Every morning when I get to school, I see students from many countries in the hall. They are dropped off early so they can have a hot breakfast before class. The students speak Farsi, Arabic, Pashto, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog and many more languages. They have fled violence and war, and their most compelling desire is to learn English and begin new lives here.
One student has been with me for three years, but this is the first year I have had him in an English class. He was injured in the Iraq War when he was young and he still bears the scars and the trauma. Other students are new to me, but they all share the struggle of learning not only a new language, but a new culture.
The students work from textbooks designed for English as a second language students. They also work on independent reading – books that every kid their age reads – and two supplemental reading websites. During the second half of class, the nine boys work on 12 donated Chromebooks while the girls read, and then they switch. They hand each other the computers carefully, and there is no arguing or play, even though some of these students are only in sixth grade.
“How can someone make a decision about a school they’ve never even walked into?”
That question is at the heart of Kristina Rizga’s terrific new bookMission High: One school, how experts tried to fail it, and the students and teachers who made it triumph.
Rizga uses her considerable journalistic skills—honed as the education writer for Mother Jones—to involve readers in the lives of students and educators at Mission High, a San Francisco public school with a proud history but a “failing school” label.
The school, where Rizga spent four years as an embedded reporter, serves a student body of mostly low-income kids, many from households where the first language isn’t English, and which ranks among the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the country. Only 30 percent of the school’s students score at proficient or above on the state standardized tests in English, and only 40 percent score proficient in math.
But in looking more closely at the school, Rizga discovered that other data—college acceptance and teacher retention—didn’t align with the school’s “failing” label.
When Mission High principal Eric Guthertz welcomed Rizga into his school, she observed something that frustrates students, parents, and educators across the country: As these schools do everything in their power to serve their students, they continue to be judged as failures by a process that seems completely remote and disconnected from the school.
Dan Walters continues to use his position as
a major editorial writer in the Bee in support of corporate style school
control in support of the fake school reform industry and consultants. (Sac Bee, Nov. 15, page A3) He does this by regularly describing
neoliberal charter advocates such as Gloria Romero and Michelle Rheeand others as advocates of “school reform”.
In reality they are advocates of more
testing and test driven change.
High-stakes standardized tests, and the new
curriculum they have spawned, require teachers to avoid thinking deeply about the informationwe’re sending to students.The aim of testing is to provide
demonstrable, measurable evidence that work is being produced — that teachers
and students are not thinking creatively when they should be lecturing, memorizing,
studying. The idea is that a teacher’s job is to get information into the heads
of students, and a student’s job is to write it out, unchanged, on a test.
Jeff Bryant, Education Opportunity Network.
The “big economic fight” in the Democratic Party that news outlets are reporting isn’t confined to economics.
The link above takes you to a story in the Washington Post explaining how a “populist wing” in the Democratic Party is rebelling against the conventional wisdom of “centrist” Democrats who have dominated the party since the 1990s.
“Right now the populist story is winning,” the article concludes.
My colleague Richard Eskow pounced on the article and writes for the Huffington Post, “The corporate-friendly policies of the party’s more conservative wing have fared poorly, both as policy and as politics, and as a result the party has moved to the left.”
Eskow points to “the insurgent candidacy of Bernie Sanders” and other recent events as signs of “a major setback for the so-called ‘New Democrats’ who have dominated the party since the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. Nearly 25 years after they rose to power, the ideas of the ‘New Democrats’ don’t seem so new.”
Over 100 people attended Metro DC DSA’s “We Need Bernie” rally on Thursday, Oct. 24 in support of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president. Held at Busboys and Poets’ 5th and K Street location, the event provided an example of the depth of support for Sanders and for a genuinely progressive agenda rooted in civic activism. The rally also highlighted the relevance of democratic socialism to building a political alternative for our country.
The first speaker, Andy Shallal – owner of Busboys and Poets, peace activist and former DC mayoral candidate – raised the need to do more than just build support for Sanders, arguing that we ought to use his campaign to build a movement of direct action and public engagement that challenges the injustices everywhere visible in our society. Shallal also noted the need to address and overcome one of the critical weaknesses of Sanders’s campaign: the fact that it still has not developed sufficient support in communities of color, a fact emphasized by the overwhelmingly white composition of the crowd (which stood in contrast to most of the progressive forums held at Busboys). He stressed that this should not serve as an excuse to withdraw from supporting Sanders, but rather should serve as a reminder to incorporate the message of Black Lives Matter in all work on behalf of his campaign, to address the issue of racism in its specificity – that (as he put it during the Q & A) is, understanding black and white as political categories. By beginning the program in this fashion, Shallal underlined the seriousness of the rally, this event being more than a cheering session for Sanders (though indeed it was that too) but also a discussion of what is to be done, how to continue the organizing.