Inside Bay Area: San Leandro woman headed to Ivy League school after overcoming challenges

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Story by Rebecca Parr

SILIN HUANGSAN 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.

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Oakland Local: Oakland School District considering new parcel tax

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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.

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Audio: Perspectives: Jooksing

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LarryLeeStory by Larry Lee

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.

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SF Gate: SF seen as model in blinigual education over English only

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bilingualStory 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.

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Mind Shift: How Opening Up Classroom Doors Can Push Education Forward

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classroomTransparency 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.

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Oakland Local: Startup Weekend Oakland/Black Male Achievement produces 14 apps, lots of inspiration

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Story by Barbara Grady

techyouth1-300x168“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.

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Audio: Perspectives: Education Interrupted

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By Morgan Boeder

MorganBoederI 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.

Mind Shift: Are We Taking Our Students' Work Seriously Enough?

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Story by Luba Vangelova

studentsworkseriouslyIn 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:

1. Manipulation

2. Decoration

3. Tokenism

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

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Mind Shift: Low-Income Schools See Big Benefits in Teaching Mindfulness

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Story by Katrina Schwartzmindshiftlowincomestudents

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.”

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S.F. Gate: S.F. Schools Move away from suspensions

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Story by Jill Tucker

Photo by: Michael Short, The Chronicle

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."

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