A Three-Part Audio Series From Education Week/NPR

Episode 3

Irreconcilable Differences

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

Episode 3

Irreconcilable Differences

By Kavitha Cardoza, Education Week and Cory Turner, NPR
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For the last two weeks, you’ve gotten to know the remarkable educators and students at Ron Brown College Prep, the Washington, D.C. high school designed specifically to meet the needs of young men of color in the nation’s capital.

In the first episode, Principal Ben Williams and his team worked hard to establish the school’s radically different approach to educating adolescent boys, known as “kings”: pairing high expectations with unconditional love and restorative justice.

Things got more challenging in Episode 2, as the demands of meeting the social-emotional needs of some of Ron Brown’s kings started to collide with mounting pressure on teachers to educate students who've lost years of math and literacy instruction.

In this final episode, second semester has kicked off at Ron Brown. The kings are going on field trips and college visits—enrichment experiences that take many of them out of D.C. for the first time. Some high-achieving kings sit in on an English class at George Washington University, exposing them to possibilities they’d not ever imagined.


"There’s something individually about every single person inside this school that sets them aside from everybody else." — Stephon, student
"Last year, I was aiming to get kicked out of school and stuff … but they not gonna kick you out here." — Rashawn, student

"Everybody is kind of like my brother." — Dahe, student




But the school’s lofty ideals are also crashing headlong into reality.

Forty of the 100 kings are at risk of failing the 9th grade. The staff’s focus on building the school’s climate and culture shifts more squarely to interventions on the academic side.

In late spring, grading policies in D.C. Public Schools that impact promotion to the 10th grade will test the Ron Brown family. Several faculty members worry that the school has compromised its high expectations, and this sets off a clash with Principal Williams and the CARE team.

Listen to Episode Three

This episode originally aired Nov. 1, 2017 on NPR's Code Switch. It's introduced by Code Switch's Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby.


Browse past episodes: Episode One | Episode Two

Expert Interviews

Single-gender education has long been a pillar in the private-school sector, but schools exclusively for young men like D.C.'s Ron Brown College Prep are relatively rare in traditional public school districts.

Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, the executive director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia explains the legal hurdles to opening single-gender schools in the public school sector.

And Erin Pahlke, an assistant professor of psychology at Whitman College, discusses what research has shown so far on the effectiveness of single-gender education.

About This Series

Education Week's Kavitha Cardoza and NPR's Cory Turner discuss how they reported for a year on a new high school in Washington, D.C., designed to meet the needs of young men of color.



Raising Kings may be over, but we're not done reporting on the issues raised by this series. Sign up to keep up with our coverage.