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Thurgood Marshall Academy Gains National Prominence

Dorothy Rowley | 5/1/2013, 9 p.m.
When it comes to raising the bar and educating minorities in the District of Columbia, Thurgood Marshall Academy in Southeast ...
Black male students at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Southeast D.C. are making significant gains in closing the achievement gap. (Courtesy of Thurgood Marshall Academy)

When it comes to raising the bar and educating minorities in the District of Columbia, Thurgood Marshall Academy in Southeast has stepped up to the plate. And, in the process has gained national prominence closing the achievement gap among black male students.

The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) announced during its annual meeting that took place April 26 in Chicago that the public charter high school is one of its five award schools for 2013.

"We have a large achievement gap in this country, and D.C. is synonymous with under-achievement," said Adrian Austin, Thurgood Marshall grants writer. "So this award is very special for us."

Austin, 30, added that while many District residents are already aware of the effective programs at the school, the award serves as an opportunity to showcase to the rest of the country, the staff's success educating young black males.

"We had panels of students, parents, teachers and administrators who were interviewed for the award during on-site visits [from COSEBOC] and no one was coached beforehand on how to respond," said Austin. "We just encouraged everyone involved to tell the truth, and that was one of the main things that helped us to win."

COSEBOC is a national network of schools, highly-respected educators, researchers, policy-makers and advocates who share and promote innovative approaches and initiatives aimed at improving the educational outcomes at schools with significant populations of African-American males.

Thurgood Marshall, which is located in Ward 8, is the only school in the District, and one of only two high schools in the country to receive the prestigious award. The school is also the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the New York City-based Black Male Achievement campaign.

In addition to Marshall, this year's award schools included Best Academy in Minneapolis, Minn.; Devonshire Elementary School in Charlotte, N.C.; and Merrillville High School and Salk Elementary, both in Merrillville, Ind. All of them were honored last week at COSEBOC's 7th annual "Gathering of Leaders," where teachers and students shared their formulas for success.

The schools were selected based on their success engaging and educating students through test scores, graduation rates and college attendance. However, Marshall took its commitment a step further, having placed more emphasis on creative, effective, and sustainable in-school and out-of-school programs for its male students.

COSEBOC Executive Director Ron Walker said the awards are proof and evidence of educational environments that work "extremely well" for black male students.

"Identifying schools that have developed effective, creative and sustainable approaches and sharing those successes with other educators is the cornerstone of the work we do at COSEBOC," said Walker.

"These five schools are unrepentant in their belief that students can succeed and soar to great achievement levels," Walker said. "Each is led by a principal who is determined to build great schools. Most importantly, they know that great schools are not an accident."