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TandemEd believes that youth, families, and residents hold the assets and keys to define and lead toward their own vision for the future. Unfortunately, while our urban public schools with good intentions seek to "serve" these communities, they are not often eager to follow the communities by echoing their community messages within the walls of the school building. Simultaneously, black communities themselves are often of the mindset that they cannot come together to collectively define what messages of identity and purpose they want to promote throughout their communities and cities. TandemEd intervenes in this scenario through a combined strategy that includes community organizing, facilitating the development of community-designed marketing campaigns, and guiding urban public schools with tools and understanding of how to be supportive and responsive of the community leadership.
We assess that the current approach to black community development is dominated by a "school-centered" and "school-led" approach to change, with the dominant workforce of these schools led and taught largely by persons who are not indigenous to the community where they serve. These school institutions within the K-12 education sector are then taught to "engage" and "involve" these indigenous leaders, parents, and others into their efforts to improve the outcomes for youth:
This approach holds an unexamined deficit-based view of the leadership assets and potential for the indigenous community to actually lead the overarching development of youth. Furthermore, it amounts to "management" of the community to the ends and goals of the school-as-an-institution, even while this may be done from a sincerely benevolent attitude:
We propose a shift in framework from a "school-centered" to an indigenous "community-centered" approach to community development, whereby the public school is a part of the community effort for the unique purpose of serving as the experts in the academic instruction of the youth of the community:
This then places the appropriate framework in place to 1) target the overlooked levers of motivation and identity for academic engagement (i.e., feelings of competence, feelings of purpose) and 2) to capture these from the place where it should originate in an asset-based framework --- the community itself. [Research and writings from authors such as Theresa Perry, Claude Steele, and Asa Hilliard III affirm this lever of identity development poignantly in their book entitled Young Gifted and Black: Promoting High Achievement among African-American Students (2003)].
This overview provides the summarized basis for the argument for why we at TandemEd promote within our work an investment in indigenous leadership, strategies to shift mindsets in identity, and the support and responsiveness of institutions for both of these areas. This, we believe produces outcomes heretofore unseen, not only in the K-12 public education sector, but throughout the sectors that comprise the work of societal uplift and sustainability in America's cities.