LITHONIA, GA -- For Chike Akua and L. Kobie Wilkerson, the Black male graduation rate in America is absolutely unacceptable. Several months ago The Schott Foundation released its report finding that the national graduation rate for Black males was a lowly 47%, nationally. "It's unacceptable, given what we know about what it takes for our children to achieve and succeed," says Akua, an author and former Teacher of the Year who trains teachers on how to increase student achievement, especially African Americans.
Akua taught for 14 years in Virginia and Georgia public schools. He began developing training seminars for educators to deal with cultural issues he felt were not being addressed in traditional professional development workshops. Additionally, he began developing African-centered curriculum materials that are now being used in public, private, and charter schools around the country. He is now one of the most sought after keynote speakers and trainers at K-12 schools and educational conferences.
Nationally-known educator and author, L. Kobie Wilkerson agrees that schools could achieve at much higher levels if all staff received training on how to cultivate authentic relationships in addition to training on how teachers can empower their students through their instruction. Wilkerson trains teachers and administrators on changing the school culture. "We have schools that have succumbed to a culture of underachievement," says Wilkerson who is known for his powerful model teaching seminars in which he actually goes into the classroom and teaches a model lesson, then coaches teachers on how to prepare and deliver the lessons using state standards.
"Nobody likes to just be told what to do - I believe teachers would rather hear it and see it done in the classroom with their students so they can see the impact and results with their own eyes. That's what I do and the teachers love it." Wilkerson travels the country training teachers and his trainings are so in-demand that he has not been at home for more than three consecutive days since January.
Akua and Wilkerson have partnered to make the Teacher Transformation Institute the premiere professional development conference for teachers who want to reach African American students. The Teacher Transformation Institute is a standards-based, research-driven, best practices conference that gives teachers practical, specific strategies they can use to increase student achievement.
"It's clear that culture is the key - the critical mediating factor in increasing student achievement," says Akua. "So we train teachers on how to use culture as a bridge rather than a barrier," says Akua who launched the Teacher Transformation Institute in the fall of 2009. The response has been phenomenal. "Teachers have come from all over the country to attend the Teacher Transformation Institute and have told me things like , ‘this is exactly what we need!' ‘we've never had professional development like this before!'"
The next Teacher Transformation Institute will be in Atlanta on December 6, 2010. "Many teachers and administrators know that what they're doing now isn't working. They're looking for answers. We don't have all the answers, but we've got quite few that get results."