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New Jax Charter School Strives To Close Achievement Gap For Minority Students

Valor Academy of Leadership

The graduation rate in Florida for male African American students is just under 60 percent. However, there’s a lot of momentum in Jacksonville aimed at closing the achievement gap.Melissa Ross sat down with Cleve Warren, a local businessman and community leader who is one of the minds behind a new gender-based public charter school planned for Duval County, the Valor Academy.

“It’s past time for us to do something significant to turn the tide in public education for African American males,” he said. “The intent is to provide a solution on the acute issue of African American boys’ educational performance.”

The Valor Academy will be a gender-based charter school particularly targeting Jacksonville’s African American males. It will offer grades six through 12 and will open in August of this year. Although the school is mostly pointed to African American males, the school is open to all, including special needs students.

The school is franchised by the Duval County Public School system and must follow Common Core standards, abide by DCPS requirements and administer a state assessment exam at the end of each year.

Current Chief Executive Officer of PROFECTUS Learning Systems, Inc., Olatunji Williams, will be Valor Academy's first principal.

Gender separation in schools has earned good results throughout history because students can focus more on the mechanics and semantics of learning and have fewer distractions and behavior issues, Williams said.

“Data shows that students are able to grasp and explore more when they do not have those distractions,” he said.

There are other gender-based charter schools around the country that are used as a model, including Urban Prep in Chicago, where 100 percent of graduates attend college.

Positive results aren’t always convincing for everyone, but Williams believes that Valor will be different.

“What will make Valor different is a well-thought-out financial and educational plan,” he said. “I think it’s postured for success.”

Applications for the 2014/2015 school year are now open, and both Williams and Warren are excited to begin the year so that they can help influence student’s lives.

“We want to offer the students the ability to be anything they want to be in life and to be unafraid to pursue it,” Warren said.

You can follow Emily Long on Twitter at @EMchanted_.

WJCT News Intern Emily Long is a Communications Major, Marketing Minor at Jacksonville University. She is also News Editor of Jacksonville University's campus newspaper, The Navigator.