Saturday, November 25, 2006

Developing Qualified Academic Zones in EEZ's by Akindele Akinyemi

The educational choice movement continues to grow as more and more parents become involved in the reform process. I am receiving e-mails weekly on designing educational empowerment zones within depressed communities to revitalize those communities. There is no reason why Inkster or Ecorse cannot become the Black middle class of Wayne County.

Now we should also discuss implementing Qualified Zone Academies or Qualified Academic Zone Boards within the educational empowerment zones that we are trying to establish in urban communities. This is one solution for those who support traditional public schools. This can also be used for charters as well because charters are public schools.

The definition of a qualified zone academy’ means any public school which is established by and operated under the supervision of an eligible local education agency to provide education and training below the postsecondary level if:

1. The public school or program is designed in cooperation with business to enhance the academic curriculum, increase graduation and employment rates, and better prepare students for the rigors of college and the increasingly complex workforce.

2. Students in the public school or program will be subject to the same academic standards and assessments as other students educated by the eligible local education agency.

3. The comprehensive educational plan of the public school or program is approved by the eligible local education agency.

4. The public school or program is located in: a) an empowerment zone, or b) an enterprise community, or c) there is a reasonable expectation that at least 35 percent of the students attending the school or participating in the program will be eligible for free or reduced cost lunches under the school lunch program established under the National School Lunch Act.

Funds under this Zone can be used for the following:

1. Rehabilitating or repairing the public school facility in which the academy is established.

2. Providing equipment for use at the academy.

3. Developing course materials for education to be provided at the academy.

4. Training teachers and other school personnel in the academy.

How does management companies fit into all of this? A charter school that has not passed their AYP for three years must begin to make changes to meet federal standards. Part of this transformation process is upgrading the facility in which the school is housed. This is where a QAZB comes into play: to receive funds to upgrade the facility with state of the art technology to bring standards up to date. This would include providing students with laptops as well as other multimediaccessorieses for students to help them in their curriculum and instruction.

The management company can provide curriculum and instruction to the staff and students, can providadditionalal technological support or both. The management company that is providing assistance to the school can use the QAZB to establish qualified zone academies in
partnership with local businesses in urban areas.

Additionally, management companies, within these zones, have to work with businesses to enhance the academic curriculum, increase graduation and employment rates, and better prepare students for college and the workforce. Charters must have established a partnership with one or more businesses (Note: Governmental agencies do not qualify as business partners.) and be located within an Educational Empowerment Zone (EEZ). Part of that joint business-academic union should include a vocational training program where we are showing our students how to prepare resumes, required speech and communication course and an intense workshop on job preparations.

As Black Conservatives try to establish Black Regional Power across Southeastern Michigan and branch off into a statewide One Network educational reform should be at the top of OUR list for 2007. Stay tuned for more tips on reform in the educational arena.

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