“In light of how our sons were experiencing school,
we came up with the 3 E’s: Engage. Encourage. Empower.”
-Christopher P. Chatmon, Executive Director, AAMA
The Office of African American Male Achievement
stops the epidemic failure of African American male students in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD).
The Office of African American
Male Achievement was launched in 2010 and creates the systems, structures, and spaces that guarantee success for all African American male students
Male Achievement is an a
mbitious project designed to
dramatically improve academic and ultimately life outcomes for African American
male students in Oakland. AAMA is leading the school district by analyzing the
patterns and processes that are producing systemic inequities. OUSD’s theory of
action, Targeted Universalism
, asserts that by transforming the system to
support successful outcomes for OUSD’s lowest performing subgroup, OUSD will
create a district that improves academic and social-emotional outcomes for all
of its students.
OUSD is the first district in the United States to create a department that specifically addresses the needs of African American male students. We made the formal commitment that, “African American male students are extraordinary and deserve a school system that meets their unique and dynamic needs.”
In 2010, the superintendent, together with Oakland’s Board of Education, the Urban Strategies Council, and the East Bay Community Foundation, examined longitudinal data and came to a jarring conclusion: past initiatives had done little to transform the experiences, access, or educational attainment of African American male students. Regardless of the reform or learning theory or even school site, en masse, the educational needs of Black children were not being met.
It is disappointing, but not surprising, that in the early stages of this endeavor, many people throughout the district were unable to even imagine what Black achievement could or should look like. This environment compelled Christopher P. Chatmon, the newly appointed executive director of the Office of African American Male Achievement, to work directly with school principals.
While Chatmon recognizes that it wasn’t solely the work of one person, it was his responsibility to lean on the system and hold the system accountable to African American male students and their families. In essence, his role was to leverage OUSD on behalf of a marginalized community. Chatmon went from vision to action. “All that to say,” he exclaims, “we didn’t just want to tell people how to do this work, we needed to show them—inside their schools.”
Today, the Office of African American Male Achievement is leveraging community partnerships, researching and implementing best instructional practices, and paving the way for reforms that will affect school systems for generations. Throughout this journey, Brother Chatmon and his colleagues remain courageous, creative, and committed to developing interventions that will improve lives.