Teacher lifts culture at AV high
African American Male Initiative succeeding
LANCASTER, Calif.—Antelope Valley High School recently underwent major changes, including the reassignment of 50 percent of its teachers. The school has been in hot water before, being declared a Tier II school. According to the California Department of Education, a Tier II institution is one that falls under certain criteria, including the tag as a low-achieving school based on testing or graduation rates.
AV High’s troubles extend back as far as 2003, when five top administrators were replaced in an effort to revamp the campus. But the transition didn’t quite work. According to the Los Angeles Times, the action was taken due to the school leaders’ inability to improve student academic performance on standardized tests over a two-year period.
In the 2003-04 school year, of the students who took the California state test, an overwhelming majority scored basic, below basic and far below basic in language arts and math, African American students being the worse among them. The numbers hardly fared differently in the 2006-07 and 2009-10 school years, but in fact looked hopeless.
Additionally, the school’s Academic Performance Index scores were consistently low, particularly between 2006 and 2011. In the 2005-06 school year, the school reached a low score of 584, and African American students managed to gain a mere 522 score, the second lowest of the school, just above students with disabilities and below English Learners. In the 2010-11 school year, the score only improved 8 points, continuing a failure to reach their goal for several consecutive years. Again, Blacks students scored significantly low with a 526 score, several points below English Learners.
Mark Bryant, assistant superintendent for the Antelope Valley High School District, acknowledged that AV High is considered a low-performing school, which means it has been consistently struggling to meet achievement goals and to serve students efficiently.
“AV High School is currently undergoing a turnaround model. One part of it is to basically restructure the faculty in a way that means replacing 50 percent and at most rehiring 50 percent,” he explained.
Among the rehires was Jeff Patterson, an honors English and AVID instructor for 19 years. Originally from the Bay Area, the teacher recognized the disparaging failure rates among students, especially African American males.
There is no questioning the fact that Black students are consistently at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to academic success rates, but not for any fault of their own, he believes.
Patterson believes Black students need a different kind of learning structure. Since beginning his stay at AV, he has steadily reached out to faculty members, instructing them on ways to help their Black students achieve. Whether that it is through cultural relevance or other behavioral practices, Patterson is determined to not only bring up scores, but prepare young Black students for their future.
Last year he helped co-coordinate the African American Male Initiative (AAMI) (part of the AVID program) on the campus.
The program is designed to attract more Black boys into AVID and help them gain a better focus on college and careers.
“The purpose of AAMI is to recruit and retain African American males for AVID. It is a very structured, culturally relevant,” said Patterson. “We eat unique foods, play dominoes, and bring them into a light atmosphere where the guys get together. We get to meet and develop a relationship. Eventually, I introduce the concepts of the AVID program, but it is in a non-threatening, school-like presentation way.”
Focusing on Black males has allowed Patterson to establish a safe place for the young men to speak about relevant issues and also gain the support they would not otherwise receive from peers, other faculty members, and even at home.
The educator said that many of the young men in the program come from single-parent homes, where the father is either a passerby or not involved at all. So Patterson is seen much like a father figure.
Every Friday, the men “dress for success.” Patterson says this is to help the students get in the mind frame of being professional men and to also recognize the opportunities available to them by simply dressing well. He said that even administrators address them with more respect.
But the sub-program was not necessarily received with open arms by all Patterson’s peers.
In the beginning, teachers questioned the validity and fairness of having a program completely focused on Black boys. But some began to warm up and notice the improved behavior, grades, and overall campus culture.
Students who weren’t involved with AVID noticed the pride and respect the young men received when they dressed their best throughout the school year. So on some Fridays, Patterson noticed other students also dressing for success. They made it cool to look professional, he commented.
Patterson persists with his efforts to improve the lives of students. Through extracurricular events, peer mentoring with junior high school and college students, and even meeting with successful individuals, he has watched his students turn into leaders on campus and become cohorts in a movement that reaches beyond the Antelope Valley.
LANCASTER, Calif.—Antelope Valley High School underwent major changes in 2011, including the reassignment of 50 percent of its teachers. The school earlier had been declared a Tier II school, which includes the tag of being designated as low-achieving based on testing or graduation rates.
According to data just released by the California Department of Education, the number of African Americans who graduated with their class after four years of high school has increased 2.9 percent.
An estimated 65.7 percents of Black students, who started high school in 2008-09 graduated with their class in 2012.
At the same time, the dropout rate for African American students in the class of 2008-2009 decreased 4.5 percent over three years to 22.2 percent in 2012.
Efforts to assist survivors of a shooting rampage that killed a father and his young son and left three other members of their Inglewood family wounded gained momentum Tuesday with a second police department announcing a fund to benefit the victims.
Filimon Lamas, 30, and his 4-year-old son were killed Saturday when suspect Desmond John Moses, their 55-year-old neighbor, opened fire in their home then set his own house ablaze, police said.
The California Department of Education recently released the 2012 Standardized Testing and Report (STAR) results, and while the state is celebrating nine straight years of student improvement on the annual statewide mathematics and English language arts exams, it appears that even the most economically gifted African American students are not on par with their White and Asian counterparts.
L.A. began its first work week of “Ramp Jam”—the three-month closure of the westbound Wilshire Boulevard onramp to the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway and the northbound 405’s offramp to westbound Wilshire.
The ramps were closed Friday night in the first phase of a yearlong effort to demolish and rebuild all eight ramps at the interchange. They are to be replaced with ramps designed to reduce traffic jams and dangerous lane-weaving. The work is part of a project to add a 10-mile carpool lane to the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass.