Tag Archives: Racism in Education

How Kaley Duong and Alexis Mburu Became Award-Winning Youth Activists

by Ari Robin McKenna

Kaley Duong and Alexis Mburu knew there was something wrong with school, only it took them a while to find the right words, to know how to phrase them, and to channel their innate leadership ability. In middle school, both joined racial equity clubs that began to illuminate aspects of the issues they were seeing or facing. In high school, both began speaking out more frequently, organizing, and building community around taking action to address the ills of a system they were still in. During the 2021–2022 school year — when Duong was a senior and Mburu a junior — both were unstoppable, working tirelessly for racial equity in schools while organizing, participating in, and speaking at events that impacted thousands.

Continue reading How Kaley Duong and Alexis Mburu Became Award-Winning Youth Activists

OPINION: Fighting a Hostile Learning Environment Within Seattle Public Schools

by Emi Ponce de Souza with An-Lon Chen

Just over a year ago, my son Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce, then a high school senior, filed a formal complaint against Ballard High School. Over the course of a semester, English teacher Wendy Olsen had perpetrated negative racial stereotypes and Principal Keven Wynkoop had shielded her from responsibility. We hope that detailing our family’s experience will help make the complaint process easier for fellow Seattle Public Schools (SPS) students and their families to navigate.

Our case took ten months from beginning to end. Several weeks after The Seattle Times ran an article about the district’s findings, at least two other families filed complaints. Shortly after those complaints were filed, the district placed Principal Wynkoop on administrative leave without specifying its reasons.

This was an important step, but only a partial one. Wendy Olsen continues to teach at Ballard High. Acting Principal Dr. Joseph Williams III, a Black man, faces an uphill battle in trying to change an entrenched culture. Perhaps most glaringly, none of the district’s determinations addressed the issue of race. Trying to prove a school-wide history of racial microaggressions was like nailing Jell-O to the wall.

Continue reading OPINION: Fighting a Hostile Learning Environment Within Seattle Public Schools

My Child of Color Is ‘Highly Capable.’ Now What? — Part 3

by Jasmine M. Pulido

In this final article of a three-part series, Jasmine M. Pulido explores the future of programs for students designated highly capable in Seattle Public Schools.

The Future of Highly Capable Cohort: From HCC to HCS

Highly capable services are deemed part of basic education by state law, but the cohort is not. Starting in the 2022–2023 school year, the district’s Advanced Learning Department will begin a six-year plan to phase out the cohort model while gradually phasing in a new model. The recently amended changes to School Board Policy 2190, “Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning Programs,” convert this accelerated curriculum cohort model (HCC) into an inclusive and accessible service model (Highly Capable Services or HCS) to meet the needs of students at their neighborhood school. In other words, SPS will no longer focus on searching for and separating “gifted students” from the general student population and will, instead, focus on having flexible services available to all students. HCS will still include an accelerated curriculum but can also include services like enriched learning opportunities, classroom pullouts for advanced content on a specific subject, and cluster groups depending on what best meets the individual student’s needs. In short, Highly Capable Cohort as a self-contained setting for advanced students will be completely dismantled and phased out.

Timeline depicting the possible elementary implementation.
Timeline depicting the possible elementary implementation, where the Highly Capable Cohort program would be dismantled and phased out. Sourced from Seattle Public Schools.
Continue reading My Child of Color Is ‘Highly Capable.’ Now What? — Part 3

My Child of Color Is ‘Highly Capable.’ Now What? — Part 2

by Jasmine M. Pulido

In this second of a three-part series, Jasmine M. Pulido explores how Seattle Public School District’s Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) program works.

The HCC designation puts children on a track, or “HC pathway,” starting as early as kindergarten. In elementary school, HC-eligible children can either stay at their neighborhood school or move to an HC Pathway School. There are two types of HC Pathway Schools: self-contained schools, entirely dedicated to the HCC program, or self-contained classrooms offering advanced content within a general education program.

School-wide cohorts disappear, but self-contained classrooms with accelerated content are still available in HC Pathway middle schools. In high school, the term HCC no longer applies and advanced classes, like Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, become available to anyone interested in taking them. Azure Savage, however, explains HC students are more likely, more academically prepared, and more encouraged to take AP/IB classes. Reby Parsley, board director of the Washington Association for the Talented and Gifted (WAETAG) and a gifted program specialist, also saw this in the research on gifted education. “What we’re finding is that when you provide students opportunity for access to those types of services at an early age, that’s when it has the most impact,” she said.

Continue reading My Child of Color Is ‘Highly Capable.’ Now What? — Part 2

My Child of Color Is ‘Highly Capable.’ Now What? — Part 1

by Jasmine M. Pulido

In this first of a three-part series, Jasmine M. Pulido explores Seattle Public School District’s programs for children designated as gifted.

As of May 10, 2021, my 8-year-old daughter became eligible for the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC). This feels unsettling considering that a week prior an article by Seattle’s NAACP Youth Council came out demanding dismantling of the program citing it as racist, segregated, and grossly inequitable.

They’re not the only ones. In 2019 former Garfield High School student Azure Savage, in their book, You Failed Us: Students of Color Talk Seattle Schools, called out the Seattle Public School District (SPS) for its racist practices, including preferential treatment by teachers, racially segregated classrooms, and discipline practices disproportionately applied based on race. Savage goes into great detail to break down their personal experiences from elementary through high school in HCC, interspersing their narrative with quotes from other SPS students of color. Nationwide, the debate about programs like HCC has been under intense criticism, especially in the last couple years, for the exact reasons Savage and the NAACP Youth Council have so clearly outlined in their writing.

As a former student of this same national program, portions of Savage’s text like, “When I look around the classroom and see that I’m the only student of color there, it’s common for me to not try as hard because the possibility of succeeding seems slim,” reminded me of what it was like to be the only student of color in my “seminar” classes. At almost 40 years old, I’m still trying to internally dismantle the ways achieving has been tied to my self-worth.

Continue reading My Child of Color Is ‘Highly Capable.’ Now What? — Part 1