Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Afro-Centric" Teacher Dismissed Over Activist Curriculum

The Los Angeles Unified School District has fired Karen Salazar, an untenured second-year English teacher at Jordan High, who was promoting student activism in her curriculum:

Students and fellow educators are rallying behind a fired Jordan High School teacher they say was sacked for encouraging political activism among her students.

About 60 students rallied Wednesday at the Watts campus, while a colleague of the fired teacher said he and 15 other instructors planned to resign or transfer to other schools to protest the dismissal of Karen Salazar, a second-year English teacher.

The dust-up has gone digital as well. Salazar backers have posted videos on the website YouTube. The postings, which have attracted thousands of hits, intersperse music, outraged protesters and interviews, as well as statements from the outspoken educator.

"You embody what it means to be a warrior-scholar, a freedom-fighting intellectual," she told students through a bullhorn in one video. "You are part of the long legacy, the strong history, of fighting back."

In another instance, Salazar rips the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying, "This school system for too long has been not only denying them human rights, basic human rights, but doing it on purpose in order to keep them subservient, to subjugate them in society."

A union official said the critique against Salazar included a statement that her teaching was too "Afro-centric." An assistant principal, in his evaluation of a particular lesson, accused Salazar of brainwashing students, according to Salazar and others.

Her course materials include "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," which is approved for students. Salazar, 25, also sprinkles in lyrics of slain rapper Tupac Shakur and the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Salazar's political science degree from UCLA includes minors in African American studies and Chicano studies. She recently completed a master's in education at UCLA.

A veteran teacher assigned to mentor Salazar took issue with the negative characterization of Salazar's teaching.

"I did not see the same things that the administrator said he saw," said Miranda Manners, who observed the same lesson during a different class period. "I saw a new, young teacher teaching her lesson according to the objectives she stated on the board. I saw her engage with her students and interacting with them in a very positive way."

As for Salazar's overall campus profile, "she is definitely a teacher who wants kids to wake up and look around them and ask questions and be motivated and be engaged."

It was the latter penchant that caused the furor, said others.

Salazar served as faculty advisor for campus student activists who wanted to pass out surveys about the school and students' education. Unlike at other schools, Principal Stephen G. Strachan forbade the distribution of surveys on campus.

Salazar said Strachan also accused her of starting a separate student activist group that demanded more culturally relevant courses as well as accurate, up-to-date student records. Some students have complained that transcript errors result in them being placed in the wrong classes.

"She's one of the teachers that needs to stay here," said junior Deysy Ruiz, 16, who estimated that at least half of her teachers had been ineffective by comparison.

Another group behind the protest was the Assn. of Raza Educators, which includes Santee Education Complex teachers who advocated successfully for the removal of a principal at that high school.

Karen Salazar

Photo Credit: "Jordan High School teacher Karen Salazar, center, is greeted with cheers during an after-school rally to protest her contract not being renewed," Los Angeles Times.

Here's Jordan's educational statistics for English Language and Math Achievement:

Schoolwide or LEA-wide ELA Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above: 12.9%

Here: 13%
State average from 1015 schools: 50%

Schoolwide Math Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above: 10.8%
Here: 11%
State average from 1024 schools: 45%

ELA Percent Proficient or Above African American: 5.3% (5 proficient out of 94)
Here: 5%
State average from 514 schools: 41%

Math Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above African American: 3.2% (3 proficient out of 94)
David Starr Jordan Senior High: 3%
State average from 511 schools: 31%

ELA Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above Hispanic: 14.7% (59 proficient out of 401)
Here: 15%
State average from 887 schools: 40%

Math Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above Hispanic: 12.5% (52 proficient out of 415)
Here: 13%
State average from 888 schools: 36%

ELA Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above Socioeconomic Disadvantaged: 13.7% (60 proficient out of 438)
Here: 14%
State average from 913 schools: 38%

Math Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above Socioeconomic Disadvantaged: 11.3% (50 proficient out of 444)
Here: 11%
State average from 920 schools: 36%

ELA Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above English Learner: 11.3% (39 proficient out of 346)
Here: 11%
State average from 776 schools: 28%

Math Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above English Learner: 10.3% (37 proficient out of 359)
David Starr Jordan Senior High: 10%
State average from 776 schools: 33%

ELA Percent of students scoring Proficient or Above Students with Disabilities: 1.9% (1 proficient out of 53)
David Starr Jordan Senior High: 2%
State average from 724 schools: 17%

Math Percent of Students with Disabilities scoring Proficient or Above: 1.5% (1 proficient out of 65)
Here: 2%
State average from 731 schools: 15%

Graduation Rate for 2006, Class of 2004-05: 51.9%

Graduation Rate for 2005, Class of 2003-04: 53.5%

ELA 2006 Percent Proficient Target: 22.3%
Math 2006 Percent Proficient Target: 20.9%
Number of Scores included in the 2006 Academic Performance Index (API) : 1414

Barely half of Jordan's students graduate. Perhaps these folks need less activism and more academics.

1 comments:

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