Genius resides in an all-boys K-5 school in East New York, Brooklyn. It is a place where Black and Latino boys thrive academically, but ultimately it is a place where they are nurtured. IMLCS was classified by The New York State Department of Education as a Reward School for two consecutive years in a row. The teachers and staff here know the names of every scholar and is excellent at pulling the very best out of every child.
As I walked down the halls of the school, it was evident that a spirit of pride resonated throughout. It is too often that boys of underserved communities are pigeon holed and labeled as “unfocused,” but could it be that we are not teaching our boys correctly? As a teacher for over ten years I have noticed that in many schools it was always Black and Latino boys getting into trouble and when I taught in contained special education classes in the beginning of my career, it was always Black and Latino boys who were crammed into these small classrooms with few windows because administration didn’t know what to do with them. Many were forced on Ritalin and deemed hopeless because the perimeters of many of these schools did not meet their needs.
But, here – today the boys of IMLCS are evidence that Black and Latino boys have a zest for learning and a yearn to succeed. IMLCS’s scores increased in ELA 865% since 2013, and scores in math has grown 248% since 2013. In 2017, IMLCS’s boys outperformed Black boys, Hispanic boys, White and Asian boys in the New York State math and ELA Common Core exams. These young boys are beating out the state and yes, they come from a predominately Black and Latino neighborhood.
When I spoke with principal Bevon Thompson — he expressed that IMLCS is constantly educating themselves on how boys learn best. His mission is to change the narrative on teaching boys. He said to me, “Our school is designed to meet the needs of boys and understand how to bring out the genius that is inherent in every child. We want to change the narrative around the education of males. They are often described as unfocused, don’t like to read, etc. Everything we do, including the books in the library, the topics for discussion, the extracurricular activities, and organization of the school is designed around making the school “boy friendly.”
What they are doing here, is working. Thompson wants to share with schools what they have learned about how to bring the best out of boys and take their K-5 model and create a K-12 one. Yes, here is a school in East New York, Brooklyn where “genius is common,” a phrase amicably coined by NY poet Bruce George.