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About American Graduate
American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis. The initiative builds on public media’s long-standing commitment to education by convening conversations and strengthening partnerships between public radio and television stations and local schools, businesses and community organizations to help students stay on the path to a high school diploma.
For more information about the national project go to American Graduate, Let's Make It Happen.
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- Mind/Shift: No Courses, No Classrooms, No Grades-- Just Learning
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Blogger: Yo Ann Martinez
Story by Shawn McCusker
In the past 10 years, perhaps nothing has changed more than the relationship between teachers and the information being distributed in their classrooms. Historically, the role of teacher has always been that of gatekeeper and distributor of the course canon. Information was dispensed. Students were encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions and interpret information, but they were limited by the fact that they were operating in a scarce economy of information (teacher, textbook and a limited number of outside sources). For the most part, the teacher was the sole provider of content, and though many teachers worked to provide quality materials and move away from a lecture-based curriculum, even these provided resources were no less teacher directed.
With the proliferation of mobile technology, our ability to access information has increased, dramatically changing the practice of teaching. Comparing the two scenarios, the circumstances couldn’t be more different.
Story by Laura Isensee
Photo Credit: KUHF
In 2010, De'angelo Rollins got into a fight with a bully at his new middle school in Bryan, Texas. His mother, Marjorie Rollins Holman, says her shy son reported the bullying, but the teacher didn't stop it.
Then it came to blows.
"The boy ended up hitting my son in the face first," Holman says. "My son hit him back, and they got in a little scuffle."
That scuffle landed her then-12-year-old son in the principal's office — and in adult criminal court after the school police officer wrote the sixth-grader a ticket.
"We end up paying for everything for our son and made sure he did everything the judge had passed down to him. But we were outraged," Holman says. "We couldn't believe that this was happening."
Since the mid-1990s, schools have increasingly disciplined students with harsh tactics like suspensions and, in some cases, the criminal courts. Now, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction — even in Texas, one of the most aggressive states in criminalizing students' misbehavior.
Story by Jill Tucker
Photos by Mike Kepka
Normally at this time of year, teachers and administrators at San Francisco's June Jordan School for Equity would be starting to gear up for the standardized tests given to students early in the spring.
And the educators would be hoping that this time, unlike in years past, the school's abysmal scores would really go up. But that won't happen.
This year, the Excelsior neighborhood high school will get a welcome reprieve from the predictable cycle of testing.
It's a practice year for California schools as the state transitions to a new computerized testing system based on the new Common Core curriculum adopted by most states. While students will take the new tests, the scores won't count or even be reported to parents or the public.
For June Jordan, it wipes an ugly test-score slate clean and offers a shot at redemption.
District officials had high hopes for June Jordan.
Story by Barbara Grady
March 2, 2014
The first test of Oakland Unified School District’s ability to include parents and students in making budget decisions — something now required by state law — happened Wednesday night when about 100 people asked the school board to let schools, rather than the central administration, decide how to spend a pot of money.
The students and parents won.
At issue was $1.5 million — a paltry sum within an overall $589 million budget for the district — but it was the subject of great debate, because the Board of Education had decided last June to gives schools this money, and $3 million more, to spend as they see fit, but then faced increased expenses, so considered rescinding that decision.
Story by Rebecca Parr
SAN LEANDRO -- SiLin Huang is headed to an Ivy League school in the fall after overcoming the challenges of speaking no English when she immigrated at age 8, growing up poor and missing two years of high school because of a mysterious illness.
"I'm the only child, so my parents viewed me as the hope for the family," she said. "My goal was to get a good education and do well in school, because my parents only completed high school, and I wanted to help them."
That goal was set back because of a still-undiagnosed illness. The straight-A San Leandro High student could not attend school -- she was too sick to even take online courses -- her junior and senior years. But when she recovered, she earned her high school diploma in one year at adult school and has been accepted by Columbia University in New York. In recognition of her accomplishments, she is one of 12 women chosen for the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame.
Story by Barbara Grady
Oakland’s school board is considering putting a parcel tax on the November ballot to fund improvement in its high schools.
Although it’s made progress lowering the high school drop out rate and adding more rigor to its curriculum, Oakland Unified School District still sees more than 25 percent of high schoolers drop out. And not all of those who graduate are prepared for college or for starting a career. So the district wants to embark on a new approach to high school education.
It wants to bring to all schools a pedagogy called Linked Learning, in which students both pursue college preparatory academic subjects and work in internships at local employers in government, education, media, healthcare and business. Under the proposal in consideration, it would ask voters to approve a parcel tax of $150 per household to pay for this program and to raise teacher salaries at high schools to help in retaining and recruiting good teachers.
The district already offers some Linked Learning programs at most of its high schools, and the curriculum at two schools Life Academy and MetWest High School is built entirely around Linked Learning. The possible parcel tax would raise money to expand the program to all eight high schools in the district and made it available to all students.
Since I was a child my elders would call me, an American- born Chinese, "jooksing," meaning empty bamboo. All form, no substance. My father's friends would ask me in Cantonese, "Hey Jooksing! Why don't you learn to speak Chinese?" In contrast, white people would ask me where I learned to speak English so well. How crazy-making is that?
Years ago, on vacation with my family, a store clerk asked where I learned to I speak English so well. The same day at a Chinese restaurant the waiter got my order wrong even though I ordered in Cantonese. "Brainless jooksing," he muttered under his breath. At that moment it hit me: I was culturally homeless, not Chinese enough, not white enough. The betwixt and between dilemma of my life.
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.