by michael on June 29, 2011

I learned of Stephanie Whited through Twitter. Stephanie is the Director of Communications of Schools That Can. The Twitter tag is @SchoolsThatCan. By the thoughtfulness of her comments and from her Twitter page, I became intrigued with her work and began corresponding with her. The program’s emphasis on—indeed, acknowledgement of the value of—ethical learning was alluring. The program’s mission for schools is to foster ethical citizens. I asked Stephanie to write a few words about her program to be posted on this blog.

Stephanie provided this statement.

Ethical Learning is an Effective Practice of Quality Low Income Schools

Empowering urban students to become engaged and ethical citizens is an effective practice of schools serving low income communities. Schools in the Schools That Can network have identified several ways for students to become engaged citizens.
Citizens Academy in Cleveland thrives on a virtue-centered environment that fosters respect, responsibility, honesty, generosity, courage, perseverance and loyalty.

They hold monthly assemblies where children illustrate how they encounter these virtues in their daily lives through original poetry, plays, and songs. They student body is 97% African American, 80% economically disadvantaged, and they are one of only 11 schools in Cleveland to receive an Excellent rating. Visit the Citizens Academy school page to learn more about their effective practices.

The Detroit Service Learning Academy (DSLA) incorporates community service into their academics. Service Learning projects and monthly school wide character development assemblies help students build character and take responsibility for themselves, their neighborhood, and community. DSLA partners with numerous companies and organizations such as Meijer, Greater Grace Church, COTS, WJLB, Barns and Nobles, Ronald McDonald House, DMC, and others.

The academic, service learning component allows the classroom teacher to teach the state standards and benchmarks of the Michigan curriculum, while also giving the students real life, real world experiences. It is through this process, the students learn the value of their voice and the power of service. This year they were named a “School of Excellence” by the Michigan Department of Education. Learn more at DSLA’s school page.

The impact of these curriculums has the power to change not only the lives of the children involved, but their entire families and their communities. When parents see that schools are not failing their children, they become more involved in their communities and others start to demand quality education for their children as well.

Case in point Democracy Prep in Harlem. While parent engagement is not identified as necessity (see our interview the Founder here), they’ve found that once parents see changes in their children, they want to be involved too. That is why they’ve created Democracy Builders. Democracy Builders’ mission is to empower families to organize and advocate for excellent schools.

Civic engagement is a vital part to quality education, and these are only a few examples of what our schools are doing to change the lives of their students and their families. All of the Member schools that make up the Schools That Can network are high performing and serve low income populations – that means that over 75% of enrolled students are on free or reduced lunch. Unfortunately much of the current media attention is focused on the extreme failures in these neighborhoods and many people actually think that these children are unable to be educated.

Common belief stands that poverty must be eliminated before all schools can be successful. This is a terrible misconception. Our Member schools are closing the achievement gap and in many cases even outperforming their suburban higher income schools. They deserve your support and attention. Learn more about our schools and donate at

Here is Stephanie’s contact information. Donations are welcome, of course.

Stephanie Whited
Director of Communications
Schools That Can

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