chapter  1
20 Pages

The Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot School

Step in the door at Young Achievers and you can feel the vibe. In the teachers’ room you’re greeted heartily with broad smiles. The building, though old and well worn, is pristinely tidy, conveying the sense that it is well cared for by staff and students. The main hallway is lined with framed posters proclaiming: National Hispanic Heritage Month, National Black History Month: We Are All Equally Different, National Asian American Heritage Month, and National Native American Heritage Month. The assistant principal strolls the halls and projects authority. He’s dressed in a sharp green suit, silk tie, beaded necklace, well-coiffed dreads. A teacher confided to Sobel that one of her young students thought he was the president. “Of what?” Sobel asked naively. “The president of the United States, of course,” she responded. Names on the lockers read Jahzell, Mykayla, Tyriq, Alyria. Definitely not Kansas, but the power of the ruby red slippers is at work here. This is an academically together, happening place. The teachers are “a bunch of intellectual artists,” one staff member described. One external evaluator of the school concluded that:

Extremely high aspirations and deeply rooted values tangle with the reality of the logistical, personal, political constraints that are inherent in an urban school setting. The overall sense is that Young Achievers is on the edge of something really big, riding an exhilaratingly tall wave that could break at any moment.