This week on the Youth Radio podcast, a study from Johns Hopkins University may show that a common method for reforming students is really holding them back. Youth Radio reporter Robyn Gee discusses that study, and her profile of a teacher who did everything she could to keep her elementary school students from being kicked out.
The Following aired on KQED-FM.
By. Christina So
“I’m going to pick on you a lot.” That was the first thing my supervisor Kurt said to me when I joined the App Lab. It’s a department at Youth Radio that teaches young people how to write computer code.
Kurt explained that as a female who was interested in programming, I would be treated as a unique specimen in the male-dominated world of tech. He said he not only wanted me to be able to handle the pressure, but to be better than the competition.
I joined the App Lab mostly because of the word App - short for application. My favorite apps were games, and I played them a lot. Back then, my 4th generation iPod touch was a major part of my life. I spent at least 3 hours a day staring at that little miracle producing screen. But over time my interest changed from playing games, to learning how to create them.
I started with the most fundamental computer language: HTML. It was simple, easy, and straightforward, but the end product was bland and bare. That’s where CSS came in. It makes up for HTML’s lack of finesse. Then I moved on to Python. It’s an even more complicated language that constricted me like an actual python.Read more...
By Wesley Pepper
I once spent a week in a special ed classroom as a student. I loved it because I was finally in a class with my best friend (who had been labeled special ed because his English wasn’t perfect yet.)
Even he said, “You don’t belong here.” He was right. It was a clerical error, and administrators soon realized they needed to move me, and before I knew it I was back in classes full of students I had been around for my whole academic career. Nap time was over.
But my friend didn’t belong in special ed either. He wasn’t fluent in English yet, but he was fluent in Spanish because of the neighborhood where he lived for the past three years. He was fluent in French because he lived in France a year as a refugee, fleeing his war torn home of Eritrea. And of course, he spoke Arabic.
How did somebody who could learn this fast get labeled special ed? Even though there are many who benefit from this label because it means extra-support, and having a special ed designation can be a positive thing, at my school the label just meant classes led by apathetic teachers who felt like their students couldn’t learn.
The label tracked my friend for life.
Almost two decades later, I was standing in front of my own classroom. Last year I taught English to eighth graders, and some of them had labels that they couldn’t shake off.
I had a student in the class that I taught who had been labeled a “behavior problem.”Read more...
This piece was originally published on Richmond Pulse.
By Sean Shavers
Editor’s Note: A recent study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that American youth are still eating too much fast food, and that the young adult African American population is of particular concern when it comes to obesity rates. The author of the following commentary, Sean Shavers, 21, lives in West Oakland.
Now obesity isn’t an issue for me — I’m slim. But eating fast food has always been a part of my life. At an early age, I realized I could get a happy meal at any given time. Not because I was special or because that was my favorite meal, but because that’s what was available. Like I knew my mom was on the go and I quickly found out that if I claimed I was hungry, I could eat whatever I wanted, healthy or not. As time went on, I realized the power I possessed and milked it. So eventually I just started claiming I was hungry on purpose, just to eat McDonalds or Jack In the Box — I knew she wasn’t going all the way to the house, just to cook.
My mom was a single parent who worked and studied full time, so I pretty much grew up wherever her current school was – Davis, Oakland, Hayward, Sacramento; the list goes on. But for the most part I was raised in Oakland, and still live there today. On top of everything else she did, my mom was an active church member. She usually didn’t have time to cook, so we just ate whatever was nearby. Sometimes we’d be out all day and had to eat fast food several times throughout the day — and I loved it. I thought we were blessed. Imagine being a kid and eating French fries, fish and fried chicken anytime you wanted. It was a child’s dream.Read more...
California is in the process of revising its school accountability system. Schools are traditionally measured by a number rating called the Academic Performance Index (API). Currently, the API is determined solely by state standardized test scores. Now, the California Department of Education is changing that formula.
Soon, test scores will only make up 60 percent of a school’s rating. The other 40 percent has yet to be determined. Public meetings begin this week all over the state, to get feedback about how schools should be measured.
Advocacy groups are pushing for the new API to address a variety of other measures, such as chronic absence, suspension rates, student physical fitness and graduation rates.
Youth Radio’s Sophie Varon goes to Berkeley High School in Berkeley, CA. Her school’s API is 734 (out of 1000). For her, it was hard to believe that her school’s measurement was based on standardized tests, because she says many of her peers use testing week as a time to relax.
“What I find interesting is how I’m just learning how important this score is now,” she said. “A friend of mine last year filled in her scantron for the STAR tests with pictures of hearts, Christmas trees and whatever else came to mind... As far as an individual’s future goes, the standardized testing does not determine whether a person can succeed or fail. The results don’t show up on a high school transcript, and colleges aren’t able to see them in the admission process,” she added.Read more...
This essay was the winning teenage entry in the New America Media "The Teacher That Changed My Life" contest.
By Peggy Xu
He wasn’t quite the tweed-clad, monocle-donning teacher I was expecting on my first day of Latin 1. In fact, he wasn’t like any teacher I was expecting: well built, thunderous, and a towering 6’4, he was a stentorian presence with a stentorian voice, who walked in strides and spoke with the tough cadence of a football coach. To neighboring teachers, he was the booming lecture that could always be heard four classrooms down the hall. To loitering freshmen, he was the dangerous confrontation that should be avoided at all costs. But to the rest of us, he was Mr. David – the man who would teach us the importance of hard work and endeavor, and the best teacher I would ever know.
Loud, fervent, and keenly articulate, Mr. David was a whirlwind of character with no shortage of zeal. Through spirited description and the gestures of an impassioned composer, he retold lifeless antiquity with vivid color, and revived for us the wonders of Caesar and Horace once lost to faded inscriptions. “Latin is everywhere,” he often said. “You just have to learn how to see.” And I did – I found it in literature, in music, in the cornerstones of our modern ideals. Enthralled by the world of our great predecessors, I shed my insecurities for the valiance of old wisdom, and fueled by Mr. David’s words, I immersed myself in the grammatical and cultural intricacies of a language I came to love.Read more...
The following aired on KCBS.
By: Sunday Simon
Being bullied used to be all I knew. Now, my voice is the new ruler of my kingdom.
I've switched to five different school to get away from bullying since the third grade. I thought a performing arts school would be different, and that I would make friends that have the same goal as me, to be a professional music artist.
But three months in, I was still feeling alienated by different cliques, and being insulted by my classmates. People I didn't even know were rude to me.
There even was a time, when I thought I didn't want to go back. But I realized that if I had to quit, singing would have just been another hobby. I wouldn't have been leaving another school, I would be abandoning a legacy I could be a part of, and create for myself.
So, I decided that singing was going to overrule the fear of being bullied again. This year, when I walk up the stairs to my school I feel different. I'm more interested in pursuing my career goals than dealing with confrontation.Read more...
By Sunday Simon
For more on this story, tune into my feature about Snapchat on NPR's All Things Considered.
Want to know what kind of pictures young people are really sharing on Snapchat? Just ask them.Read more...
A group of twenty six states, including California, released new K-12 science education standards this week, called The Next Generation Science Standards.
Two big takeaways include: tackling controversial issues to "combat widespread scientific ignorance," and emphasizing scientific and engineering practices (instead of just skills) -- like planning and carrying out investigations, and engaging in argument from evidence.
California is seriously considering adopting the new standards. Are teachers ready for the shift?
Teresa Barnett, Executive Director of Community Resources for Science (CRS), says teacher reactions have been mixed. CRS is a Bay Area organization that supports local science teachers. They recruit volunteers from the community (scientists, engineers and students from UC Berkeley) to teach hands-on science lessons in local classrooms.
Barnett said teachers they work with in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, CA have expressed concern about how prepared they feel to teach the new standards -- making outside support even more important. “We believe scientists and engineers, who engage in these activities every day, can be great partners in adapting to these new standards,” she said.
While the transition to the new standards might be a bumpy road, Barnett ultimately feels that the change is positive. “The idea of using science content and investigations as a means to help students develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration has the potential to transform education,” she said.Read more...
The following aired on KCBS.
By: Malachi Segers
Facebook says you've got to be atleast 13 to sign-up, yet there are millions of underage users, giving away their personal information without a second thought. And social media is just the tip of the iceberg.
I think teenagers should not only watch what they post, but also pay attention to who's looking at what they post. Some students have reportedly lost their scholarships for offensive tweets. And dozens of teens have even been arrested for posting threats on Facebook.
In my family, our policy is to be as private as possible. I take the value seriously--even my closest friends don't know most details about my life. They don't even know that i'm doing this--right now-- on the raido. I want strangers to know even less.
I know that in 2013 you need a web presence to be successful or even considered normal. Most jobs and colleges these days will check to see what klind of person you are. If your online profile is too private, they'll have no idea who you are, and may be less likely to select you.
There is no clear formula, but I say, think twice, click once.Read more...