Board to Consider ‘African-Centered’ School

Dan Hardy, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 23

The director of a West Chester community center, concerned by the poor academic performance of many area African American students, wants to open a charter school in the borough with an “African-centered” curriculum that he says will improve their educational showing.

The proposed Sankofa Academy Charter School, if approved by the West Chester Area School District, would be the first charter in Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania suburbs to use an African-centered curriculum. Several Philadelphia charter schools use that approach.

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The word sankofa, McKim said, means “go back and fetch it.” It is a call for people of African descent to “return to the source . . . . We’re talking about lost culture, lost history.” The school, he said, would serve “underserved, underachieving children” in Chester County with an emphasis on attracting African American children, although it would be open to all.

It would feature an extended day, with students staying until 4:30 p.m.; two to three hours of homework each day; signed agreements among students, parents and the school laying out responsibilities; a “rigorous college prep” curriculum; and an emphasis on learning through direct experience.

The curriculum, according to the proposal, would present subjects with an African-centered focus, so that “as students study mathematics, science and technology, they will be consistently reminded of the important roles played by Africa and Africans.” Many cultural activities would be African-themed and the seven principles of Kwanzaa—unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith—would be emphasized. African dress, decor and music would be incorporated into the school and “traditional African greetings and decision-making strategies” would be employed.

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