A report highlighting the outcomes of a three-year research project on the Africentric Alternative School is now available, and suggests that various aspects of the school had a positive impact on students.
The Africentric Alternative School Research Project was a partnership (2011-14) between the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), York University’s Centre for Education & Community (YCEC) and the Africentric Alternative School (AAS).
Some of the main objectives of the project were to: understand the aspirations for the school of students, parents and staff, and how they shape the school; explore the local version of Africentric education being implemented at the school; identify effective educational practices and resources in educating black students; document transformative practices at the AAS; and identify – with students, parents and staff – areas requiring support.
Overall, the research indicates that various aspects of the school (e.g. culture of high expectations of students, integration of African-centred knowledge and practices, model of parent and community involvement and engagement, and the development of a positive black identity) have had a positive impact on students’ identities, self-confidence, social development, awareness of African culture and critical thinking skills.
“It is important that we have this research about the school to provide evidence of how things are going and the particular issues on teachers, administrators, parents and students should focus in order to make the school a success,” says Carl James, director of YCEC. “Furthermore, the research evidence of the school’s program, curriculum and pedagogy point to the value of and possibilities in education that are culturally relevant and responsive to the needs, interests and aspirations of the students and parents it serves.”
The research, grounded in the narratives of students, parents, teachers and administrators, suggests that the AAS nurtured a strong sense of community at the school, for black students, families and staff, in ways that have not been historically present in public schools.
The report highlights the importance of student identity, school-community relationships, and parent and community engagement in the education of black students. It also provides a snapshot of the challenges the school experienced (e.g. changing administration, under-resourcing, negative media attention and portrayal etc.).
This research has implications for the ongoing success and support of the AAS, and transferability of educational practices across the TDSB to support the schooling and achievement of black students.