Tusene Mens Group | City of Ideas

Posted 11/19/2012 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
On the 2012 English and math MCAS tests, our boys of color outperformed the Boston Public Schools and statewide students in the aggregate in percent passing and growth percentile.  However, boys of color in our school are still not performing as well as the state aggregate in percent proficient.  Our young men of color show great growth in academic achievement, but still need to make more gains to close the achievement gap, especially in math.

The long term issues addressed by our initiative are:
(1) Closing the achievement gap

(2) College readiness according to the Common Core and preparing young African American and Latino men for careers in math and science.

(3) Allowing young men to develop a relationship with a mentor, and giving them access to different social experiences gives them an opportunity to feel empowered and to have control over their environment (reducing uncertainty and stress).

Our young men deal with violence, disruptive homes, and lack of academic and emotional support.  “A child who comes from a stressful home environment tends to channel that stress into disruptive behavior at school and be less able to develop a healthy social and academic life” (Bradley & Corwyn, 2002).

Project Proposed:
Our program will combine a Saturday math intervention program with a support group for young men.  The Tusene Men’s Group (tusene = support in Swahili) is a group for our young men of color which meets on Saturdays after the tutoring program and incorporates team-building, mentoring, group counseling, and sporting events. 

The Tusene Men’s Group activities will vary each Saturday and will include physical activity, lunch activity on campus or at restaurants, colleges, or high schools, a homework session, counseling group activities, and special activities such as field trips to the Science Museum, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Museum of Natural History, MIT, Computer Museum, and college visits.

The goal for the Tusene Men’s Group is to improve the social, academic and emotional well-being of young urban men who are often at risk of academic disengagement and eventually dropping out of school.  Mentoring provides the opportunity to see success in other males that may have undergone similar social, academic, and emotional challenges.  “Teens who have had a long-term relationship with a mentor enjoy higher self-esteem, better health, less involvement with gangs or violence, more exposure to social norms, and better outcomes at school and work (DuBois & Silverthorn, 2005).”

Role of Collaboration:
The Epiphany School is walking distance from our school, and we have partnered with them in the past on programs such as high school placement, athletics, and a boys group.  Students from Epiphany will participate in our men’s group if we have adequate funding.

Phronesis7 is a non-profit organization that consults with schools and other organizations to provide mentoring and consulting related to special education needs of boys of color.  Our principal, Jose Edwards, is a founding member of Phronesis7.  They will assist by providing mentors for our young men.

Project Rise is a non-profit organization focusing on academic remediation in math, English, multicultural history, and science for African American boys.  The goal of their program is to motivate these students to believe they can succeed.  They will provide academic mentoring support to the young men in our program, and they are our fiscal sponsor.

Dorchester House Multi-Service Center is a community center near the school which provides health care and youth activities.  As partners on this program they will provide use of their gym, pool, and counseling and health services for students and families in the program.

Smith Leadership Academy will take the lead on running this project, but the success of the program relies on collaboration with community partners and parents.  By bringing in multiple organizations, we can serve the whole child and extend the impact of the program farther than just our school.  On the 2012 MCAS, Smith Leadership Academy (SLA) achieved Performance Level 1 and received a Commendation from the governor for narrowing proficiency gaps, as one of only 64 schools in the state commended, one of only 7 charter schools commended, and one of only 7 schools in Boston commended.

A grant from the Boston Foundation would enable us to continue this program, started under a $25,000 grant from the Boston Scientific Foundation this year.  This program will prepare our boys of color for careers in math and science and college readiness based on the Common Core standards.

The Academy’s plan for educational excellence includes: a cohesive curriculum aligned to the schools mission focused on the appropriate developmental instruction.  Instruction includes a cross-curricular focus, a commitment to professional development, and innovative collaboration with families and community partners.

The atmosphere of the school encourages a sense of pride in culture and identity, through using African cultural norms, teaching African history, posters on the walls, banners from colleges, events that include elements from cultures of the African diaspora.

The Academy provides students with a sense of belonging, nurturing, and a safe haven from the dangers of an inner-city community.

The Tusene Men’s Group will increase the impact of all of these programs by providing time for one-on-one interactions of boys of color with mentors and role models.  We expect the program to help these young men go on to succeed in high school, attend good colleges, and become leaders in society.

Other information:
SLA sets high expectations for academic achievement, provides quality teaching and intervention, works on a “whole child” philosophy, and instills in students a sense of their history and culture to create strong, confident, well-rounded young men of color who are prepared for success in the future.

A ritual we use in the men’s group to build responsibility and ownership over academics is our program called “Tables.”  Each student is placed at a table based on his the number of F’s on their report card. The moment we explain how the boy’s seating arrangements work we assure the boys that change could happen and they are in control. 

Every meeting we acknowledge who made the biggest jump of the week who explains what he did differently and how your mindset has to be if you want long term success. The message to students is:  you are in control of your life.  Do your best even when it is not enough.  Progress gets rewarded, everything else is an excuse.  The program has had a huge impact on student performance:  every week the 4 and 5 table gets smaller, and we see an increase in boys of color on the honor roll.

Primary Contact:
Karmala Sherwood
Smith Leadership Academy Charter Public School

Smith Leadership Academy is a charter public middle school in the Fields Corner section of Boston. Its mission is to develop high-achieving students of good character who use problem solving, communication and interpersonal skills to inspire others and to catalyze educational, economic and political advancement within their communities and the broader nation. The Academy works with a group of urban, underprivileged and marginalized students, many of whom have been underserved at other educational institutions. The Academy’s long-term goal is to instill in its students a thirst for academic success as well as a desire to achieve their full potential as citizens in the global community.

The Academy is a tuition-free, charter public school that serves students 216 students in grades 6 to 8.  Demographically, the Academy’s student body is 85 percent African American and/or Caribbean American, 14 percent Latino.  The majority of our students, 85 percent, are from low-income households in the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.

Partner 1:
Phronesis 7 is a non-profit organization that consults with schools and other organizations to provide mentoring and consulting related to special education needs of boys of color.   They counsel schools to bring about effective change, prepare all students to behavior appropriately in society, and address immediate concerns relating to over-referral of boys of color to special education services due to behavioral issues or a lack of cultural awareness in the classroom.

Students that are misplaced in special education are virtually trained to underachieve. African and Latino Americans have traditionally been denied opportunities to excel in our society.  Over-selecting them for special education placement appears to be a continuation of the practice of treating them as innately inferior, which is wrong by any standard and does not meet their need to a free and appropriate public education.

Phronesis7 spotlights the disproportionate number of boys of color that are referred for special education programs, and that are inappropriately placed. We are vigilant in addressing the pronounced over representation of African and Latino students in special education and intervene through staff training, case review, and the implementation of a pre-referral screening process (pipeline.)

Phronesis7 intervention team provides training to the faculty and administrators in legal and inclusion issues, differentiation of instruction, and the pre-referral screening processes (pipeline.)

Phronesis7 works with the school to monitor referrals closely and intervene in cases of multiple failure or persistent problem behavior. We help the school deal with the problem in the classroom if possible, so only referrals of students who actually needed assistance beyond differentiation in teaching and classroom management are referred.

Boys groups set up by Phronesis 7 provide students with successful techniques to improve their behavior, which will improve the quality of life in their schools, homes, communities, and overall learning environments.  Topics addressed in groups include identity, education, family, anger management, violence, trauma, self esteem, character, love, truancy, the police, gangs, sex, the impact of media.

Partner 2:
Project Rise will serve as our fiscal sponsor (501(c)(3) tax exempt# is 04.3194684).

Project RISE was founded during the summer of 1993 as an experimental pilot program on the Thayer Academy campus in Braintree, MA. The Program focused on providing academic remediation in Mathematics, Language Arts, Multicultural history and Science to 18 sixth through eight grade academically high risk African American males in the Boston Public Schools.

The goal of the program was to motivate these students to believe they could succeed. In the effort to accomplish this goal, students were assigned to small classes and were given individualized and remedial instruction over a seven week period. In addition, students participated in cultural awareness classes to encourage them to appreciate their unique heritage. These classes, coupled with the concentration on academics, helped to raise the students self esteem. As a result, these students reentered their perspective schools in the fall of 1993 with improved attitudes about their culture and intellectual ability. This change in attitude positively impacted their academic performance.

We serve the Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Roslindale, South Boston and South End areas of Boston. The program focuses on low income, urban, African American and Hispanic/Latino males and females between the ages of 8-17. The program also provides minority education, family services, self-esteem, self empowerment, health care and sex education, employment skills in computer repair and operation for teens, conflict resolution and violence prevention, and youth leadership.

Many of the students that attend the summer programs, grades 3-10, excelled remarkably by producing academic results in math and English that were better than what was to be expected for their grade levels. Additionally, we had 92 students total enrolled between the two sites during the summer programs. These record accomplishments have attracted more children in need of academic remediation to the program. Moreover, the program has touched more children with the experience of what respect, integrity, and success through education can do.

Partner 3:
Epiphany School
Epiphany School is an independent, tuition-free middle school for children of economically disadvantaged families from Boston neighborhoods. We admit children of diverse faiths, races, cultures and cognitive profiles, believing in the Episcopal tradition that we find God in and through each other’s presence. Epiphany’s small classes, individualized curricula, and extended school days provide rigorous academic, moral and social instruction. In close partnership with families, we are an innovative learning community that affords structured support to help students thrive.

Partner 4:
Dorchester House Multi-Service Center will provide a gym, a pool, counseling services, health information and referrals.
Our primary mission is to be an essential resource for our community in our efforts to:
-Achieve the highest levels of health, well-being and quality of life for residents
-Provide affordable, accessible and exceptional health care and essential services in an environment that respects our consumers, staff and diverse community
- -Be a leading force for change in the health, economic and social well-being of our community

Our Services Include:
-Primary Care (Family and Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Women’s Health and an Adolescent Clinic)
-Oral Health
-Eye Care
-Behavioral Health
-340B Pharmacy
-Laboratory Testing
-Specialty Care (Cardiology, Dermatology, Gastroenterology, Nutrition,  OB/GYN,  Physical Therapy)
-Clinical Case Management (Diabetes, HIV, Obesity, Pre-Natal Care, Substance Abuse)
-Social Service Case Management (Domestic Violence Support,  Legal Clinic, Access to Food, Education, Employment and Housing Assistance)
-Youth Activities

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