The School and Community
Situated near the downtown area of an urban city in California, the high school is one of the oldest and most ethnically diverse in the area when compared to the other six comprehensive high schools and two alternative schools in the district. The school is uniquely positioned because growing economic stability in neighboring communities surrounds it. The majority of the schools’ students of color come from the neighborhood. On the northern side of the school are businesses, up-scale restaurants, new office buildings, and a health and fitness club. To the east are doctors’ offices and a major medical center. South of the school is a private law school which is partly responsible for some physical change in the neighborhood. In addition, various community agencies have renovated individual buildings throughout the community. Yet, ironically, the neighborhood is juxtaposed to the aforementioned up-scale description. The immediate neighborhood of the school is old, having been established in the late 1800s, and most of its inhabitants are ethnic minorities, particularlyAfrican American, Latino and Southeast Asian. The area is considered lower socioeconomic and has a reputation as being “rough” due to crime and violence when compared to adjacent suburban neighborhoods.
The Staff and Faculty
The School Accountability Report states that eighty-five teachers were employed at the site. Of this number, over 75% of the staff is White.
Teacher turnover is quite high within the site, with many first-year teachers working on emergency credentials and working through teacher-intern programs. During the previous academic year, seventeen of the schools eighty-five teachers were in their first year of teaching; there were no second year teachers on the staff. The lack of adequate mentoring has had an effect on first-year teacher retention. However, fifty-six of the teachers had taught for six years or more.
The General Student Body
Students come to the high school from beyond the immediate neighborhood of Gardenia. Students commute from downtown areas, middle-class homesteads along the river to the east, and the more affluent eastern residential neighborhoods near a university. Extending the school’s attendance area is a highly successful arts magnet school and the districts Open Enrollment policy (which attracts a large number of White students from middle and upper middle-class families). Thus, the student body reflects the ethnic, cultural and socio-economic diversity in the city and county. Yet, the majority of students attending Riverside High School are students of color, many of whom come from the immediate neighborhood. The low socioeconomic status of the immediate community has helped to create a vision of the school as being “ghetto” and most people have commented that the school seems “predominantly African American,” although African Americans represent less than nineteen percent of the school population. Yet, the African American presence in the local neighborhood is quite substantial.
The ethnic distribution was analyzed indicating: 19% African American, 3% American Indian/Alaskan Eskimo and Filipino, 20% Asian and Pacific Islander, 22% Latino, and 36% White. These figures have remained consistent with previous years, and parallel the district in its increasing minority enrollment. In addition, over 600 English Language Learners, including 133 Fluent English Proficient (FEP) speakers and 472 Limited English Proficient (LEP) speakers, attend the school. Languages more represented include Spanish, Mien, Hmong, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Lao, and Russian.
Enrollment showed an even distribution of males and females within the school. Currently, the student body shows 38% freshman, 26% sophomores, 20% juniors, and 16% seniors.
Suspensions and Expulsions
Suspension and expulsion rates have stayed fairly consistent over the past few years. In recent years, 469 suspensions were issued to students of Riverside High School: 186 were African American, 12 were American Indian, 23 were Asian, 126 were Latino and 85 were White. According to the principal, 63% of the suspensions within the school were African Americans. Though extraordinarily high, this number is the lowest within the entire district (varied sources suggest that these rates are high, yet there are some inconsistencies in the recorded data).
There is a huge disparity in the number of suspensions for African American and Latino students when compared to the number of students enrolled from these ethnic groups. The percentage of Latino students suspended has dropped significantly, yet African Americans continue to be over represented in disciplinary hearings, counselor and administrator referrals, suspensions and expulsions.
Distribution of A-F grades
A data set was selected from the academic year 2014-2015 to determine the percentage of A-F grades given by ethnicity. See table below.
Grade Distribution by Ethnicity
Recent media coverage of failing schools and the publication of school-wide data on the internet has helped to canonize the view of Riverside High as a low academic achieving school. As a result, in 2015, the principal decided to beef up efforts to raise test scores – setting new benchmarks for each grade level, and assembling a task force of educators to focus on “strike zone” students (those who are earning D and F grades). Thus, the principal outlined his new strategy for increasing achievement, which included not only a focus on the students, but also on faculty professional development. Several people stated that it is imperative to “get to know” the students while understandingtheir learning needs.As such, after disaggregating data by race, the Administration decided to spend more time looking at the profile of varied sub-groups within the school, and would first look at the African American student population.
African American Student Achievement at Riverside High School
The following tables provide demographic achievement data for the African American student population. The African American student population and the gender breakdown are represented below.
Gender Breakdown of African American Students
|Total Number of Students||372|
|Number of Males||159|
|Number of Females||213|
Breakdown of African American Students by Grade Level and GPA
|Class Level||Total Students||GPA Range
3.0 or higher
2.0 to 2.9
|146||20 (14%)||36 (25%)||90 (61%)|
|Sophomores||120||14 (12%)||48 (40%)||58 (48%)|
|Juniors||58||9 (16%)||31 (53%)||18 (31%)|
|Seniors||48||9 (19%)||20 (42%)||19 (40%)|
|Total||372||52 (14%)||135 (36%)||185 (50%)|
In response, teachers began to openly express their cynicism about improvement efforts, highlighting the reality of where most of these kids come from and students’ lack of preparedness for a rigorous curriculum. Also in thesemeetings,it had become normal to “bash” students for largely being a part of the “crack” baby generation, for being “non-readers,” and for lacking” the ability to focus.” This criticism also extended to the students’ families. Additionally, comments were frequently made about families not supporting their children’s achievement, and that families needed to set proper priorities. As a result, the faculty dialogues were very contentious; some called them “divisive” and “racist.” The Administration proclaimed that faculty meetings would soon focus on improving instruction, improving school climate, and developing teacher cultural knowledge and attitudes.
In all, the Administration allocated a substantial amount of funds to sponsor professional development, with the intent of getting everyone aboard the “train toward student success.” To prepare for the upcoming training, a faculty survey was administered to collect data and identify issues.
A two-part faculty survey that was distributed at a faculty/staff meeting during the academic year (see Appendix). Sixty-two teachers responded to the survey. The first section of the survey used open-ended questions. Several significant findings emerged: thirty-eight percent of the teachers believed that Black students lack a value for education; thirty-five percent believed that Black students lack support for their achievement; thirty-five percent believed that Black students generally have difficult home lives (single-parent families); fifty percent believed that Black students lack appropriate peer role models; and twelve percent of subjects reported that Black students experience challenges in adjusting to the norms and disciplinary rules and procedures of the school. In the second section of the survey, members of the faculty were asked to place a check mark next to the items they agreed with (see Appendices and results).
Faculty survey responses related to African American Students
(Data based on 62 respondents)
|Percentage of respondents who did NOT
agree with the statement
|Typically, my African American students
|72%||Generally well prepared for class.|
|77%||Have adequate family/parental support for their achievement.|
|72%||Usually display adequate subject-matter competence in my classes.|
|70%||Demonstrate adequate oral and written communication skills|
|69%||Are respectful and courteous toward their classmates/peers.|
|72%||Complete and submit their homework in a timely manner.|
|85%||Spend an adequate amount of time studying/practicing skills for my classes.|
|77%||Take personal accountability for their learning.|
You are a part of a task force of educators who is serving as an outside advisory group hired to support the School Administration at Riverside High. Your team is tasked to provide a professional development workshop for teachers, which will focus on the academic needs of African American students, based on both a synthesis and analysis of the data about, and collected from the school, AND from an analysis and synthesis of scholarship written on African American students and American education. The goal of this workshop is to engage in historic and contemporary knowledge development, in order to foster a dialogue with the faculty related to their survey results and the scholarship.
To prepare for this workshop, your team has decided to examine the work ofscholars who explicitly focuson African American studentsand equality of opportunity:
- Joel Spring’s book, American Education, Chapter 5
- Post-Slavery, Post-Segregation, Post-Racial: A History of the Impact of Slavery… by Span (see SACCT)
- “Useful and Dangerous Discourse…” by Brown & Brown
- “Examining Racial and Cultural Thinking” by Tatum
- “Race, Culture, and the Education of African Americans” by Lynn
- “Dancing with the Monster…” by Henze, Lucas and Scott
Moreover, the Administration has asked your task force to prepare a PowerPoint Presentation (no more than 20 slides – one should be a title page containing all group members’ names, and another should be a Reference page in APA for source material), that will present major talking points and background knowledge that teachers need to understand. In all, a synthesisof scholarly information should be provided and should frame the presentation of what information the Riverside teachers should know, particularly in light of the case study survey/study/discourses. Included in this presentation should be some discussion on points of similarity and difference between the varied scholars’ perspectives, in orderto set the stage for more robust dialogues about addressing African American student achievement.
Faculty Survey Protocol
Directions: Place an X in the blank space is you AGREE with this statement.
Typically, my African American students:
_____ Are generally well prepared for class
_____ Have adequate family/parental support for their achievement.
_____ Usually display adequate subject-matter competence in my classes.
_____ Demonstrate adequate oral and written communication skills.
_____ Are respectful and courteous toward their classmates/peers.
_____ Complete and submit their homework in a timely manner.
_____ Spend an adequate amount of time studying/practicing skills for my classes.
_____ Take personal accountability for their learning.
Open-Ended Questionnaire Distributed to Faculty
What do you believe to be the greatest social challenges African American students experience at this school?
What about high achieving African American students?
What do you believe to be the greatest academic challenges African American students experience at this school?
What about high achieving African American students?
Last Updated on April 17, 2018 by EssayPro