Teaching LA

Researching Inner-City LA Schools

To be a critical researcher is to be an archeologist searching for hidden remnants of the past. Much like the archeologist that first identifies an area to excavate, a critical researcher must first identify an issue he wishes to explore. In this post, I’ll be talking about difficulties you will encounter when researching inner-city LA schools. The following Kandice Sumner TED video titled How America’s public schools keep kids in poverty explains a lot as well:

About researching: An archeologist will carefully and diligently remove layers of sediment, and in the process catalog small samples to analyze later in a lab. Likewise, the critical researcher will analyze the underlying causes of the problem he is researching. While the tools each professional uses differ, brush and chisel, versus interviews and surveys, their goals are alike: they search to unearth the forgotten corpses veiled by history.

While the oppressors are armed with millions of dollars, armies, and power, a critical researcher has only his eyes.

To be critical is to be aware, and to be aware, you must have a keen eye. A critical researcher must be proficient in recognizing things others do not see as important. As an archeologist, you must be able to look at small bits and pieces of clay and conclude what object they fell off of, and from what time period they originated.

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Brown vs Board of Education – 1954

More than 65 years ago, on May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court declared state-sponsored school segregation unconstitutional. With the Brown vs Board of Education decision, the Court promised education on “equal terms.” The following PBS video adequately reports about the Supreme Court’s historical rejection of segregation in America’s Southern schools (Brown vs Board of Education, Topeka, KS):

Now, on the fiftieth anniversary of this decision, we ask ourselves how well our society has lived up to its promise. Martin Luther King Jr. described Brown in words similar to these “a fantastic beacon light of hope for millions of the world’s disinherited people who only had their dreams of freedom.”

Yet, a beacon may light the way to a destination without actually taking us there. As King foresaw, the forces opposed to racial justice and educational opportunity have stymied almost every legal mandate to implement schooling on equal terms. Today, the beacon still shines, but the journey to equal terms for low-income communities of color continues.

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GED Testing In California

A few years back, California and LA introduced the latest edition of the GED exam which is offered computer-based only. Besides the GED exam, California also welcomed the HiSET and TASC alternatives for earning a California High School Equivalency diploma.

All across California and also in LA, you can find many locations that offer GED/TASC/HiSET preparation to help you become sufficiently prepared to complete the GED test successfully. HiSET and TASC offer tests in paper-format as well and run the language section as two separate subjects (writing/reading).

Test centers decide on which system(s) they want to use, so check with a testing site around you.  Of course, you will find many traditional GED classes however if you are looking for online possibilities we recommend free GED classes from the website Mycareertools.com. They come with video instruction, transcripts, and quizzes to check your knowledge. These lessons are of high quality and adjusted to the computer-based GED testing.

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The Right Grades for High School Students

As a recent immigrant from Mexico, Antonio perceived school success as an opportunity to increase his quality of life. A native Spanish speaker, Antonio stayed up late into the night during middle school to complete his assignments, translating his school work from Spanish to English and from English to Spanish. Beginning his high school career, he was identified as Limited English Proficient (LEP) and placed in sheltered English classes.

Though he finished the 10th grade with straight A’s and a 4.0-grade point average (GPA), he was not heading towards the path that would make him competitively eligible to enter many of California’s public universities upon graduation. While Antonio’s grades were impressive, they would not be sufficient.

Lisa struggled academically throughout her high school experience. While her low GPA (1.69 after the 10th grade) was not reflective of her academic ability, it did reveal the continuous family and personal problems she encountered as a high school student. As a member of a college access program, Lisa was a struggling student but maintained hope of attending a four-year university.

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Students as Agents for Choosing the “Right Courses” A-G eligibility

Over the past two years, I have been invited to speak at countless parent meetings, department meetings, board meetings, community gatherings, and access conferences about our research and my experiences as a college access advocate for all students.

Through these encounters, I came to realize the vast majority of students, teachers, administrators, parents, and counselors are completely oblivious to the A-G course requirements. This is the second article about this issue. Here, let’s look at students as agents for choosing the “right courses” A-G eligibility.

Teachers are often entirely unaware of how their courses impact college access and a student’s ability to gain college eligibility. This is a powerful observation because it exposes two general assumptions that students and parents make about the high school’s role in supporting the path to college.

First Assumption – Students and parents assume that teachers and counselors at their high school are doing everything necessary to prepare students for college. Ultimately, public high schools are not designed for all students to attend a four-year university. Several times during my teaching career I have heard counselors say their job was to graduate students from high school and “not all students are supposed to go to college.” Unfortunately, those “not supposed to go” were often the first generation, urban students I worked with most closely.

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The Right Courses-“A-G” curriculum

Only 36% of all California high school graduating seniors enrolled in public schools successfully completed the “A-G” curriculum to make them minimally eligible for the University of California (UC) or the California State University (CSU) system. So here we’ll look at the right courses-“A-G” curriculum.

The number of graduating African-American and Latino seniors who completed the required courses for UC/CSU entrance (26% and 23% respectively), however, are dramatically lower than the number of White graduating students (41%) who fulfilled these requirements. This article, the second in this series, captures the words and experiences of under-represented students regarding enrollment in the “right courses” as a means of accessing college.

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The Five Principles of College Access

Labor experts agree that a college degree is critical for financial well being. Whereas 32% of White students in California move on to four-year universities, only 23% of African Americans and 12% of Latinos do so. So in this post, we’ll look at the five principles of college access.

A primary reason for these unequal rates of college-going is that many African American and Latino students attend high schools that lack the conditions necessary to support a college-going culture–such as quality teachers, adequate instructional materials, and a rigorous curriculum. (See Jeannie Oakes’ article in the last issue of TCLA.) These conditions must be present for all students to have an opportunity for college success and financial well being.

Clearly, much work is needed to secure these conditions. But alongside this work, we need to examine how under-represented students (and their parents) can increase the chances of being successful within existing high schools. This column of Teaching to Change LA will explore different ways that students find high school pathways around obstacles and into college. We will listen to their words and experiences, and try to draw some lessons from their successes and difficulties.

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Ensuring Equity in College Preparation

UCLA professor Jeannie O. outlines the six conditions that make a difference in high school graduates’ preparation and eligibility to attend four-year colleges and universities. Read on to learn more about Ensuring Equity in College Preparation.

Census data tells us that for every 100 European American, African American and Latino students who finish elementary school, some time later, 86 of the European Americans will finish high school and 24 will get a bachelor’s degree. For African-Americans, only 76 will finish high school and 11 will achieve a bachelor’s degree. For Latinos, it is even worse: only 45 will graduate from high school and only six will receive a bachelor’s degree.

These disparities are the focus of this presentation and the following are the key points that will be made:

  • Research has shown that there are six critical conditions that make college access possible for all children.
  • California’s disparities are caused, in part by policies and structures in schools that prevent the critical conditions being available to everyone in a systematic way.
  • Most college access programs provide extra support to students whose schools lack these conditions—but they don’t do anything that changes conditions permanently or in an ongoing manner.

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TCLA at Mexicanos Unidos en Defensa del Pueblo 

“We are fighting for an adequate education. We have a responsibility to our families and there are thousands of people that support us.”

TCLA was recently at a conference at CSU San Marcos hosted by Mexicanos Unidos en Defensa del Pueblo (MUDP) through La Escuela Popular Rogelio A. Favela.

Mexicanos Unidos en Defensa del Pueblo (MUDP) through La Escuela Popular Rogelio A. Favela hosted a conference on popular education at California State University at San Marcos. The objective was to launch a serious campaign to define and promote the ideals of popular education as envisioned by Paulo Freire and others who have dedicated themselves to the empowerment of the people.

The goals of the conference were to develop a definition of what popular education entails and to begin the process of establishing a networking committee composed of educators, students, parents, volunteers and anyone who is interested in using education as a call for justice. Participants discussed how to look at the educational process as another tool with which to organize working-class people to attain their political, social, and economic self-determination.

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