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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

$250K for 'woke' training: Reading, math scores fall even lower

Training teachers to "disrupt whiteness" isn't helping children learn at a Bay Area school, reports Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle. Reading and math scores have hit new lows at Hayward's Glassbrook Elementary, two years into a $250,000 contract with Woke Kindergarten.

A lesson urges children not to give thanks on Thanksgiving. ("Turtle Island is an indigenous name for the Northern America.)

Last spring, "less than 4 percent of students were proficient in math and just under 12 percent at grade level in English, — a decline of about 4 percentage points in each category," writes Tucker.

Teachers say the program, aimed at all the elementary grades, isn't helping their students, most come from low-income, Spanish-speaking, immigrant families. The federal-grant money "could have gotten us a reading interventionist,” said a teacher, who was unwilling to be named.

Glassbrook's chronic absentee rate fell from a very high 61 percent to a still very high 44 percent. However, "a similar improvement  was seen districtwide," Tucker reports.

Woke Kindergarten calls itself a  "global, abolitionist early childhood ecosystem" dedicated to "pro-black and queer and trans liberation." Founder Akiea “Ki” Gross is a former teacher who identifies as they/them.

Its curriculum includes anti-police, anti-capitalism and anti-Israel messages, writes Tucker. The "woke word of the day" -- "strike," "ceasefire," "protest," -- offers students a "language of the resistance" to help in their "critiques of the system."

"Abolitionism" extends to money, work, police, landlords, school and the United States, often known as "Turtle Island," an indigenous name. “Wonderings” pose questions for students, including, “If the United States defunded the Israeli military, how could this money be used to rebuild Palestine?” or "If we challenged the power of the Supreme Court, how might we transfer power back to the people?"

(Teacher Tiger) Craven-Neeley, who is white and a self-described “gay moderate,” said he wasn’t trying to be difficult when he asked for clarification about disrupting whiteness. “What does that mean?” he said, adding that such questions got him at least temporarily banned from future training sessions. “I just want to know, what does that mean for a third-grade classroom?”

He'd already gotten in trouble with the trainer for questioning the phrase "so-called United States."

Hayward Superintendent Jason Reimann said parents, teachers and staff helped choose a provider to boost attendance and lower suspensions. “We are in favor 100% of abolishing systems of oppression where they hold our students back,” he said. “What I do believe is we should pick providers based on their work and how effective they are.”

Will students go to school every day to hear about Palestine, pronouns and how to replace the Supreme Court with people's tribunals? The immigrant students I've met wonder what it's like to have reliable work, money, housing and police protection. They don't want to give Turtle Island back to the indigenous peoples. Their families went to a great deal of trouble to live in the U.S.A. They'd do a lot better if they learned to read well and use math.

Tucker mentions a San Francisco elementary school, John Muir, which used its grant for a math intervention program. Math achievement went way up.

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