From 2013-2014, I visited high school English classes across the socioeconomic spectrum in Los Angeles in an attempt to understand what makes a great teacher and what we mean when we say “education.” This is one of the most important lessons I learned: that we need a new language to talk about poverty.
I recently worked with three groups of 8th and 9th grade students. All of the groups are comprised of students of color from families in poverty, which means they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch under a California program whose cutoff is for a family of four is an income of under $30,615 (free), or under $43,568 (reduced-price). Students from families like these who qualify for free and reduced lunch are generally the students we talk about when we talk about children in poverty.
My three student groups all meet this criterion. In addition, they all are highly motivated and academically proficient, with supportive parents who have enrolled them in an after-school college-prep enrichment program. They must all be alike, right?
Wrong. Continue reading What I Learned In School
“I don’t have to stress that a billion dollars is an insane amount of money,” Jacques assures me right away.
I feel much better. I was starting to think I was the one who was insane.
As I travel through high schools in L.A., often observing classrooms where there are 45 or 50 kids packed into a classroom, I am obsessed with the LAUSD’s billion-dollar commitment to Apple iPads. I understand that this money does not come from the general budget but from money earmarked for school construction; on the other hand, the logic by which iPads qualify as a construction project seems so convoluted that it could apply to anything. Like…more teachers.
Anyway, in an attempt to understand how this purchase makes any sense, I’ve consulted a panel of experts: seven tech-whiz high school students from an after-school program called UrbanTxt, along with the program’s founder, Oscar Menjivar. The highly competitive after-school program, whose mission is to teach coding and entrepreneurship to male high school students of color in South L.A. and Watts and which this past year accepted only 1/5 of its applicants, is home to some of the sharpest young minds in the city—who in addition to their tech expertise, also happen to be the target audience of the LAUSD’s massive purchase. Over pizza and soda, in a computer lab crammed with monitors and laptops, these brilliant teenage guys patiently explain the complexities of the problem at hand. Continue reading Teenage Students Ask the Big Question About iPads
It’s been a crazy year in education! If you’re taking time over winter break to reflect on 2013’s highs and lows, here are the education “hits” that have changed my thinking this year:
- Invisible Child by Andrea Elliot, New York Times. Anyone who talks about the achievement gap in this country needs to read this searing profile of a 11-year-old girl cycling in and out of homelessness in New York City. If we are serious about addressing the needs low-income students of color in this country, we need to first understand the conditions in which many of our students are growing up.
- Educating the Educators by Mike Rose, The Answer Sheet, Washington Post. Cutting through the hysterical rhetoric of so much of the conversation in education these days, Rose, a professor at UCLA, sheds light on the meaning of teaching with his thoughtful, wise, complex and compassionate discussion of what it means to become a teacher and who ought to be one. Part One is a re-examination of some of the terms we use to define teaching. Part Two is a discussion of diversity and what we mean when we say “selectivity.
- Continue reading 10 Best Education Posts of 2013
“My dad’s only now achieving his American dream,” says a girl with long blonde hair. “He wants pursue his creative interests but he’s only just now getting to do that in his late 40’s.”
“Can you expand on that?” asks a hip-looking guy with his hair in a bun on top of his head.
“”Before, he was preoccupied with rising in the economic hierarchy,” she tells him.
Believe it or not, the above is a verbatim transcript of actual Los Angeles teenagers talking to each other in Jennifer Macon’s class at Cleveland Humanities Magnet. Continue reading At the Core of the Core