Monday, May 11, 2015

Teaching While Black: Exposing Institutional Racism at Claremont Middle School | What's Happening Black Oakland?

Teaching While Black: Exposing Institutional Racism at Claremont Middle School | What's Happening Black Oakland?:

Teaching While Black: Exposing Institutional Racism at Claremont Middle School



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Claremont Middle School is nestled in the affluent and predominantly white neighborhood known as Rockridge, Oakland. It is an open enrollment public institution consisting of a diverse socioeconomic population of students from all over the East Bay. Many parents send their children to Claremont in hopes of a better education, but something is amiss behind its school walls. There are talks of Claremont becoming a neighborhood school-welcome only to students found in the school’s backyard. To achieve this vision, the current administration is actively working to push out black students and teachers. In this year alone, the school has instituted inequitable student tracking, transferred and fired several black teachers, and eliminated a popular  Ethnic Studies program. “The school will be all white in 3-4 years,” states History and former Ethnic Studies teacher Kurt Kaakuahiuu.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that the school administration is feasting off of a culture of exclusion and intimidation to achieve its end goal. Claremont has had a troubled history for many years due to a massive amount of administrative turnover. However this began to change when Reggie and Ronnie Richardson were hired in 2011. The Richardsons were co-principals who were turning the school around; so much so, they received local and nationwide press. However the Richardsons did not return for the 2014-2015 school year, accepting a position instead with a neighboring school district. Once again, Claremont was left in a state of transition. The staff at Claremont prepared to collaborate with new principal Jonathan Mayer and Vice Principal Tonia Coleman. Former Afterschool Site Coordinator Aries Jordan noted, “It was unfortunate when (the Richardsons) left but I stayed because I’m committed to the children… I wanted to support the students through this transition.”
Racially-Based Student Tracking
“This is all about race.”
When asked about the leadership style of the current administration, the consensus is it’s an epic failure, and openly hostile to minority staff and students. Eighth grade History teacher Mirishae McDonald asserts that the current curriculum ”negatively impacts learning outcomes for students of color.” When asked to elaborate, she discussed an eighth grade program called the “Leadership Academy,” in which the lowest performing students are pulled out of the general school population and put into a class for the entire school day. The vast majority of these students are black and they are taught by a white teacher. It’s known among many students as “the dumb class.” The Leadership Academy is a controversial and inequitable practice in the field of education. While the black students are in the “Leadership Academy,” the remaining youth (primarily white) are getting a more enriching education. Mirishae McDonald harshly criticizes it, “It’s another way of tracking, and it’s not good for the development of the students.” Student tracking is a way to fuel institutional racism and there seems to be other ways that racism surfaces in the administration’s practices.
Kurt Kaaekuahiuu witnessed this firsthand during  a teacher meeting in which Principal Mayer stated, “This is all about race. We know that the white kids will go to places like Stanford or Berkeley with or without our help. We would be lucky if black students at best graduated from high school and went to a junior college.” Another tracking program-“Math Intensive”- is happening concurrently in 7th grade. It’s a class designed for the more advanced students. Math teacher Alonna Haulcy teaches both Math Intensive as well as the traditional math class and notes, “I do think there are some (black) kids who are capable of being in Math Intensive. I’ve expressed that to the principal. He said he would have the department head look at their test scores and I never heard back from him.”
Demoralizing Teachers of Color
“They’re not giving me my own voice.”
Another major problem is Principal Mayer’s top-down approach along with an outward hostility towards any staff member who attempts to question his methods. Kaaekuahiuu states, “From the beginning, Claremont was framed from a complete deficit model. They looked at everything that was wrong with the school without prior knowledge or asking teachers.That says a lot about who you are as a manager.” Kurt used to be the Ethnic Studies teacher until he received an email that the school would no longer support the class. A 7th grader at Claremont reflects on the cancelled Ethnic Studies program: “All the students were engaged because he went outside of the book. His whole class was decorated with Ethnic Studies quotes and pictures. They were torn down by the end of the year and I wondered why.” Alonna Haulcy also feels constricted, “They’re not giving me my own voice. She noted that she is the only veteran teacher who is getting five classroom evaluations; something that is only required for new teachers. When she inquired about it Mayor gave no explanation; but she’s the only black teacher on the list.
Aries Jordan also discusses her struggles working with the administration while coordinating the afterschool program which is “99.9 percent black.” Ms. Jordan had a difficult time running the program this year since the cafeteria burned down in February. Instead of the Claremont administration accommodating the program with unused classrooms in the school, they forced students to have their after school program outside despite cold weather conditions. Moreover,  Principal Mayer claimed that he wanted to make technology a priority in the afterschool program however, Jordan’s students weren’t allowed to use the computer lab or the 60 Macbooks and laptops owned by the school. “They recommended this technology program to us and then turned around and denied us access to the abundant resources available.” states Jordan. Finally, the administration conceded by loaning 4 outdated MacBooks to the entire program. Apparently the Claremont administration wants to institute a tuition policy at the after school program next year; yet another barrier to access students will be up against.

'No Pineapple Left Behind' and the politics of American education

'No Pineapple Left Behind' and the politics of American education:

'No Pineapple Left Behind' and the politics of American education



'No Pineapple Left Behind' and the politics of American education


 Seth Alter was a teacher for all of six months before quitting his job and going indie to make video games full-time. No Pineapple Left Behind, his second PC title, is more or less the story of why he left his students at a Boston charter school. As a special educationmath teacher, his sixth graders were expected to meet the same behavioral standards and educational expectations as their mainstreamed counterparts thanks to 2001's controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which ties school funding to standardized test scores. Alter says that teacher evaluations are drawn from those scores as well. And because most charter schools are non-union, they can fire teachers for almost any reason, including low test scores from special-needs students who should have been held to modified standards in the first place. It doesn't take a genius to realize just how flawed that logic is: It's a system built to fail.

"A month before I quit, I was talking to a friend about my job and how it was getting me down," Alter says. "I said that the main problem is that the school assumes that all of my [special education] kids are statistics. If I treat them as statistics, everything's fine. But as soon as I start thinking about them as people, all of a sudden there's a problem and I don't have sufficient resources."
By dehumanizing kids and turning them into pineapples, higher test scores are easier because pineapples excel at testing and nothing else.
In Pineapple, you play the role of a principal in charge of a school and your ultimate goal is to earn as much funding as possible. To do that, you need to ensure it produces the highest standardized test scores throughout a dozen different scenarios. By dehumanizing kids and turning them into pineapples (read: statistics) that makes it easier because "pineapples," as they exist here, excel at testing and nothing else. Children are a bit more complicated: They each have their own individual learning styles and interests.
"There's just no management sims I'm aware of that consider the human implications of treating the workers as moneymaking tools," he says.
Alter says that the biggest message he wants to send is that what he's showing isn't exaggerated or that it isn't how the education system might be in a few years -- it's how it is right now. Each of the game's scenarios draw from situations he's witnessed either firsthand or through stories he's heard from friends and colleagues. The busses are always late; classes are overcrowded -- those sorts of things.
Or consider this scenario that's going to ship with the open alpha this summer: A student named David is wearing makeup, but he can't be bullied for an entire week. Your options as the school administrator are as follows: Establish a comprehensive anti-bullying policy (which Alter describes as doable, but finicky and annoying) or turn him into a pineapple. "Pineapples don't wear makeup and they don't get bullied," Alter reasons.
A video showing off the teachers' spell-casting ability.
If this all sounds very serious, well, it really isn't; Alter's tongue is firmly planted in his cheek. Those aforementioned tardy busses? They travel via hyperspace gates and the local bus drivers union installed hyperspace inhibitor fields to ensure the kid-carriers would be late and so everyone in a class would fail.
Remember, these "statistics" are one of the most delicious fruits available, too. Alter's original plan was to have a much more realistic and allegorical school, but to have one 'No Pineapple Left Behind' and the politics of American education:

Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 5/11/15



Special Nite Cap 

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