a few kings who are getting into trouble.

The school's commitment to never suspending a student is put to the test by some serious incidents, including a couple of staff members who are assaulted. And there is pushback from some parents who are deeply skeptical of this unfamiliar approach to discipline.

Meanwhile, the profound academic gaps among students have become glaringly obvious. Some kings are reading on the 1st grade level and struggling with even the most basic math concepts. Others are reading on the 10th grade level and able to do college-prep math.

Teachers are worried about both extremes—how to accelerate years of literacy work into a few months for the kings who are woefully behind and how to keep high-performing students from becoming bored and complacent among so many peers who are years behind them academically.

And morale is beginning to flag as pressure mounts on the Ron Brown faculty to squeeze two years of learning into one year of teaching and ultimately, to prove that this radically different approach to educating students won't be a failure. Can it be done?

"School has to come first. … If you leave high school and you still make a 600 on the SAT, nobody cares how much you were loved." — Shaka Greene, Math teacher
"If I’m tough on them, it’s because I have high expectations for them." — Schalette Gudger, English teacher

"I do this corny thing called, ‘Let me give you a tool for your toolbox.’ … I give lots of tools every day." — Travis Bouldin, World History teacher

Listen to Episode Two

This episode originally aired Oct. 25, 2017 on NPR's Code Switch. It's introduced by Code Switch's Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby.

Browse other episodes: Episode One | Episode Three

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