A California elementary school in the Bay Area, Glassbrook Elementary, may have experienced unintended consequences with their latest educational experiment. They applied a significant financial investment of $250,000 to a program by a provider named ‘Woke Kindergarten’. This provider was enlisted with the hope of training their faculty on subjects like oppression and the complexities of racial hierarchy, as shared in an article by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The noteworthy fact here is that the attempt to fund ‘Woke Kindergarten’ was carried out utilizing federal resources. This pool of resources was specially allocated to enhance the academic performance of schools struggling the most in the nation, as reported by the Chronicle.
The ‘Woke Kindergarten’ program offers a unique approach to knowledge. It employs a ‘woke word of the day’, featuring words such as ‘protest’, ‘strike’, and ‘ceasefire’. This method aspires to introduce learners to liberation-oriented language — a vocabulary that encourages vociferous critique of societal systems — in a digestible manner.
Unfortunately, there seems to be an unexpected outcome. Since the introduction of this curriculum, Glassbrook Elementary reportedly witnessed a further decline in student performance. Both English and Math scores have sunk by an additional four percentage points.
The school’s performance report presents a rather disconcerting picture. Less than 4% of students demonstrated proficiency in Math while under 12% met the standard in English as of the spring just passed. This downturn trend might cause concern for any invested stakeholders.
Upon scrutiny of the student population at Glassbrook Elementary, it’s evident that most learners come from low-income households. Over 80% of learners are of Hispanic descent. Additionally, two-thirds of the student population identifies as English language learners, intensifying the challenge of tackling subject matter proficiency.
Over the past couple of years, the performance of the institution has been under state monitoring. A fact to consider is that the school’s performance ranking has been downgraded back to the lowest bracket this academic year, resulting in further concern about the methods being employed there.
Interestingly, not all teachers at Glassbrook are completely on board with the approach presented by ‘Woke Kindergarten’. The inclusivity of the programme has been called into question by some, who argue that its strong focus on activism lays the emphasis too much on the liberal worldview.
One instance of dissent was voiced by an educator who identifies as a moderate gay individual. He had previously reported the district to court over claims that they restricted him from discussing LGBT history and his spouse. This educator posed an inquiry about what the term ‘disrupt whiteness’ implied in the context of his third-grade classroom, and as reported, he was subsequently excluded temporarily from the training sessions.
Further discontent was expressed by this teacher, who mentioned being told that the training sessions were not platforms for the expression of ‘white guilt’. The conversation evidently suggested that differing standpoints were less than welcome. Another educator added, ‘Our reading scores are low … That could have gotten us a reading interventionist.’ This highlights concerns about the allocation of resources.
When questioned, Hayward’s Superintendent Jason Reimann clarified that Glassbrook’s contract with ‘Woke Kindergarten’ was motivated more by an ambition to improve attendance than to raise test scores. He asserted that supporting a student’s emotional well-being is essential for their educational success.
Superintendent Reimann publicly upheld the stance of combating systems inhibiting student growth. ‘We are in favor 100% of abolishing systems of oppression where they hold our students back,’ he stated. He stressed however that effective outcomes should determine the choice of providers, reflecting sound educational policy.
Despite the significant financial investment, Superintendent Reimann acknowledged the budgetary implications. He noted that although the spending was perhaps heftier than preferred, they were still committed to the cause, showing a determination to find the best ways to support the learners.
In the context of attendance, there have been some improvements noted both for Glassbrook Elementary and the wider district. Previous rates of chronic absenteeism fell from 61% to a current 44%, an encouraging indication of the program’s potential positive impact.
In contrast to this, it’s imperative to note other schools in the Bay Area have followed different paths. Case in point, an elementary school in San Francisco initiated a mathematical intervention curriculum that has since increased their math proficiency from 15% to an impressive 50%, demonstrating effective alternatives.