In Chicago 1969, Lee and her husband helped to found the Institute of Positive Education. This community-based, African-centered organization sponsored seminars on issues with which the black community wrestled, and it held classes, ran a food co-op and farm, and published a magazine and pamphlets.
In 1972, under Lee’s direction, the institute even began its own school, New Concept Development Center, which started as a Saturday program and expanded into a full-fledged school by 1974. Both the institute and New Concept Development Center still operate today, not to mention the three charter schools in Chicago that Lee also cofounded: the Betty Shabazz International Charter School, the Barbara A. Sizemore Academy, and the DuSable Leadership Academy.
African-centered schools, such as New Concept and the Betty Shabazz International Charter School campuses, take an expansive view of cultures, Lee says.
Lee received her PhD in education from the University of Chicago in 1991 and currently is a professor in the Learning Sciences Program of the School of Education and Social Policy with a joint appointment in African American studies, both at Northwestern University. She is also well known for her “cultural modeling” theory, which provides a framework for the design of instruction in ways that leverage everyday knowledge of youth, especially youth of color, to support discipline specific learning. One goal is to use the everyday knowledge of these students to teach vital concepts.
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