Inside California Education: Educating At-Risk Youth

Inside California Education: Educating At-Risk Youth

September 12, 2019 2 By Ronny Jaskolski


Jim Finnerty: At-risk
students on the brink of dropping out may feel like
they have few options. I’m Jim Finnerty. California’s continuation
schools are the last resort for at-risk youth. But we’ll show you one
school that’s giving these students hope. Christina Salerno : The
String Project is a unique program where teachers are
benefitting as much as the students. I’m Christina Salerno. Let’s to introduce you to
some college students working with youth to make
beautiful music together on violins and cellos. Sarah Gardner: How do you
get young people more involved in civics? I’m Sarah Gardner. One award-winning school
made civics a critical part of the educational
process in addressing local, state and
national issues. It’s all coming up on
Inside California Education!“So, when you’re 18 are you
going to register to vote?
Yes!” Funding for Inside
California Education is made possible by: Since 1985, the California
Lottery has raised more than $30 billion for our
public schools. It’s a modest amount after
dividing it up to California’s 11-hundred
public school districts from kindergarten through
high school, as well as community
colleges, UC and CSU campuses. Still, these funds help
attract quality teachers, provide classroom
equipment, and keep art and music
programs alive. With caring teachers,
committed administrators, and active parents, every
public school student can realize their dreams. The California Lottery:
Imagine the Possibilities. The Stuart Foundation:
Improving life outcomes for young people through
education Additional funding for
Inside California Education is made possible
by these organizations supporting public
education: ♪♪ ♪♪ Jim: Thanks for joining us
on Inside California Education. Continuation schools are
often the final option for students who for any
number of reasons have been designated “at-risk”
at risk for failure; at risk for dropping out. Teachers and
administrators at some of these schools; sometimes
called “dumping grounds” are hoping to “dump”
that perception. Let’s visit Orange Grove
High School, where some students are
thinking about college and career for the very first
time. ♪♪ Jacob:”what happened was
I gave a kid a taser, and then he got
caught with it. And then he snitched
me out, told the cop that I had given it to him,
and, ah, I got sent here.” Jason: I would hear that
Orange Grove was like a bunch of bad kids,
fighting every day, all this bad stuff about
Orange Grove. Andrea: I was scared to
come here, honestly. The things that my
teachers at my old school would tell me about
Orange Grove… I just had like the
thought in my head that this school was going to
be trouble, you know? Jacob: What I had heard
was like um a whole bunch of scary people come here
and all that. So I was scared when I
first got here. I was like that quiet kid. Jim: Truancy. Substance
Abuse. Poverty. Homelessness. These are some of the
difficult realities that lead thousands of
California students to end up at one of the state’s
467 continuation schools. The educators who are
laboring to turn around these troubled young lives
say….they’ve been battling these realities
for decades. Kenny: The first thing,
what I thought was . . . different when I first
came here was the kids coming just to eat. That was an eye-opening
experience for me. Andrew: Punishments don’t
teach behavior. They don’t teach you
anything. They suppress behavior. And if there was any shred
of evidence that that worked, we would be
out of business. Because these students
have been punished to the nth degree. Jim: Students searching
for a way to break the cycle turn to tiny Orange
Grove High School student body, fewer
than 200. Jason: I stopped
going to school. I had like a bunch
of anxiety, I started to self-harm
myself. And you know like my
grades caught up with that and I had like a
bunch of F’s. And then I went to my
SARD meeting with Dr. Ilic
and he was there and they said the best place for me
would be Orange Grove. Jim: Dr. Mike Ilic and his
office are charged with the difficult task of
finding solutions for troubled kids that work
for them, their families, and their schools. Sometimes, that solution
means coming here to Orange Grove for a
semester, or for years. Mike: There’s a
changing face in continuation education. It’s not like the old days
where you put out the teachers that you don’t
like any more and the principals that are just
right on the edge of retiring, and they’re
ineffective, and they’re all at the
continuation school. Joe: We were responding to
their behavior instead of the causes of
their behavior. We needed to step back and
look at why were the kids behaving
the way they were… …understanding that most
of our kids come from backgrounds where they’ve
suffered multiple traumas in life. Kenny: I don’t have
teachers here or staff here that that have
to be here, that are miserable and
knocking down the door to get out… They have tons of love. They just open up their
hearts to their kids and try and find out what
their social and emotional needs are. Mike: it’s extremely
important that the principals who take over
those schools are principals who want
to be there. Not to just be put there,
but they have to be there, they have to have
the passion, they have to have
the vision. And those principals
need to hire their own teachers. Jessie: If you were going to say
here rests resentment. You would say full of
heaviness and a weight on my shoulders that I don’t
want to carry anymore. Jim: Jessie Fuller is
the California League of School’s 2016 Educator
of the Year. In her first class, she
has her students creating “tombstones” and eulogies
to bury bad habits. In another class, an
exercise in the Socratic method for hashing out
issues – an inner circle, an outer circle, a
facilitator. Jessie: So Chad makes
the point. . . Andrea: …she’s
probably my favorite because she’s like a 2nd
mother to me. I feel like I can always
talk to her about stuff that isn’t even
about school, like if I need advice
about something, or help, I know she’ll always be
there for me. Jessie: Our kids,
I feel like they’re so, literally, just one step
away from dropping out, or a lot of times like
prison for our kids… we talk about disruption
of the school to prison pipeline right? I think about this is
very real ’cause we see like a kid’s here one day
and oh what happened to them and oh, they’re
locked up. You, know like it’s so
real here. So to disrupt that you
have to do something very different from what the
norm has been. Andrew: They might not
act like it but our students want consistency.
They want consistency. They want someone who’s
going to show up every day and be fair to everybody. For our most at risk
students, the most at risk of the
most at risk, and we try to create a
nurturing environment which is try to get them
back on track, not just educationally but
in life. Jim: Recognizing that
and paying for it are challenges not just
for Orange Grove, but California schools
in general. Things may be starting to
improve, in 2014, the state’s Local Control
and Accountability Plan “LCAP” and a new
funding formula offered school districts more say
in teaching and funding for disadvantaged
students. Mike: Our state’s
taken a bigger approach to some of the
socio-emotional pieces and part of it’s because of a
new funding system with the LCAP and LCFF. Because we’re looking at
low socio-economic kids, we’re looking at
foster kids, and we’re looking at
English learners. And continuation schools
have a higher percentage of those kids, so we
really need to try and support those kids. Jim: Even so, per-student
spending here in the Corona Norco district
remains slightly below the state average. The Orange Grove staff
says more funding would be money wisely spent. Joe: If we have to spend 15
grand on a rehab facility, that’s money well-spent if
it keeps us from spending another $240,000
throughout the rest of their life because
they’re incarcerated. Jim: Kenny Torres believes
a few of those dollars would help his kids open
up not just a textbook, but their whole world. Kenny: A lot of these kids
haven’t been out of the 3-mile, square mile radius
their entire life. And for us yeah
some may say “that’s not the
school’s role.” But to us,
we believe it is. Jessie: Just ask a kid
“what school do you want to go to?” They’re like, “I’m not
going to make it to college.” But take a group of kids
to a high ropes course on a college campus,
eat in the cafeteria, and the kids are like
“how do you get here?” Jim: This weekend, a
cookout for hungry students may be coming out
of the school’s thin pocketbook. Kenny: “…I’ll text you
this week about getting that stuff for
barbecue…” Jason: I felt like if
wouldn’t have came here I would have just kept going
and I would have failed. Probably dropped out. I’m glad I didn’t, though. Oh yeah. I got A Pluses. Just got it like a few
days ago. Andrea: …it’s just more
like a family here than at a regular high school, and
it makes feel more comfortable and it makes
we want to come to school. Jacob: After graduation
I want to go to college. I want to go to a 2-year,
which would be… I was looking at, um… Chafee College? And then I want to
transfer to a 4-year, which I don’t know which
4-year yet. So I need to figure
that out. Mike: We can’t control
what happens outside our sphere of influence. But if we have them for 6
hours we can do something. We can teach them the
social skills. We can teach them that
they can break the cycle that’s been going on maybe
for several generations in their families. We can do that and
we have to do that. It’s socially imperative
that we do that. ♪♪ Annc: The history of
continuation education is closely aligned with
compulsory schooling in the United States. Massachusetts in 1852 was
the first state to require children to attend
public school. Other states followed, and
by 1919 California passed a compulsory education law
for students up to the age of 16. That same year, California
established its first continuation school to
offer an alternative schedule for students
who held jobs. Christina: The student and
teacher relationship is important when it comes to
learning how to play a musical instrument. But what ifboth of them
were learning something during the teaching
process? That’s the idea behind a
program called “The String Project” at California State
University Sacramento. ♪♪ Andrew: The
String Project is a program in which children,
typically third through seventh graders, study
violin and cello from the beginning with
university students. The university students
are trained in teaching children by master
teachers.♪♪
“stop”
Andrew: Because we
have world class string teacher trainers as our
master teachers, we’re training the
children to play the instruments really well
and effectively. Joanna: Growing up as a
student, as a music student, I
never saw myself in the teacher’s shoes, like I
didn’t even want to be in those shoes because I saw
how hard it was and how much they had
to push me to practice. But it just sort of came
and I love teaching. Here there’s like 15 kids
and you have to grab their attention, all of them,
and you’re standing in front of them, you have
to teach all of them, and it’s hard because it’s
not a student ratio of one to one, it’s student
teacher ratio of, like, 15 to one.♪♪(Andrew Lunchansky
playing the cello)
Andrew: I’m professor of
Cello and Chamber Music here at Cal State Sacramento
School of Music, and I am the founder and
the director of the String Project. There is nationwide a severe
shortage of teachers and that’s what started the
String Project movement. Andrew: What we’re finding
is the students, the university students
who had String Project training, all are getting
full time jobs teaching; multiple offers. The Cal State Sacramento
String Project is part of a national
consortium of string projects. There are about 35 of
these at universities around the US. Our program is one of two
or three that focuses on offering the opportunity
for kids from underserved backgrounds to get
lessons. Ruben: On a personal
level, I have always felt that the arts are
an important thing. ♪♪ In the area that I work,
in the Robla School District, which is very
high poverty part of the city of Sacramento, our
student population is over 90% free
and reduced. That’s the federal
poverty level. And, that becomes a
characteristic of certain aspects of their lives. Um, one of which, is that
their parents do not have the resources to take
them to musical instrument lessons. And, so, our school
district, I think, over time has learned
that we, can take responsibility
for that. We think it’s that
important. We offer to pay the
registration fees. Either through district
funds or the education foundation for the first
two semesters. And, then, we also have
now purchased instruments that the district owns
that we can loan to our students at no cost. Samantha: I actually
started in a program pretty similar to this. Coming from a program like
this, its always been rooted in me to
do the same. To be able to allow kids
to have the same opportunities that I did
growing up because I know that a lot
of kids don’t. I feel very, very
fortunate because everything I got,
I got for free, and I know that a lot of
people struggle to pay for the cost of music. Andrew: We typically have
about 80 children studying in the String Project. Twenty or so from Robla so
that’s about a quarter of the children
in the program. And the rest come from
anywhere and everywhere. ♪♪ Jennie: My son is Caydon
he’s 10 and he’s been playing the violin and it’s his second
year in the string quartet ♪♪ Jennie: The other
programs that we had found looked into were more
expensive and more time-consuming, and this
one kind of fit more into our schedule because you
get little breaks throughout the school
year, and then it’s also more
affordable. You just pay one semester
fee as opposed to a monthly fee. Our other big seller was
that it’s at a college campus. So not only is my son
being exposed and learning how to play the violin,
but he’s being exposed to college and what a college
campus looks like and what it feels like, and he
can feel comfortable when he’s here. Caydon: It’s cool because
I might go here one day, and it’s cool to see
lots of other kids. Joanna: They get to see
music majors, and they get to see us
being taught by master teachers how to teach, um,
it’s very special because they get the chance to
play on the university stage, like in
the concert hall. At a very young age they
get to experience all of this. (Music) Andrew: For their
parents, their aunts, their uncles who come to
the concerts, it’s often the first time
they’ve come onto campus and they have a
feeling of ownership. It’s life changing for
some of these families, there’s no way in the
world they would’ve had a chance to have a violin
or cello or get to know the music of Mozart
or Beethoven, and these families are
really excited about what it’s doing for their
children. ♪♪ (Applause) Annc: The cello was
invented in sixteenth century Italy, shortly
after the violin and viola. It was originally called
the violoncello, which means “small
big viola.” It took about 200 years
after its invention before the cello was taken
seriously as a solo instrument. Ludwig Van Beethoven is
credited with composing the first “true”
cello sonatas, writing five pieces for
the cello and piano. The words “Between tears
and sadness” appear on the manuscript of his most
familiar cello sonata. Sarah: Still ahead on
Inside California Education. . . .getting students
interested and involved in the political activities in
their community. But first, a little
education 101 as we ask an expert. “….in light of the
teacher shortage, are there new paths to
becoming a teacher?” ♪♪ Stephanie: What
we’re trying to do is actually create more
pathways. And so one of the things
we’re working on now is what we call integrated
pathways. For students right now in
a traditional program, they would have to take
four years of undergraduate work and
then an additional year, maybe even year
and a half, in a teacher preparation
program. So what we are developing
more and more is what we called integrated
programs, so that the students can
still take their undergraduate degree in
liberal studies or child development, but at the
same time they’re taking teacher preparation
coursework, doing field experiences,
doing student teaching, so at the end of four,
they’ll walk away both with an undergraduate
degree and with a teaching credential for elementary
teaching. It’s going to be less
expensive and less time consuming to do an
integrated program. Or we can rearrange the
scope and sequence of the program so they can be
intern ready sooner. And what we mean by that
is they get a special intern credential that we
recommend them for, and they can actually go
out and be the teacher of record in an elementary
school in a secondary school while at the same
time they can take the remainder of
their coursework at the university. That would be a huge help
for districts because they wouldn’t have to then find
100 credentialed teachers, maybe they have to find
fewer credentialed teachers and then hire
several on intern credentials. But then you would still
have teachers in front of students to be able to
teach them for the year. ♪♪ Sarah: Recent elections
have shown how critical the political process is
in affecting the choices we have as a society. And educators say that an
informed electorate comes only from citizens being
involved. One school in the city of
Brawley is helping to ensure that involvement
from an early age. ♪♪ Jose: “The title of the person
who runs the cit isn’t the
President it’s the ?” All: Mayor Sarah: When it
comes to voting, millennials continue to
the have the lowest voter turnout
of any age group. That’s one reason why
teacher Jose Flores thinks thiscivics education
class is so important. Jose:“Civic engagement
has to be taught explicitly.
And that’s a big challenge
because sometimes our
students now don’t see
the context of why
it is important.But, it permeates every
part of our society.”
Sarah:Brawley Union High
School in Imperial County is a model when it comes
to teaching students about civic engagement. For his efforts, Flores
was recognized by federal education officials in
Washington, D.C., where he received a
presidential environmental education award. Jose: My passion for
environmental education derives from engaging students
in relevant phenomena within their community. Back in Brawley,
Flores often takes students on field trips to
places like the city council chambers to meet
local officials face-to-face.“As life-long residents,
and as new residents to
Brawley, we want the best
for you and for the city
of Brawley.”Anthony: Personally I
don’t like reading from
booksand sittingaround
looking at a book and
writing notes
continuously.
I’d rather be involved in
something.
And this class was
more that.
Kali:Meeting all the
people here at the city
council and interacting
with them.
Because before this,
before this class,
I didn’t know who they
were or the reasons why
they actually do a lot for
the city.”
The exposure to coming to
our council meetings and
knowing how you can make a
difference starts now. “
Jose: “All these doors
are opened for my students.
And these people mentor
my students.
And the most important
thing is not only that
my students know
these people,
it’s even more important
that those individuals in
power or in positions of
influence know my students.”
“So, we’re trying to
bridge the gap of having
people become lawyers,
doctors, engineers,
which maybe in the past
they would never consider.
So, by being mentored by
these individuals they see
it a little bit more
doable.”
Ruth:“It’s getting away
from just textbook learning and providing
students with an opportunity to see what’s
happening in the real world.”“Mr. Mayor, why don’t we
ask them a question.
Just by raise of hands,
how many of you are
going to college?You’re seniors now, how
many of you are
going to college?”Sarah: School
administrators encouraged Flores to expand his
civics education classes to the outside world from
the very start.Simon: “I said, ‘This is
what I want you to do.
I want you to do away with
traditional instruction.
I don’t want to see
textbooks.
I want to see you
interacting
with the students.I want them involved,
I want them engaged,
I want them out in the
community.’ And he
was like, ‘I’m ready.
Let’s do this.”
Ruth:These activities,
these opportunities, it gives them a voice
in the community. Those are the things that
open their eyes to how democracy works. And it brings them home.Obviously a lot of you are
very knowledgeable about
what air pollution is.Sarah:For other field
trips, Flores finds experts to talk about controversial
issues in the region. Students here are being
briefed on pollution problems at the Salton
Sea, about 20 miles north of
Brawley.“The State of California
said in the water transfer
agreement they would
restore the Salton Sea.
And today we haven’t seen
any progress with that.”
Sarah:By exposing the
students to local issues, Flores hopes they will
take action in their community. Kali:I applied the
knowledge I learned in
civics class to home.For instance, I probably
get more understanding
coming from a civics class
because I’m actually
involved and my parents
are outdated on
information that I’m
learning now.
Ruth:I think that
Mr. Flores what he has done I think by creating
this program and giving so many kids civic learning
opportunities is that our community is becoming a
more informed and engaged community. Sarah: Brawley’s effort to
immerse students in current events goes beyond
the civics class. There’s also popular
civics club with more than 100 members. It was originally created
to help Spanish-speaking students learn English,
but now has a much broader mission. Simon:” And so now it’s a
whole movement across our
campus where everyone is
involved in this
civics movement.”“Yes. Right, so, obviously
are you 18 years old?
No.You’re going to be 18?Yes.So, when you’re 18 are you
going to register to vote?
Yes.” Back in his classroom,
Jose Flores gives his seniors one further assignment
one he hopes they will covet for the rest of their lives. He has them register to vote.Jose: “We make a strong
push to engage and show
them the correlation that
they have to have a voice
whether they win an
election or loose an
election for whomever
they support,
they have to have a voice
in that election process.”
Sarah: That’s going to do
it for this edition of Inside California
Education. If you’d like more
information about the program, just log on to our
website insidecaled.org. We have video from all of
our shows, and you can connect with
us on social media as well. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you
next time on Inside California Education. ♪♪ ♪♪ Funding for Inside
California Education is made possible by: Since 1985, the California
Lottery has raised more than $30 billion for our
public schools. It’s a modest amount after
dividing it up to California’s 11-hundred
public school districts from kindergarten through
high school, as well as community
colleges, UC and CSU campuses. Still, these funds help
attract quality teachers, provide classroom
equipment, and keep art and music
programs alive. With caring teachers,
committed administrators, and active parents, every
public school student can realize their dreams. The California Lottery:
Imagine the Possibilities. The Stuart Foundation:
Improving life outcomes for young people through
education Additional funding for
Inside California Education is made possible
by these organizations supporting public
education: ♪♪