Final Blog

As my senior project is coming to an end, it is important to ponder over my experience.

Academically, I learned a lot of terminology used with education and how these types of processes work. As someone who has attended private school all their life, I never knew about forums or board meetings held by schools. My passion grew for this project as I learned how seriously these closures could affect these communities and how passionate the community was. Attending the forums and meetings was eye opening for me when I found parents actively fighting for their children’s’ education.

My project allowed me to learn not only about OGSD itself, but also the processes many public schools go through. That being said, learning about certain details from an external point of view was often difficult. I often wanted to learn about certain facts such as the employment of faculty from the schools closing or the details in the finances. However, these were difficult to find without a source. My final product is a paper my answers and evaluation of the question I have been seeking throughout this project: “the causes and effects.”

If you are interested in attending my presentation, it will be on May 22nd at 6:30 pm at Double Tree Hotel.

As for advice for future seniors looking forward to completing a senior project, I highly recommend finding your onsite advisor sooner so you can coordinate what you want to focus on sooner. Throughout this process, my focus has switched numerous times, which is fine, but it is best to figure that out as soon as possible.

I would like to give a special thanks to my two advisors, my onsite and my BASIS advisor, and my BASIS coordinator!

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Week Eleven: Finalizing the Project

This week has mostly consisted of working on creating my final presentation and my final project which is essentially a paper summing up the entire semester. I met with my offsite advisor to discuss my final presentation and how i would structure the final paper and I also completed a spreadsheet for her blog. I also met with my BASIS advisor and went over a ton of edits from my drafted presentation that was honestly a complete mess. With a lot of adjustments, I’m pretty satisfied with the current status of my presentation and I look forward to May when everyone is able to learn about my project in an organized fashion.

Week Ten: Acceptance of Decisions

This week, I was able to meet with my senior project advisor and a parent from the OGSD community during a SBPA meeting. During this meeting, I learned that following the news of the two school closures, there isn’t more of a fight to keep either schools open. A lot of the teachers and parents, despite fighting for months, have accepted the fact that two of the schools are to be closed this coming fall. To many, it is already an accomplishment considering the fact that there was originally going to be four or five schools chosen for closure.

I was able to complete my first practice presentation! I have a lot of work to do to say the least. A lot of reorganization of the structure of my slides and a lot of practice with public speaking. I will work further with my BASIS advisor to better my next presentation and eventually my final.

Week Nine: The Calm Before the Storm

This week has been very calm, but I’ve been persistent in reading up on Reign of Error and taking notes. From this book, I am able to gather some statistics on performance in public schools and information on misconceptions revolving around public schools. Speaking of the use of statistics, I’ve begun to draft a general sense of what my final product for this senior project is going to be. I’ve created an outline of the set up of my research paper, but I’m still mapping out how to sum up my experience, what I’ve learned, and what I wish to present. Figuring out the key points throughout my senior project and figuring out which parts are worth presenting (despite valuing everything I have learned throughout this project). I did not have the opportunity to meet with my advisor this week, due to me being out of town for half the week.

For now, I look forward to discussing what I’ve learned from Reign of Error with my offsite advisor so we can plan out what parts I can use. There are also potential plans from SBPA for speaking points for the meeting coming up at OGSD. I look forward to the meeting and to draft up my senior project and run it by both my advisors.

Week Eight: Surprising Results and What to Look Forward to

Very much out of the blue, the Oak Grove School District website had a pop-up with this announcement:both schools are closing notif

My eyes were immediately drawn to bulletin number two. Especially due to the fact that throughout the past few meetings, the board reassured members, parents, and teachers that only one school was to be closed. Meetings and forums began to calm down as the board continued to report that only one school is to be closed, but this new announcement is sparking some outrage throughout the community. Considering spring break is in the next two weeks, the soonest board meeting will be held on April 12th and I look forward to attending that. I expect a lot of outraged parents and teachers will speak and intend to document. I met with my offsite advisor and we discussed the upcoming SBPA meetings and plans amongst passionate parents and teachers for speaking points at the meeting. As my BASIS advisor mentioned, keeping up with the teachers’ employment status and how the district is going to deal with the influx of students going into the other schools is extremely important. I reached out to two teachers, one from Glider and the other from Miner, but I have not gotten a response so I do want to reach out to more.

As far as work I’ve been doing, I have been collecting and analyzing data for my onsite advisor. Some of the data is in relation to automated or computerized education that can potentially harm students. Not all of the data collected is in direct relation to OGSD, but it can be an issue clouding the country as a whole. The data I collected will be used in my advisor’s education blog. I’ve also tried to get speed up my reading on Reign of Error and I am gathering a lot of information in terms of misconceptions of public education.

I look forward to the meeting to come for OGSD, how everyone will react, and specifically how the schools will handle all the new students. Will the schools maintain an average 25:1 student to teacher ratio or will the classes increase in size? Will teachers have guaranteed employment in the other schools or will they simply lose their job? A lot of questions have yet to be answered.

Week Seven: Research + Analysis

On Saturday morning, I attended an education town hall hosted by Senator Beall. At this town hall, I was able to learn about the financial aspect of education and how money is distributed in the system. (Click Here to view the slide show presented at the event) At the town hall, Senator Beall discussed the importance of funding and how our current prison system is increasingly costly. This was a very important point that I wanted to incorporate in my senior project in terms of broader aspects. When areas are stricken with poorer education where students are not inspired to learn or pursue higher education, students often have a harder time finding higher-paying occupations and therefore resort to crime. The poverty to prison pipeline is a very real and serious issue. A study by the Brookings Institute showed that three years prior to incarceration, only 49% of prime-aged men were employed and their median earnings were $6,250. Only 13% earned over $15,000. Although the cycle is much more complex, when generalized, they are: 1) Schools fail students, 2) students work low income jobs and do not make a sustainable amount of money, 3) they resort to crime, 4) more people are incarcerated, 5) more funding is required for prisons and taken away from education, 6) thus quality in education continues to decrease as more students resort to crime. It would only get worse. There is no straightforward solution, but Senator Beall emphasized the importance of funding our education system. The town hall also included other information, but they weren’t directly in relation to my project.

       In terms of the work I’ve been doing with my offsite advisor, I’ve been collecting and analyzing data for her blog. I focused on the harms of the use of tech in education. I have also reached out to some Miner and Glider teachers to ask about how it’s been dealing with the impending closure, but I have yet to get a response.  In the upcoming weeks, I hope to draft up some papers for my final project or at least organize the different topics I want to focus on.

Week Six: The Waiting Game

Decisions still have yet to be made in terms of what schools are to be closed. Thus making this week slightly uneventful. This week, I helped my offsite advisor on some of the work she had assigned and events she helped host. Other than that, I mostly did extra reading.

This Saturday, I will join my offsite advisor at an education town hall hosted by Senator Jim Beall. I look forward to updating this blog with information I take from that! My wonderful onsite advisor also suggested that I should speak to some of the teachers at the schools that could potentially close. I will definitely reach out to the teacher I am currently in contact with at a separate school and my offsite advisor to see if they can help me make some connections.

 

Week Five: A Look into Different Aspects

Over the past week, I’ve been looking into some potential reasons for a decrease in enrollment or a failing curriculum. It was brought to my attention that many public schools have been implementing the use of very technologically advanced methods to teach and rehearse their students. However, I think the term advanced is a bit of a misnomer. One of the many computerized teaching programs public schools implement  is IXL Learning. IXL Learning is an independent company that offers questions to help students to drill questions. However, as this program has become expansive and used more often in classrooms, there’s been a lot of issues emerging. On commonsensemedia.org, students and parents are allowed to leave comments regarding how they feel about certain products. In this link are comments left regarding IXL Learning. Most of the reviews are very negative. I touched upon this topic in an earlier blog post, but I never provided much context. To really clarify, IXL and automated teaching seems to be sweeping traditional, in person teaching. Coming from the teaching and children’s education expert, my external advisor, this automation doesn’t give the students the individualized teaching different students need. IXL should be used to help students practice, but like some of the comments talk about, teachers sometimes tell their students to pull out their publicly funded Chromebooks to use IXL on their own. Teachers no longer feel inspired to actually teach and merely depend on IXL to do what their job should be.

Beyond that, there are many flaws in IXL itself. Comments from students include how the point system causes anxiety and self-loathing. When students answer questions correctly, they are granted one point. However, when students answer a question incorrectly, they lose ten more points. In the end of each round, they end up with an extremely low score. Just imagining how that can affect an elementary school level child’s mentality is simply heart-breaking. Another prime issue mentioned was teaching methods. When students answer a question incorrectly, instead of being given an opportunity to try again, they are immediately given the correct answer. Another issue is inconsistent content. Some of the drilled questions are irrelevant with the course being taught in the classroom. Of course, I only cover a very general umbrella of what other students and parents say. Feel free to check out the link in the paragraph above!

The question now is: if these programs are so flawed, why do our public schools still use them? I’ve continued to review some possible conflict of interest on a state board of education level, but it’s very difficult to draw very obvious lines, but it still warrants attention.

In terms of OGSD itself, new boundaries have been drawn in the district for students to be moved around based on their location. A new bilingual immersion program has been implemented in Del Roble Elementary school in attempt to maintain some sense of community and inclusion. The final decision for what school will be closed between Glider and Miner has yet to be made. The only certain decision so far is that only one of the two will be closed.

Week Four: Activism within the Community

On Monday, I joined my offsite advisor at a meeting with her local organization called the South Bay Progressive Alliance (SBPA). I was able to meet four very passionate individuals. One member was a parent of a student at an elementary school in OGSD (I forget which school specifically, but one no longer on the chopping block), a parent of a student at Del Roble (a school sort of off the list of being closed, but under review), a teacher from an elementary school in OGSD, but not on the list of schools under review, and a spouse of a former teacher in the San Jose Unified School District. This meeting was one of the most insightful meetings I have attended throughout this project. I was able to learn a lot about how the individuals were feeling about the entire situation and how they planned to the issue. The next meeting at the time was on Thursday at the OGSD Office (I will talk about the meeting itself afterwards). At this meeting, anyone who wishes to speak may sign up for a capped one minute speaking time. The points we hit at the SBPA meeting were racism and a lack of communication between the schools and the students.Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 1.10.37 PM.png

The two schools mostly at risk are Glider and Miner and also happen to have the highest percentage of minority students.

These are statistics provided by the district and show that Miner is mostly made up of Hispanic students and Glider with Asian American and Hispanic students combined. During district forums and district meetings, attenders have noticed the lack of speakers for these schools. One possible answer for this, as suggested by a story told by the teacher, is that they are afraid to due to their safety in residency. The teacher of one of the schools talked about how one of her third grade students had visited her birthplace in Mexico with her mother. Because her mother brought her over illegally, her mother was unable to re-enter the US so she had to fly back to the states alone. Her mother may only return after ten years. Of course, this is only one case. However, given the amount of minority students in these two schools, one can only imagine how scared students and parents are of prosecution.

The second issue touched upon was the lack of communication. As pointed out by parents of other schools in the district, there was a mention that district leaders made multiple visits to most of the schools to check up on students were doing. However, only one visit was reported at Glider. Parents were also mailed letters with very vague and blanketed statements. For example, Del Roble parents, although off the list of schools to be closed, were mailed statements that implied their school was under review and with a possibility of closure. Glider and Miner parents were often not told when board meetings or forums were to be held leaving them unaware of the situation that would affect them the most.

On the day of the meeting, a member from the SBPA meeting mentioned these issues. However, the board members and other attendees were more fixated on issues that seemed to be past the fact that schools may not be closed. There’s a lot of issues of overcrowding into schools that survive and a danger for students who have to travel a farther distance to their new schools. More information shall be uncovered!

 

Week Three: Comparing Cases and More Background Work

This week, I met up with my offsite advisor on Monday to work on mapping out some of the research I need to do. To list out, I continued reading Reign of Error and am now wrapping up Chapter 4. I am also looking in depth into a particular case of school closure in Sacramento that may have some relation to the case here.

I have also began to construct a spreadsheet containing some reviews for an online learning and practice program, IXL, that many students across the country use, but has been proven to be either counter effective or simply emotionally scarring. To see this endless Google Sheets, Click Here. These reviews were found on a website called Common Sense Media, a site for people to review a variety of things. IXL has been pushed by corporations that create these programs, but lack any teaching qualifications to create it. Many of the reviews for IXL criticize the point system, granting students 1 point when they get questions right and taking away 10 points when answered incorrectly. This negative reinforcement can really affect the emotional health of students. A lot of the reviews also mentioned how it didn’t teach any of the subjects well. For example, for math, it would often give the same problem, but only switch numbers. This allowed students to drill questions, but it never did a good job in terms of teaching.

On a separate spreadsheet I have only began to draft, I am charting up investments corporations have made in certain members of the California State Board of Education. With an increase in corporations trying to profit off the education system in America, There can be a lot of conflict of interest when it comes to passing legislation or programs that may not actually meet the standards students need.

In terms of whats happening in OGSD itself, decisions have still yet to be made. For now, the district office had decided to close Miner, Del Roble, and Glider. They also had Baldwin written up for one more year for review before deciding whether or not they wanted to close that school. Demographers have been planned to analyze the enrollment of Baldwin students for one more year before making a final decision for that school in particular. When making the decision to close Miner, Del Roble, and Glider, a lot of conflicts came up that made the board realize there needed to be more research before making a final decision. For example, someone attending the meeting brought up that if Del Roble were to close, most of the students would need to walk around an hour to get to their new school through notoriously dangerous neighborhoods. Thus, the board realized they could not close Del Roble. Many other complications came up and a meeting planned to end at 8 pm ended up concluding at 11 pm. Final decisions have yet to be made. If you are interested in attending any of these board meetings, I highly recommend checking out the OGSD website for the calendar. They have all the scheduled meetings on there. The next meeting scheduled is March 1 at 6 pm at the OGSD Office.