Michael Prayor was principal of Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology, an ESI school. He is now HS Superintendent for Districts 17, 18, 20, 21, 22.
Why did your school apply to ESI?
We saw the benefits of being part of the initiative: At Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology (BKLAT), 70% of our student population are African-American males. We saw it as an opportunity to think directly about a majority of our student population and how best to serve them. We wanted ESI to be something new and exciting for our teachers.
What resulted was an ongoing conversation among staff and members of our school and larger community about educating boys of color—more specifically, what does it look like to do that work successfully? During our second year of implementing ESI, we planned a retreat in which all faculty and staff members (everyone employed in our building), several students, and members from our community participated. They used design thinking to revisit the school’s mission and envision what BKLAT should look like to serve its students and community in the coming years. Another question that grew out of this work was how does improving how we educate boys of color, in turn, impact how we think about teacher preparedness? As a school community we created a supportive environment at BKLAT. But we started to think explicitly about how faculty/staff create school culture with students and the tools they use to engage this—looking at how teachers are prepared to teach boys of color. As a result of those conversations and ESI, I developed relationships with colleges/universities doing in-service teacher-training that provided teachers with those kinds of resources and support, the kind needed to work in my school and schools like BKLAT.
What did you take away/learn from implementing ESI as principal of Brooklyn Law and Tech?
ESI helped us think differently—as a result we redesigned our instructional and professional goals and reframed instructional plans and school goals. The first ESI cohort of 9th graders is now in 11th grade. That group has exceeded all expectations in Math and ELA.
Why do this work? Why now?
Look at the climate today with regard to what is happening [to young men of color]–this work is fundamentally necessary. Thinking about black and Latino students’ level of access to rigorous courses, AP courses, entrepreneurial skills, and even basic skills. When you think about all these things happening across our country, ESI is necessary. If I were to change anything it would be to incorporate more of social media, which is part of their life and experiences, into how we teach our young men and how they learn.
Continuing to expand on the pillars of ESI but utilizing social media strategically. In-school collaborations and across school collaborations are imperative, as well as forming partnerships across state lines. More of that is needed. Who are going to be the next leaders in our community to carry on this work?
by Richard Haynes