“In Madison, I can point to a long history of failure when it comes to educating African-American boys,” says Caire, a Madison native and a graduate of West High School. He is blunt about the problems of many black students in Madison.
“We have one of the worst achievement gaps in the entire country. I’m not seeing a concrete plan to address that fact, even in a district that prides itself on innovative education. Well, here’s a plan that’s innovative, and that has elements that have been very successful elsewhere. I’d like to see it have a chance to change kids’ lives here,” says Caire, who is African-American and has extensive experience working on alternative educational models, particularly in Washington, D.C.
One of the most vexing problems in American education is the difference in how well minority students, especially African-American children, perform academically in comparison to their white peers. With standardized test scores for black children in Wisconsin trailing those from almost every other state in the nation, addressing the achievement gap is a top priority for educators in the Badger State. Although black students in Madison do slightly better academically than their counterparts in, say, Milwaukee, the comparison to their white peers locally creates a Madison achievement gap that is, as Caire points out, at the bottom of national rankings.
He’s become a fan of same-sex education because it “eliminates a lot of distractions” and he says a supportive environment of high expectations has proven to be especially helpful for improving the academic performance of African-American boys.
Caire intends to bring the proposal for the boys-only charter prep school before the Madison School Board in October or November, then will seek a planning grant for the school from the state Department of Public Instruction in April, and if all goes according to the ambitious business plan, Madison Prep would open its doors in 2012 with 80 boys in grades 6 and 7.
Forty more sixth-graders would be accepted at the school in each subsequent year until all grades through senior high school are filled, with a total proposed enrollment of 280 students. A similar, same-sex school for girls would promptly follow, Caire says, opening in 2013.
Five things would make Madison Prep unique, Caire says, and he believes these options will intrigue parents and motivate students.
It will be interesting to see how independent (from a governance and staffing perspective) this proposal is from the current Madison charter models. The more the better.
Clusty Search: Madison Preparatory Academy.