Introduction to Public Radio Reporting, Fall 2010
Celeste Agos-Fikiri: When you think of your local school’s PTA, what do you think of? Moms, right? Now shift that thinking and picture an all male branch of the PTA. At a time when public education is suffering severe budget cuts and low academic achievement, there’s a school in Oakland, California that is trying to do something different in order to help their children succeed in school. As Celeste Agos-Fikiri reports, a group of dedicated men are trying something different.
Katherine Allen: Here’s a shocking statistic: every two minutes in Oakland, someone is being sexually assaulted. Someone close to you, someone you’ve never met, it doesn’t matter: in those two minutes, that person’s life will be changed forever. Enter The Family Justice Center. The Family Justice Center, along with Bay Area Women Against Rape, one of its partners, and many citizens in Oakland are working to help prevent those crimes.
Shani Aviram: Art programs are often the first to be put on the chopping block of educational budget cuts. Some see art as frivolous, or a luxury. But one non-profit views the arts as a crucial component of a healthy society. As Shani Aviram reports, the Crucible sees itself as a sort of creative community center in west Oakland. With its focus on industrial arts, the Crucible says it offers its students practical skills that allow for more than just artistic output.
Bianca Butler: There’s a program in Richmond called Making Waves. It mentors young students of color to help them get to college—and succeed. The program pays for the education of the young people selected for their academic potential. It has become so popular since it was created in 1989 that Making Waves launched its own public charter school in 2007 where a limited number of students are selected by a lottery. When commentator Bianca Butler learned about Making Waves, it got her thinking about her own path to college.
Maia Caballero: Castlemont High School is located in deep east Oakland, which has one of the city’s highest rates of violent crime. Castlemont High once ranked among California’s lowest in terms of academic performance. Gang violence was not uncommon on school grounds. In 2004, Castlemont was split into three different schools in hopes of cutting down violence and raising academic performance: Leadership Preparatory High school, Business and Information Technology High School, and East Oakland School of the Arts. Maia Caballero takes us to meet a few of the students at Castlemont Leadership Prep.
Ani Chavez: Oakland’s official drop-out rate is 40%—and it’s even higher in some neighborhoods. A lot of teens don’t do well in large, comprehensive high schools with thousands of students. That’s why the Emiliano Zapata Street Academy was created 30 years ago—to provide a small, intimate environment for kids who were struggling to stay in school. In Oakland, the Street Academy, located near 29th and Broadway, has been making strides to provide an opportunity at an alternative learning environment for its students.
Lilah Crews-Pless: West Oakland is a hub of urban farm activity. According to City Slicker Farms, over 2.7 acres across West Oakland is currently used to raise food, and that’s not even including non-affiliated garden plots. But the growth in farming is leading to some tension between farmers, neighbors, and city officials. Reporter Lilah Crews-Pless spoke to one farmer who has been trying to deal with some these conflicts. We’re calling her Vera, but her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
Alicia Dacus: Welfare provides help to single parents in need of assistance. But thanks to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, a bill President Clinton signed into law in 1996, married couples receive less help. Commentator Alicia Dacus says that’s why some women hide their marriages, so they can have more money to care for their children.
Carmen Elster: In March of 2009, The Alternative Learning Community in East Oakland changed its name to The Barack Obama Academy, the fist middle school in the United States to be named after the President. Ever since its name change, this technically “alternative” school has been helping kids who had trouble in mainstream education. For students at the Academy, school isn’t just a place to be bored, mischievous, and overly social. School is a place to get to know classmates and teachers like family. With only 24 students and five staff, The Barack Obama Academy gives new meaning to personal attention for Oakland youth.
Laura Flynn: These days we often hear that the gender gap is closing. Girls in high school are excelling in reading and writing and closing the gaps in math and science. And there are now more young women going to college than men. However the gender gap still remains large in certain industries, particularly engineering. Today only 11% of practicing engineers are women; a number that has grown only five percentage points since 1983. But the tide may be turning – women now make up 35% of engineering undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Oakland Technical High School in California is a leading contributor to this growing trend. Its Engineering Academy sent four young women to MIT in 2007.
Christie Frakes: California public schools are suffering because of budget cuts. Many schools are increasing class sizes, letting go of teachers, eliminating arts programs, and taking other drastic measures to deal with lost revenue. Teachers feel the pressure, too—a lot of them are taking pay cuts. Reporter Christie Frakes profiles one high school English teacher who is struggling to adapt.
Kriti Khari: America’s population is aging. People are living longer and now there is a larger population of seniors in retirement homes. There are more senior citizens than there are children in the United States. The number of seniors living in retirement homes is increasing rapidly. That got commentator Kriti Khari wondering about the seniors in her neighborhood.
Louise Leck: There’s a novel math program emerging in the Oakland Unified school district. It’s at Claremont Middle School and the program is only a year old. And here’s the thing: it’s gender-based.
Kate Neal: Dr. Duana Hardee is a fifth grade teacher at Allendale Elementary who is trying to create a ‘culture of excellence’ in her classroom. She won’t accept anything else. No excuses. She expects and demands more of her students, even if no one else does. And she’s getting results....from ten year olds.
Meri Page: The Bay Area is famous for its focus on local, organic food and gardening. Alice Waters and the Chez Panisse Foundation brought gardens and food system education to urban school children in Berkeley. Today, Meri Page takes a look at how one Oakland Elementary School is incorporating gardening and food education into its classrooms.
Vilmarys Pichardo: California public schools have been faced with a couple of hard years of budget cutting. New movies like “Waiting for Superman” document the fact that many children are stuck in low performing schools. One Bay Area school is trying to change that equation. And, it may be more critical than ever: Latinos now make up the majority of California public school students. Vilmarys Pichardo profiles Eres Academy in Oakland, where 99% of students are Latino.
Asha Richardson: When someone on the street asks you for a dollar to help them out what do you say? No… cant do it right now…next time... maybe you pretend like you’re on your cell phone? Or do you just silently ignore them? Asha Richardson tells us how some savvy local entrepreneurs might encourage you to change your mind.