Story by Jill Tucker
In the 15 years since voters essentially banned bilingual education in state schools, teaching English learners to read, write and do arithmetic first in their native language has nearly disappeared from California classrooms.
Since Proposition 227 overwhelmingly passed in June 1998, it's been all about learning English, first and foremost - but not in San Francisco. Nearly 30 percent of the city's 17,000 English learners are in bilingual education programs, compared with 5 percent on average statewide, according to the most recent data available.
And it's working, according to a recently published Stanford University study commissioned by the San Francisco Unified School District.
Districts can get around the Prop. 227 ban by having parents sign a waiver authorizing their children to be in bilingual education programs.
Bilingual education students, who learn to read and write in their native language and then transfer those academic skills into English, are - after a slower start - as fluent by sixth grade as those focused on and immersed in English with minimal support in their home language, according to the study.
Transparency is not a word often associated with education. For many parents, the time between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. can feel like a mysterious part of their child’s life. Questioning students about their school day often results in an unsatisfying answer and not every parent has the time to be in constant communication with their student’s teacher.
For teachers, transparency can have a distinctly negative connotation. In the political debate, the word is often used in connection to hot button issues like posting teacher salaries and benefits publicly or publishing test scores. And within the school walls, transparency can feel like judgement. Teachers can see principal visits as inspections, not respectful check-ins to offer encouragement and suggestions. No school is the same and dynamics between teaching staff and the administration are different everywhere, but for many teachers the classroom is a sacrosanct, personal space.
Story by Barbara Grady
“This is history y’all,” said software engineer Ayori Selassie from the platform at Startup Weekend/Black Male Achievement on Sunday night. “This is the first event that has happened like this in the entire world. So if you are here, you are in the middle of making history.”
This past weekend, hundreds of people poured into Impact HUB Oakland’s new headquarters for a hackathon that not only produced 14 viable computer applications/ business startups but also turned about 40 African-American teenagers into potential entrepreneurs after they spent two days coding, problem-solving and business planning alongside engineering and business professionals.
By Sunday night, 50 ideas that participants had pitched Friday night had been honed, through brainstorming and coding, into 14 actual apps, most designed for use on smartphones. Then, 14 teams pitched their apps and business plans to a panel of venture capital and investment professionals.
By Morgan Boeder
I was sitting in my boyfriend's room in my pajamas, picking out classes when I opened the email informing me that my school had lost its accreditation and might close its doors next year.
It was definitely a shock and I immediately felt sad. Just getting to college had been a struggle for me.
I dropped out of high school my sophomore year. I had a lot going on in my life. And even though I always planned to go back and get my diploma, there was still a fear in the back of my mind that somehow it wouldn't work out.
Eventually I found a program called Gateway to College. It's for high school students to get their diplomas and college credits at the same time, and it came with a full scholarship to City College.
This May, I got my high school diploma, and I began looking forward to eventually earning my bachelor's degree. But then I found out about the school's loss of accreditation, and now I'm not sure what to think about my educational future.
Listen to the story here.
Story by Luba Vangelova
In the course of studying different aspects of children’s environments, Dr. Roger Hart noticed that “a lot of supposedly participatory projects had a distinct air of tokenism. Children were being put on display, so to speak, as though they were actively participating, but they were not taken seriously.”
To get people talking about this issue, Hart, who serves as director of the Children’s Environments Research Group at the City University of New York and helps lead the Article 15 Project, a children’s rights organization, adapted a colleague’s ladder metaphor. He labeled the rungs:
4. Assigned but informed
5. Consulted and informed
6. Adult-initiated, share decisions with children
7. Child-initiated and directed
8. Child-initiated, share decisions with adults
Story by Katrina Schwartz
On his first day teaching at Coronado Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., students threw rocks at Jean-Gabrielle Larochette, pretending he was a police officer. He spent fifteen minutes of every class calming down a handful of kids in this low-income-neighborhood public school who wouldn’t follow directions or behave.
Larochette began practicing meditation and mindfulness to cope with his own stresses of teaching and supporting traumatized kids. He believed the breathing techniques that helped calm his fears might work for his students too, so he founded the Mindful Life Project.
“Before we can teach a kid how to academically excel in school, we need to teach him how to have stillness, pay attention, stay on task, regulate, make good choices,” said Larochette. “We tell kids be quiet, calm yourself down, be still. We tell them all these things they need in the classroom, but we’re not teaching them how to do that.”
Story by Jill Tucker
Photo by: Michael Short, The Chronicle
Like a firm rap on the knuckles with a ruler or a backside paddling, suspending students for bad behavior is increasingly becoming passe in public schools across California and the nation.
For starters, it doesn't really work, educators admit. Research has repeatedly shown suspended students are more likely to fail in school and drop out.
And logic would hold that students temporarily banned from school are more likely to play video games than penitently mull over transgressions while they are away.
In San Francisco, the school board is considering a resolution that would restrict the use of suspension to more serious offenses, including fights or bringing weapons, drugs or alcohol to school. Principals would no longer be allowed to suspend for what is called
willful defiance or disruption - a catchall category that until recently accounted for about a quarter of all suspensions in the district.
Los Angeles is among a handful of districts that have already banned suspensions for willful defiance, and in San Francisco some schools have voluntarily adopted the same policy.
"We should have ways in which we can deal with a student inside our schools without sending them home and losing instructional time," said school board member Matt Haney, the author of the resolution. "What I'm hearing from teachers and principals is that they understand suspension is not an effective intervention for defiance."
Story by Jason Paladino and Jennifer Chaussee
Music producers, DJs and vocalists make up the Oakland-based nonprofit Today’s Future Sound, which teaches music production to students in K-12 schools around the bay and beyond. In its infancy, TFS was a natural convergence of Elliot Gann’s training as a clinical psychologist and his love of hip-hop. For nearly ten years, Gann has been using music production education as a way to create a culturally engaging therapeutic outlet for kids and teens while also teaching them tangible life skills. Oakland North spent some time with Gann, his students and his staff to learn about some of the challenges and highlights of mixing education with hip-hop. Watch the video.
Story by Liza Veale
Rani Coager and Seyed Amiry believe the current model of financing institutions of higher learning is unsustainable. It has created a population paralyzed by debt and a skills gap that leaves too many un(der)employed despite the fact that nearly half of U.S. employers struggle to fill open positions. Croager and Amiry see this as an opportunity for innovation.
After a long research and development phase, Cooperative Education Ventures is poised to admit its first incoming class next fall right here in Oakland. The institute will be an unprecedented application of the consumer-owned co-op model to higher education.
The curriculum will “train and empower entrepreneurs as well as those who are seeking jobs…particularly in communities that have been under-served, the demographic that could stand to benefit the most from this approach,” said co-founder Seyed Amiry. Because it is a member-owned enterprise, the idea is that participants will have one hundred percent of their tuition fees returned to them over a period of several years. Continue reading
Story by Karl Hatch
In November, a Community Study Group was organized in Oakland to examine the role of the school library in today’s technological world. The culminating event of this effort was the January “Imagining A New Future for School Libraries Tour.” On the tour they visited three Oakland Unified School District libraries: One with a strong, professionally staffed, fully-integrated library program (PTA funded), one with a minimal K-5 library in a K-8 school, and one newly renovated with great potential but closed, waiting for staffing.
These three libraries highlight the vast inequity of library services across OUSD schools. According to OUSD data, over 10,000 K-12 students in OUSD have no school library. Another third of the libraries are severely understaffed. At the same time, according to the 2013 STAR, only 38 percent of OUSD 3rd graders are reading at or above grade level. Continue reading