Excerpt from article originally published by EdNC titled: "Global Scholars Academy: Students seeking to be scholars" by Mebane Rash, January 23, 2017.
There is a historical marker in Durham noting a segregation protest at an ice cream parlor on the site in 1957. The protest led to a court case testing dual racial facilities.
On this site now is the Global Scholars Academy, a K-8 charter school serving 100 percent students of color.
The vision of Jim Johnson, a professor at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, and Dr. Kenneth Ray Hammond, the pastor of Union Baptist Church, the Global Scholars Academy began in 2009 as an independent school before converting to a charter school in 2011. The church built this beautiful, 21st century learning environment complete with spaces for flexible use just across the street under the shadow of its steeple.
According to the website, the school’s vision is to build bridges to the economic mainstream for vulnerable students by offering a “high touch” educational experience that identifies their needs and attributes, broadens and deepens their learning, diversifies their personal networks, and expands their access to life-changing domestic and global experiences.
But that’s not what is remarkable about this school.
I have been in a lot of our schools over the past two years. It is my favorite part of my job. I have been in a school where I did not see a single child learning in any of the classrooms I visited. The Global Scholars Academy is on the other end of that spectrum. In every class I visited, every single child was engaged in active learning.
Jason Jowers is the principal and Miya Plummer is the assistant principal of the Global Scholars Academy. Both started last summer, and they make a great team. All of the faculty are new except for five teachers and three teaching assistants. Jowers and Plummer are in and out of classrooms all day every day setting high expectations and providing instructional feedback to the teachers.
At the Global Scholars Academy, 55 percent of the students are African American, 42 percent are Hispanic, and 2 percent are multi-racial. As we enter this kindergarten class, Jowers says, “A lot of kids come to us with no pre-K. This is their first school.”
These kindergartners are learning to read by taking turns marking and then reading out loud to the class sentences on the whiteboard. There is a teacher and an assistant teacher in the class. A student is hearing impaired, and several of the Hispanic students are still learning English. As we watch the teacher using sign language and instructional strategies to teach all of the students to read, Jowers says, “they are all learning language together.” The teacher was crouched down on the students’ level during the entire lesson.
In this third grade classroom, Glenda Narcisse is teaching a math lesson on rounding with jazz playing in the background. A couple of students are finishing up breakfast while they work. Most of the students are collectively answering questions Narcisse asks the class. Other students are working independently. Jowers explains “x-tra math” to me. “We make sure that basic math mastery happens here in third grade. We grab 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there to make sure that happens.”
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