AAI’s School Services Program works with K-12 communities to ensure that students have the educationally enriching and transformative experience of learning about Africa and its global Diaspora. The program provides a comprehensive array of supports that enable districts and schools to successfully: 1) design curricular content on Africa and African diaspora that is scholarly and free of bias and misinformation; and 2) deliver classroom instruction that supports student learning, self-leadership, and academic achievement and excellence.
Schools Services was created to meet the dual challenges of eliminating: the harmful K-12 educational practice of introducing students to Africa solely through the lens of European domination (enslavement and colonization); and the persistence of poor educational outcomes, particularly among black students. A distinctive feature of AAI’s approach to infusing schools’ curricula and classroom instruction with quality content on Africa is that it encompasses raising students’ achievement levels as an integral goal.
AAI initially launched the Schools Services Program in the late 1960s, as Africa was decolonizing and students across the United States were demanding more courses on Black history and Black experiences. Together with AAI’s separate-but-related Educators to Africa travel program for teachers, School Services served as a resource for school districts, teachers, principals, and professional associations involved in designing K-12 curricula. At its November 2020 conference on “Teaching Africa” A 21st Century, Anti-Racist Agenda That Promotes Equity and Achievement In K-12 Education” AAI re-launched Schools Services by adding a greater emphasis on skilled pedagogy, and student academic achievement, to its principal goals.
School Services supports K-12 students, teachers, school leaders, parents, and other members of school communities who want to: design and deliver high quality curricula and instruction on the centrality of Africa and its global Diaspora in the creation of the modern world; and support student achievement and excellence, especially among black students.
Schools Services works closely with district and school communities on developing customized plans for achieving their goals. Our work is guided by our partners’ needs and preferences, and informed by applicable state education standards.
The program offers a range of mutually-reinforcing supports that fall mainly within these areas:
1. Content-focused training in curriculum development and classroom instruction that exposes students to rigorously researched knowledge about the centrality of Africa and its global Diaspora in the creation of the United States, and the modern world;
2. Pedagogical training that draws on the results-oriented research on teaching, learning, and the brain, to equip teachers to transform students—especially those who are disadvantaged by structural racism— into cognitively independent, high-achieving life-long learners;
3. Resources to strengthen school climate including mechanisms to elevate, encourage, and learn from student voice—students’ expression of what they feel about and want from their education so that students embrace their own learning; and
4. Coaching and skills-building designed to strengthen principals’ and administrators’ capacity to demonstrate culturally-responsive leadership— the capacity to cultivate the active support and engagement of all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members).
We maintain ongoing dialogue with our district and school partners to infuse Africa and its Diaspora into curric ula and pedagogy, while remaining attuned to the need to introduce additional complementary resources that address other challenges partners might be facing—for instance, educators whose mindset or teaching skills are not condusive to student achievement or the need to strengthen parent engagement.
School Services draws on AAI’s extensive relationships in the United States and across the African continent: world renowned scholars in the academy who are producing knowledge on Africa and the African Diaspora; lead ing authorities on culturally responsive teaching and K-12 instructional design; organizations that can provide a rich array of Africa-focused content and teaching materials; and groups that specialize in elevating student voice, raising teachers’ awareness of implicit bias, and other inputs to strengthen school leadership and cli mate.
Among AAI’s principal co-founders were Horace Mann Bond and William Leo Hansberry, two pioneering scholars, educators, and activists whose work straddled the divide between African and African Diaspora studies. AAI con tinues to embrace the philosophy of education for liberation that Bond and Hansberry espoused—a philosophy that affirms the humanity and cultivates the intellectual aspirations and excellence of all people.