The voice of California’s charter school movement

How to Create An Affirming School Culture for Black Students

By CCSA Staff

As Black History Month comes to a close, we feature a Q&A with a dynamic Black charter school leader in Los Angeles who explains the importance of creating and nurturing an affirming school culture where Black students can thrive. 

Mac Macaulay, Chief of Schools, Ednovate

01011 (2)

Mac Macaulay graduated in 2001 from the University of Southern California and is an alumnus of Teach for America Los Angeles. 

Prior to joining Ednovate, Mac served as Founding Dean and Assistant Principal at Animo Locke II Charter High School, a Green Dot Public School in South Los Angeles. Mac joined USC Hybrid High in 2012 as a founding science teacher.

Ednovate is a charter network of public, tuition-free, high-performing college prep high schools in Los Angeles and Orange County serving first-generation, college-bound students from underserved communities.

Q: What is your understanding of the experience(s) of Black students today? Based on what you know, what is and is not working?

A: The experiences of Black students today are multifaceted, reflecting both progress and persistent challenges.

On one hand we have made strides in elevating the existence of disparities in the quality of the educational experience of Black students, which is leading to improvements and intentional approaches to address the problem.

On the other hand, the pace and general adoption of effective practices is still relatively lacking.

There is still a general hesitation to truly accept and approach the work with the reality that Black students often face systemic barriers, including racial bias and lower expectations from society, that impacts their educational journey and self-esteem.

What's working is the growing awareness and implementation of culturally responsive teaching practices  that validate and reflect the diversity of Black students' experiences. However, there remains a significant gap in representation and resources that needs to be addressed.

Q: What school conditions are needed to affirm Black students’ humanity and racial identity so they can be their authentic selves?

A: To affirm Black students' humanity and racial identity, schools must adopt a holistic approach.

Integrating an inclusive curriculum that features books and materials with Black protagonists and contributions across all subjects is essential. For instance, including literature by Black authors in English classes and studying Black scientists' achievements in STEM can help make Black students feel seen and valued.

Additionally, actively recruiting and retaining Black educators and inviting Black community leaders to speak at school events can ensure students have relatable role models, fostering a sense of belonging and representation.

Creating affirmative spaces is also crucial, such as student-led organizations that focus on Black culture and history, which allow students to explore and express their racial identity. Schools should also engage in reviewing and revising disciplinary policies to ensure they do not disproportionately affect Black students, which includes training on implicit bias for teachers and staff. Schools might implement restorative justice practices that focus on reconciliation and community-building rather than punitive measures.

These actions, aimed at celebrating and recognizing Black students' identities, are vital steps towards creating a supportive and inclusive school environment.

Q: As a Black charter school leader, in what ways do you or your team at Ednovate work to create and nurture an affirming school culture?

A: As a Black charter school leader, my commitment to fostering an affirming school culture is rooted in diverse hiring practices and professional development.

We seek to prioritize the recruitment and retention of Black educators and staff, so that we can provide our students with role models who mirror their racial backgrounds and life experiences.

This effort is bolstered by our dedication to offer professional development that focuses on cultural competency, anti-racism, and inclusive pedagogy for all staff members. Such initiatives are pivotal in creating an educational environment where every student feels valued and understood.

Additionally, at Ednovate, we continuously review our policies and practices to identify and rectify any disparities that disproportionately impact Black students, using student subgroup data to critically examine and improve their educational experiences.

Ednovate's strategy for nurturing an affirming school culture is further strengthened through community engagement and fostering student leadership.

Establishing meaningful connections with the families of our students and the broader Black community aligns our schools more closely with their values and needs. Encouraging Black students to assume leadership roles within the school empowers them to directly influence our culture and policies, celebrating their identity and contributions.

Moreover, through listening tours and focus groups with our Black staff, students, and their families, we gain essential insights into their lived experiences. This feedback informs our ongoing efforts to refine our practices and policies, ensuring they meet the genuine needs of our Black students and their families.

Our proactive approach to active listening and continuous improvement is vital in maintaining an environment where every community member feels seen, heard, and supported.

Q: What can educational leaders and policymakers do to support school cultures that affirm Black teachers?

A: Educational leaders and policymakers play a crucial role in affirming the value of Black teachers and, by extension, Black students. This support can manifest through the allocation of resources, ensuring schools within Black communities receive adequate funding and access to high-quality resources.

Moreover, it is essential for these leaders to engage in policy reform, advocating for and implementing changes that address the systemic inequities impacting Black students and educators.

Creating clear professional pathways for Black educators to progress into leadership roles within schools and districts is also vital, as it not only elevates their careers but also provides Black students with role models in positions of authority.

In addition to structural reforms, establishing and funding support networks for Black educators is fundamental. These networks, including mentorship programs, professional learning communities, and wellness resources, are essential for the retention and nurturing of Black teachers. Such initiatives provide them with the support needed to thrive in their roles and contribute positively to their educational communities.

By focusing on these areas, educational leaders and policymakers can ensure that the educational environment is inclusive, equitable, and supportive of both Black teachers and students, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment that resonates throughout the school culture.  

Mac Macaulay is Chief of Schools at Ednovate, a charter network of public, tuition-free, high-performing college prep high schools in Los Angeles and Orange County.

He is a graduate of USC and an alumnus of Teach for America L.A. Mac spent seven years at Markham Middle School in Watts, where he taught 7th and 8th  grade science, leadership, and Youth Lead Gang Intervention.

Prior to joining Ednovate, Mac served as Founding Dean and Assistant Principal at Animo Locke II Charter High School, a Green Dot Public School in South Los Angeles. Mac joined USC Hybrid High in 2012 as a founding science teacher.

>> To learn more about Ednovate, visit its website by clicking here.

Learn more about how Black charter school leaders are creating affirming spaces for Black students

>> LISTEN NOW: Click the play button below. 


Tune into Episode 1 of the CharterNation Podcast Season 3! Its a Black History Month special featuring Black educators across the state offering their viewpoints including: