|Loretta Woods is the Principal of New City Christian School.|
Is Anything Working for Black Children?
Last year fewer than half of black children in Asheville’s elementary schools passed both their reading and math end-of-grade tests, according to information recently released on ncreportcard.org. Forty-four percent of African American students passed both tests compared to 91 percent of white children. Is there an educational model that is successful in achieving outstanding results with black children? The answer is “Yes!” and in 2006 such a school was started here in Asheville.
New City Christian School was established with the mission of equipping its students with knowledge, confidence, and hope. Founder Coral Jeffries believed that the achievement gap could be closed by recognizing that many African American children arrive at kindergarten underprepared, and that the school curriculum could be constructed to fill in some of those missing pieces.
“We know that many of our students have not been regularly read to, have
not been to academically focused preschools, and have not had the
outside enrichment opportunities that traditionally high-achieving
students have had,” said Jeffries. “Even so, we have high expectations
for them. These kids are smart and are eager to learn. We are committed
to figuring out what works in catching them up.”
Ninety-three percent of New City students were working at or above grade
level at the end of last year, as measured by their combined
end-of-grade test scores. A recent visit to the school demonstrated some
of the measures that are making this school so successful.
Upon entering a New City classroom, a visitor is greeted by a student
extending a hand, making eye contact, and offering words of welcome.
Class size is limited to around 10 students. Hands are raised
enthusiastically in response to a teacher’s question.
|Classes at New City Christian School include comprehensive lessons in phonics for both kindergarten and first grade students.|
Jeffries says, “We are old school in the way we teach, like using
phonics and math drills. Facts are important, and we try and squeeze
lots of information into every classroom encounter. Our students often
lack the background knowledge that would put them on equal footing in
terms of reading comprehension, so we know we can’t waste a single
“Old-school methods” does not mean being bored or just sitting quietly.
In the New City kindergarten room, students are learning the continents
with a karate-style chant and learning their letters with magnetic
boards and pieces so they can participate in the lesson.
The school currently offers grades K-3, and hopes to add a grade each
year, eventually becoming a pre-K-8 school. Though private, New City
exists to serve families of all income levels and is affordable for any
family. The school is located at 56 Walton Street.
For more information, visit www.newcitychristian.org, or call Coral Jeffries at (828) 776-6227 to arrange a visit.