Seattle Public Schools

Community Engagement Report

Multi-Year Plan

Office of African American Male Achievement Multi-Year Plan

Introduction and Summary

The Office of African American Male Achievement (AAMA) was launched in 2019 to reconstruct Seattle Public Schools as a school system that intentionally cultivates the strengths of Black boys and teens. AAMA was created to dismantle the anti-Black institutional and structural racism that exists within school systems, and by working with SPS’ Black boys and teens, AAMA creates new educational systems, structures, and spaces that liberate and guarantee success for them.

“I feel like you learn better with your culture. You learn better with the people you’re most familiar with. I should be able to be comfortable to ask you questions that I know you can relate to.

“I haven’t had a lot of those teachers that I can really relate to. Sure, you’ve been in certain predicaments that may be like me, but do you live this everyday struggle of really being a dark-skinned man? I just want to learn from who I’m most familiar with.”

– Black Male Student, Seattle

Seattle Excellence

AAMA’s work is at the center of Seattle Excellence, Seattle Public Schools’ five-year strategic plan, and drives and pushes our educational system towards educational justice in partnership with other departments. To understand the heart and strategy behind AAMA’s mission and vision, we must first understand Seattle Excellence.

Seattle Excellence focuses on four priorities to support students furthest from educational justice, beginning with African American boys and teens; and to ensure every student receives a high-quality, world-class education.

The four priorities are:

  1. High-Quality Instruction and Learning Experiences: We will educate through high-quality instruction and learning experiences that accelerate growth for Students of Color who are most impacted by racist systems.
  2. Culturally Responsive Workforce: We will develop a culturally responsive workforce so teachers, leaders, and staff can effectively support students and families.
  3. Predictable and Consistent Operational Systems: We will develop operational systems that provide a predictable and consistent experience to meet the needs of students and families and allow them to focus on learning.
  4. Inclusive and Authentic Engagement: We will partner with students, families, and communities who are most impacted by racist systems by conducting inclusive and authentic engagement.

Mission and Vision of AAMA

AAMA is a driver of systemic change, not a program. AAMA is reconstructing Seattle Public Schools’ educational environment across the system to support the brilliance and excellence of Black boys and teens.

By listening to the experiences and solutions of students and inviting engagement from families and the greater community, AAMA ensures that SPS centers the social, emotional, and educational needs of Black male students and provides the resources for students to advance a successful career, actively participate in their community, and build a meaningful life and relationships.

“I feel like before you can learn, you need to be in a space where you feel like the people who are doing the teaching think you can learn. …It would be great if the teachers look like him, first of all, but teachers who exude this attitude know you’re fully capable of great things.

“I’ve heard this expression that says: ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations.’ I feel like that is so on point, right? If your standards for my child is down here and he knows that, then what is he going to aspire to?”

– Black Mother, Central Seattle

In alignment with Seattle Excellence, our strategic plan is not about changing students. This work is about changing broken systems and undoing legacies of racism in public education. By actively becoming an anti-racist educational system—and ensuring students furthest away from educational justice thrive—conditions in Seattle Public Schools will improve for all. Now that we have a high-level grasp on how AAMA connects to Seattle Excellence, we will now discuss our history, mission, and vision in greater detail.

Where We Came From

The African American Male Advisory Committee (AAMAC) officially formed in June 2016. Its roots go back to the original African American Male Think Tank, a group that authored six initiatives whose purpose was to improve the quality of life and education for all African American males within Seattle Public Schools. Five of those six initiatives were operationalized and the positive effects…such as providing professional development addressing racism and implicit bias, trauma, social justice, equity, and culturally responsive pedagogy…can be seen in our schools today.

Throughout 2016-17, the AAMAC made an in-depth review of the issues within the system surrounding African American male achievement. AAMAC’s mission was to provide guidance on how to best transform our educational system so that we are ensuring educational excellence for all students, particularly our African American males. Community members from a wide range of backgrounds, professionals and SPS employees were selected to serve on this advisory committee in order to put a fresh set of eyes on a decades-long community/district issue. This also helped to ensure that there was authentic community engagement in the project. This project is one from the community, for the community.

In September 2017, the AAMAC presented their Final Recommendations to the superintendent and senior leadership. The presentation represented a culmination of 15+ months of work from the committee on recommendations to improve outcomes for African American male students. These recommendations included the creation of “an African American Male Scholars Achievement Department, similar to that of the Oakland (California) Unified School District. This department shall be an independent entity that reports directly to the superintendent.” From this recommendation, Superintendent Juneau established what is now the Office of African American Male Achievement and we began our impactful partnership with the Kingmakers of Oakland team. Through professional development, narrative-change resources, curriculum and more, Kingmakers is successfully helping each unique district effectively transform their school environment. By collaborating with the Kingmakers team, we have been able to learn more about their model of success, further ensuring SPS can see similar results in Seattle.


Throughout the beginning stages of our work, it became clear that community and family input must live at the center of our strategy. To stay true to our vision and honor the voices of Black male students and their families, we began our Listen and Learn forums.

Listen and Learn Forum

AAMA launched our Listen and Learn forum series in February 2021 to continue to listen to Black families and students as we reconstruct our educational system to celebrate the brilliance and excellence of Black boys and teens. We hosted six family forums and many student forums. Family and student voices will help build the office’s intentional, long-term plan.

Themes from Listen and Learn Forums

AAMA will publish and share the findings with our larger community – including professional development for staff – later this year. These findings can help guide the district in centering the voices of our Black families and students in in school instruction and beyond. In the interim, the main themes from our Listen and Learn Forums as they relate to the four priorities of Seattle Excellence are as follows…

  1. School environments that are joyful, emotionally and physically safe, and work to dismantle anti-Black racism in adult attitudes and policies.
  2. Instruction centering Black education & identity affirmation, is engaging and uses critical pedagogy, and recognizes individual needs and prepare students for life beyond high school.
  3. Adult relationships focused on high expectations, deep care and accountability, Black educator representation as advocates and mentors and spaces to cultivate strong peer relationships and brotherhood.
  4. Family and community engagement that is restorative, builds trust and leverages community assets.


By analyzing our findings from the first discovery phase of our work—including but not limited to internal and community conversations—we have identified five key strategies. All of our work is guided by these high-level strategies that ensure that AAMA’s impact is effective, in line with targeted universalism, puts the burden of change on SPS adults, and creates sustainable, systems-level change. AAMA works with every stakeholder in the SPS ecosystem to put Black boys and teens at the center of all of our efforts.

Defining targeted universalism: A strategic framework where targeted and differentiated efforts are required to meet the needs of specific student populations. These structural changes create the conditions for every student to meet the universal goal.

Strategy 1: Black boys and teens lead our work

A group of student gather around a table at a meeting.
Students join a Kingmakers Student Meeting. Kingmakers of Seattle is an elective program for Black male middle school and high school students, referred to as Kings, taught by Black male facilitators.

“Nothing about us, without us!”

– SPS King

AAMA works to ensure the system is aligned and accountable to the needs of Black families and students, by leading with targeted universalism, providing professional development and de-siloing district initiatives. We continue to create new structures of engagement that shift power to our Black boys and teens in our work and in districtwide decision making through…

  1. The development of the AAMA Student Leadership Council (SLC) as a collective of Black boys and teens across the district through partnerships with BSUs, NAACP Youth Council, and other student groups. By working in tandem with student groups outside of SLC, AAMA ensures that a variety of perspectives are included at the table.
  2. The permanent seat/standing role for AAMA Student Leadership Council in several decision-making bodies, and collection of real-time data from Kings for the district. For example, in the 2020-21 academic year students served on the district’s Remote Learning Taskforce.
  3. Facilitation of ongoing focus groups with Kings across the district and drawing upon those insights to build professional development for educators and staff.
  4. Annual presentations by the AAMA Student Leadership Council to district and school leaders that demonstrate and support the brilliance and excellence of Black boys and teens.
  • Data Source. AAMA Student Resiliency Survey; Continuous Improvement Reporting

Strategy 2: Cultivate Black community power, trust and district accountability

“So how do you look at the big picture of getting African-American parents involved? I think that involvement is very important even you were talking about some students not feeling welcome in the school, some parents feel the same, they feel intimidated.

“They might not feel like they have the words, so they don’t know how to advocate for the students. Like the proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” So how are you going to get parents on board with this work that you’re trying to do to help African-American boys in school?”

– Black Mother, Central Seattle

Engagement strategies that ensure families, community-based organizations and community members are seen, heard, and valued. Ultimately setting the foundation for community members to serve as decision makers and partners in student learning. This is accomplished through…

  1. Establishing a districtwide Black Family Leadership Council. This would promote ongoing and two-way engagement with a range of Black families to build trust, increase access to resources, and provide opportunities to influence district decision making.
  2. Streamlining communication and increasing access to district resources and information for Black families (e.g., resource sharing during AAMA gatherings and development of AAMA Let’s Talk).
  3. Continuous improvement feedback loop on our work with community, students, and families through AAMA Listen and Learn forums ‘Listen. Deliver. Repeat’ (e.g., annual forums to vet and source our strategies).
  4. Building community, fellowship and celebration opportunities, and connecting families and students to affinity opportunities using a targeted universalism approach. These also include quarterly meetings with school leaders and staff to get feedback on what is working to support the brilliance and excellence of Black boys and teens.
  • Data Sources: AAMA Let’s Talk Dialogues, Listen and Learn Qualitative Data, Black Family Forum

Strategy 3: Implement asset-based measures, research and research communication

A group of high school students sit on a stage during an event.
Student participants in Young Gifted and Black event February 2020

“I think we should have classes like that to help us in life, prepare us better for life, because nowadays, as soon as you graduate, they just throw you out there and they don’t teach you nothing.

“Once you graduate, it’s like, okay, they’re only getting you ready just for college and college only. They’re not getting you ready for the other things in life, like how to buy a house or things like that. I feel like that’s things that they should start teaching in schools to help better prepare the kids that are coming up.”

– Black Male Student, Southeast Seattle

AAMA uses trust and inquiry-based research methods to shift accountability and uplift solutions that are grounded in students’ assets by…

  1. Developing asset-based measures of Black student success. We will develop new, asset-based measures to evaluate the success of our Black boys and teens, as gleaned from Black student and family focus groups (e.g. well-being, sense of belonging, racial identity development). We will also align SPS student survey results with students’ assets-based constructs.
  2. Improving data infrastructure on Black student academic outcomes. We improve data access within the district by developing new data tools, using and centralizing administrative data about our Black boys and teens and developing new measures focused on student cohorts.
  3. Analyzing data for continuous improvement. We monitor progress through the monitoring and development of a continuous improvement data infrastructure and AAMA engagement and mentor supports (to be developed by AAMA project manager).
  4. Implementing community-participatory methods and inquiry-based decision making designed for system change and impact (e.g., Listen and Learns and Third Grade Literacy Collaborative that uses design-based implementation research).
  • Data Sources: SPS Annual Student Climate Survey, AAMA Student Resiliency Survey, PGES survey

Strategy 4: Culturally Relevant Mentoring for Every Black Boy and Teen

An adult and student sit together outside of a school.

“We need people who look like our children to be mentors, to be an advocate for them, to run interference for them, to just love on them during the school day.”

– Black Mother, Central Seattle

Strong relationships with non-parental adults are essential to cultivating the brilliance, resilience and long-term well-being of Black boys and teens. This effort engages Black-led, literacy-focused CBOs, Black boys and their families in deeper school partnerships and uplifting a leader-teacher cohort around school culture and relational instruction.

WHOLE (With Hope Our Lives Excel) is AAMA’s mentoring plan of action and intentional care strategy that disrupts the educational system, allowing Black boys and teens to excel and be their authentic selves. WHOLE provides Black education, history, identity affirmation, Black educator representation and 1:1 academic and social support–as well as group mentoring and brotherhood–for Kings to be academically, social emotionally, physically, and college/career strong.

AAMA implements WHOLE through Kingmakers programs and through additional activities such as…

AAMA’s WHOLE Mentorship Efforts include:

  • Black education curriculum-based mentoring (e.g. Kingmakers of Seattle)
  • Black –serving and –led community-based mentoring partnerships (e.g. partnerships with ACE, Project Mister)
  • Affinity and leadership-based mentoring (e.g. Kingmakers of Seattle Extended, Rising Sons Extended, AAMA’s Student Leadership Council)
  • Literacy-focused mentoring (e.g. AAMA Third Grade Literacy Collaborative: a partnership with the 3rd grade goal starting 2021-22)
  1. Mentor recruitment and matching. To address gaps in mentorship opportunities for Kings, AAMA conducts outreach and engagement with Black-led and Black-serving CBOs to expand Kings’ access to Black male mentors. Mentors within certain programs (e.g. Kingmakers) have been made employees of SPS to better integrate and coordinate with school-based staff. Mentors outside of Kingmakers are recruited via the community through volunteers, community-based organization partnerships, individual stipend, and school in-house staff (e.g., Instructional Assistants). Mentors are matched with mentees through data collection from a goals/strength/needs assessment collected by each school.
  2. Mentor training, professional development, and retention. AAMA provides mentors with navigational and career development resources, including communicating with educators and families as well as data access and literacy (See Strategy 3 for information on data literacy-related professional development). Mentors are also provided with ongoing training and resources to foster strong relationship-building with Kings, facilitation, principles around brotherhood, care management strategies/advocacy and school system navigation. AAMA engages mentors in monthly check-ins, quality assessments, and personal wellness inquiries.
  3. Building site and student participation. AAMA recruits Black boys and teens in grades 3-12 into mentorship programs through intentional building selection (community asset mapping, examining student data, traits of the school community and family needs) as well as working in-collaboration with initiative goals (e.g., WCWD, College and Career, 3rd Grade Goal). AAMA is committed to high quality mentoring. So, the number of Kings participating will be affected by the number of mentors acquired at each school site.
  4. Black education and instruction. For some partnerships, AAMA provides structured curriculum (e.g., Khepera curriculum within Kingmakers). Most black education instruction is informal and grounded in Black history. AAMA will partner with a Black community literacy expert to develop a supplemental mentor-family literacy curriculum in partnership with the 3rd grade goal (see Strategy 5)
  5. Care Coordination and family-educator partnerships. Families are essential and often lack access to educators, information about their Kings and resources in the community. Mentors regularly call and email families to celebrate student accomplishments and engage educators alongside parents in care coordination. AAMA collaborates with mentors to coordinate engaging events and/or connect their families and Kings to existing community events.
  • Data Sources: Assessment template for matching students, Retention rates of students with mentors, AAMA Student Resiliency Survey (e.g., identity development), SPS student climate survey.

Strategy 5: Connecting Across Seattle Public Schools Ecosystem for Impact

“I feel like before you can learn, you need to be in a space where you feel like the people who are doing the teaching think you can learn…I’ve heard this expression that says the soft bigotry of low expectations. I feel like that is so on point, right?

“If your standards for my child is down here and he knows that, then what is he going to aspire to?”

The Office of AAMA serves as the connective tissue between the initiatives and efforts supporting Black boys and teens, and the universal strategies that positively impact students furthest from educational justice. This is accomplished through…

  1. Whole Child. Whole Day. Whole System. In support of the priority goals of Seattle Excellence (literacy, numeracy, social emotional learning, and graduation), AAMA works to ensure the system is aligned and accountable to the needs of Black families and students. By using a targeted universalism approach, AAMA is actively removing siloes from the SPS ecosystem to support Black Excellence, and linking implementation to measurable outcomes.
  2. Data Dashboard. AAMA develops data tools to see how Kings move through our system (transcripts, Individual Educational Plans (IEPs), involved in enrichment activities) from preschool through graduation to identify gaps in supports, improve system accountability, and drive district decision-making. AAMA trains other departments on the use of the data dashboard to:
    ○ Use landscape analysis to identify gaps in opportunities for students and families, including affinity and community-building events and programming.
    ○ Develop professional development series on: 1) best practices for Black student success, and 2) strategic planning and inference with Black student outcome data.
  3. Engagement and advocacy. In alignment with SPS’s racial equity tool, AAMA provides assessment and feedback for school leaders on how they can better provide supports for Black boys and teens. In addition to class and school visits, attending family support meetings (e.g., IEP meetings), and providing professional development for staff, the AAMA Student Leadership Council and the AAMA Family Council can also provide feedback to uphold our mission of “Nothing About Us Without Us.”

    Unpacking Key Terms Targeted Universalism: Targeted universalism is a strategic framework where targeted and differentiated efforts are required to meet the needs of specific student populations, so every student meets the universal goal. To learn more, watch an informational video by John A. Powell, Director of Berkeley Law’s Othering and Belonging Institute.
  4. Enhancing Targeted Universalism Approaches within Seattle Excellence. AAMA partners with departments on key priorities of the district to ensure strategies are focused on student outcomes, access, and experiences, including:
  • Integrative Curriculum. AAMA works in partnership with CAI on integrative curriculum which involves cross department support from DREA and Native ED: Ethnic Studies, Proyecto Saber, Šeqacib, Black Studies, and Khepera Curriculum.
  • AAMA Third Grade Literacy Collaborative. This effort engages Black-led, literacy-focused CBOs, Black boys and their families in deeper school partnerships and uplifting a leader-teacher cohort around school culture and relational instruction.
    • We are increasing direct services to third grade Black boys and their families, promoting literacy brilliance, joy in reading, identity development, and continuity across educator supports to:
      • 1) Build a new Black male literacy mentorship effort;
      • 2) Enhance family engagement strategies and literacy knowledge;
      • 3) Engage Black-led CBO-partners to support student basic needs and interests;
      • 4) Leverage Black community literacy expertise in effort design;
      • 5) Uplift a leader-teacher cohort on culturally responsive practice.
  • College and Career. AAMA expands support for college and career opportunities for Black boys and teens starting as early as elementary school by identifying system gaps, partnering with families, and developing relevant programming for students.
    • WHOLE Mentoring (see Strategy 4)
    • Equal Opportunity Schools Partnership. AAMA partnered with EOS, a non-profit organization that partners with school districts across the nation to help increase access to AP/IB courses, in 2020. EOS helps track essential and impactful data about each student, including identifying a student’s trusted adult within a school building. Data for each student also includes career and course interests, barriers, mindsets, as well as teacher recommendations. By providing specific and actionable information, staff can better engage students and provide academic supports.
      • Proof Points: Equal Opportunity Schools Partnership
        • Over the last eight years, EOS has partnered with over 640 schools in 31 districts.
        • On average, EOS schools have seen a 30% increase in students of color furthest from educational justice taking and passing college credit courses after the first year of partnership.
    • Student and Community Workforce Agreement (SCWA). Through the SCWA, AAMA connects Kings to apprenticeship and job opportunities and hopes to expand these opportunities to younger students. The SCWA is among the first in the country to create a direct pipeline for students and their families as well as diverse workers and communities.
    • Develop relevant programming. AAMA creates programs, such as STEM, IT group, math club and book clubs, to fill in the gaps in our system for our Kings and ensure lessons are relevant to life and career. With the Equity, Partnerships, and Engagement team, AAMA has joined a community task force of SPS staff, City of Seattle staff, and community partners to identify and audit community programs for Black boys and teens to provide more coordinated and collaborative supports.
    • Support for our young learners. Instruction around college and career opportunities at a young age is essential to reducing barriers and creating opportunities. AAMA will develop a scope and sequence of College and Career content across grades that’s developmentally appropriate.
    • Family engagement for college and career. AAMA facilitates focus groups, and provides individualized supports rising 9th graders, building foundational understanding about how our 6th-12th grade Kings’ culture, climate, conditions, and community connection function at SPS. This work has led to tactical recommendations on how students (and families) would like to see SPS prepare students for college and career after graduation.
  • Communications. AAMA works with the Public Affairs team to align messaging across the district around targeted universalism and uses asset-based stories that promote Black Excellence. This includes partnering on the quarterly AAMA newsletter, creating a Black Excellence video series, and sharing aligned talking points and core messages.
  • Student Support Services. AAMA collaborates with Student Support Services to enhance Black Boys and Teens experiences with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), in kinship-care, with language acquisition, 504, in Advanced Learning, Highly Capable, experiencing homelessness, and the foster care system. Intentional partnership with Special Education Coordinator and Student Coordinated Health Manager.
  • Data Sources: Black male resiliency survey, SPS student climate survey, student academic outcomes (e.g., 3rd grade reading and high school graduation)

Progress to Date

“He cared about life as well. He taught me so many life lessons. He taught me how to be good in school. He helped me in school, helped me in football. He just overall, man, was a person I could always talk to and go to. There were times where after I graduated, I came back to the school and talked to him. Or when I was down in college, I’d call him up at least every two or three weeks just to tell him what’s going on. He wanted to know everything about my experience and this and that. He’s a person I truly love. He did so many things for me, and man, I’m so thankful and grateful and blessed to have a man like that in my life to be there for me and support me.” – Black male recent graduate of SPS, describing his mentor relationship

We have completed our first phase of work in alignment with the Seattle Excellence strategy along with our own mission and vision. This progress is rooted in research, community conversations, and unpacking of the overall landscape.

Key Milestones

  • Launch of AAMA Student Leadership Council
    • Launched the AAMA Student Leadership Council in February 2020. The AAMA managers conduct bi-weekly remote meetings and individual check-ins to ensure Black boys and teens continue to have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that affect their lives and education.
  • Building the foundation of the Office of AAMA, including fundraising and hiring staff
    • Hired Black male leadership—Adam Haizlip and Kevin Loyal—as managers of AAMA. They are incredible role models for our Kings.
  • AAMA centered Black student voices in the decision-making process for initiatives, such as COVID-19 response, grading practices, anti-racism policies, student engagement, and Fall 2020 planning.
  • Over 500 staff, educators, and community members had the opportunity to hear directly from Black boys and teens about their experiences and what they need to succeed in school.
    • Throughout the four-day Liberation Through Anti-Racist Education Institute held in August 2020, AAMA worked with the Department of Racial Equity Advancement to create an opportunity for Black boys and teens to use and share their brilliance directly with the SPS staff, educators, and community members who attended.
  • With the Equity, Partnerships, and Engagement team, AAMA has joined a community task force of SPS staff, City of Seattle staff, and community partners. Together, we identify and audit community programs for Black boys and teens to provide more coordinated and collaborative support.
  • In light of ongoing police violence and acts of anti-Black racism, AAMA provided guidance on district and school-based communications about discussing and acting on these important issues.
  • AAMA provides ongoing support for the Human Resources team in hiring and recruiting more educators of color.
  • AAMA worked with other departments to identify students and families in need of direct support through the Right Now Needs Fund to remove students’ most basic barriers to learning.
  • Virtual classroom visits
  • Listen and Learn Effort
  • We launched Kingmakers of Seattle in four schools in partnership with DEEL and extended this opportunity to students across the district during virtual learning through KOSE.
  • AAMA staff sits on the third grade reading strategic plan committee to provide guidance in centering students furthest from educational justice.