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Field experience paper

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  • 1. Four Schools: A multicultural Comparative Analysis Research PaperKenneth A. ParrMay 30, 2010Human Diversity in EducationEDU 391 BDr. Joi Patterson<br />The purpose of my research paper is to report on my experiences at four local schools. The reason why I visited four local schools was to compare the human diversity within the schools through interviewing teachers and through personal observations. The following four schools represent a cross section of the following four categories: 1) Charter—Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, 2) Faith-based—Christ Baptist Academy, 3) Public urban—Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy, and 4) Public suburban—Campagna Academy. I chose these particular schools because I have at least some knowledge, but not a clear understanding of these schools. My knowledge comes from former co-workers who worked at these schools or former students who attended these schools. <br />Thea Bowman Leadership Academy is located in Gary, Indiana. It is accredited by the state of Indiana as a public charter school. The enrollment is 1300 and of this 1300, 1% is considered multiracial, 1% is Hispanic, and 98% are African-American. Christ Baptist Academy is also located in Gary, Indiana. However, it is not accredited by the state of Indiana. The enrollment is 104 and there is no public ethnicity data available. Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy is located in the traditional African-American section (Midtown) of Gary, Indiana. Roosevelt’s accreditation status is probationary. The enrollment as of the 2008/2009 school year was 721. There were 0% multiracial, 1% Native American, 0% Hispanic, and 99% African-American. Campagna Academy is located in Schererville, Indiana. It is accredited by the state of Indiana as a public charter school. The enrollment is 147 and of this 147, 6% are considered multiracial, 18% are white, 1% Asian, 13% are Hispanic, and 63% are African-American (see Comparative Analysis Charts, p. 5).<br />My first visit was Thea Bowman Leadership Academy. The building was new and beautiful as are most of the charter school buildings in Gary, Indiana. Aesthetics are a strong recruitment tool in a city where there are several dated and crumbling public school buildings. Teachers all wear business attire. Students wear uniforms at Thea Bowman. Shirts must be tucked-in and saggin’ pants is not allowed. However, I saw a few students saggin’ and also a few students stripped down to their undershirts. These are the same attempts at non-compliance of uniform rules I have seen in public non-charter schools in Gary. The classroom I observed was Mr. Thakar’s Physics class. There were fourteen students present, seven girls and seven boys. One of the boys was Hispanic, but the rest of the students were African-American. Fourteen students in a science class is exactly half the number of students allowed for a science class (28) according to the Gary teacher’s union. The teachers at Thea Bowman are not unionized, but the class size was still less than 28 regardless of union guidelines.<br />The teacher I interviewed at Thea Bowman was also Mr. Sameer Thakar, a Pakistani-American. This is his first year teaching at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy. Before this assignment, he taught on the graduate post-secondary level. The curriculum for his Physics class is based on the Indiana state standards for Physics. The school has a school improvement plan and he meets with staff every Wednesday to work on it. Teachers have planning period time like unionized teachers, but unlike Gary union teachers he must stay ½ hour after the end of the school day. Gary unionized teachers on the high school level are only required to stay 10 minutes after the end of the school day. What Mr. Thakar found unique about the school is that it is a relatively new school, but has already won a state championship in basketball and this year is their first graduating class.<br />The second school I visited was Christ Baptist Academy, the only K-6 school I visited. The exterior of the building reminded me of a reception hall attached to a church (which it probably was before it became a school). Inside, the building looked like a modern school just large enough to suit its purpose of one classroom per grade level. The teachers (all women to my knowledge) dress casually, jeans and t-shirts. The students all wear uniforms, but a mixture of uniform colors. The classroom I observed was Ms. Blanford-Jones’ combination 5th and 6th grade class. Her class size was ten and there was no ethnic diversity. All her students were African-American which is consistent with Gary, Indiana school populations (see Comparative Analysis Charts, p. 4). The lesson being taught while I was observing was Language Arts combined with a Health and Safety type curriculum, How to Live a Healthier Lifestyle.<br />Ms. Blanford-Jones, an African-American, was also the teacher I interviewed at Christ Baptist Academy. She is a veteran teacher at this school. Ms. Blanford-Jones feels the school is so unique because of its class size. The largest class is Kindergarten at 22 pupils. Their curriculum is a Christian-based curriculum called ABEKA. Bible study is part of the curriculum. Christ Baptist Academy doesn’t have a documented school improvement plan. Instead, the teachers set goals at the end of the year. Some of the goals this year are for the students to score at a higher grade level and for the school to become more financially independent and not depend so heavily on church members for donations.<br />The next school I visited was Roosevelt Career and Technical school. Portions of the new annex have been falling down since I was a student at Roosevelt high school 35 years ago. The building was built on reclaimed swamp land as was the surrounding neighborhood (including my childhood home). Standing water has practically destroyed the new annex’s foundation and the math wing fell completely down a few years ago. Teachers dress casually, but students wear uniforms (as do all students in the Gary School system). The classroom I observed was Ms. Rochell Hazelett’s Algebra I class. All her students were African-American. One student came to class with saggin’ pants and an attitude and Ms Hazelett promptly put him out. This is the only time I witnessed a student being put-out of class during my four school visits.<br />Ms. Hazelett, an African-American, was also the teacher interviewed for my research. During the interview, she wanted to talk more about the young man (Wesley) she put out of class more than my other questions. According to her, his mom died in December and he has not been right since. She also said that should not be an excuse because he was stealing his mom’s car last year, breaking into homes, and going to jail. Ms. Hazelett emphasized that Wesley is a very intelligent boy though. The particular class I was observing was an accelerated Algebra class. Ms. Hazelett has been a family friend all my adult life, which is why she spoke so informally with me. She did however take time to give her opinion of the curriculum. She told me the curriculum was Core-40 driven when it was time to take Core-40 testing and ISTEP driven when it was time to take ISTEP testing. The structure of the school is now 7-12 like all Gary public high schools. The school improvement plan is current and reflects their 7-12 status. Roosevelt is unique because it is the only school in Gary designated a Career and Technical Academy. Ms. Hazelett cut our interview short because she had a meeting with the principal during her planning period. The principal wanted to explain the teachers’ future. 51% of the teaching staff is scheduled to be terminated because of poor student achievement. Ms. Hazelett thought this was unfair because this was her first year at Roosevelt. She felt she inherited the problem because the school she left, Dunbar-Pulaski middle school, made AYP and her job would not be in peril if that school had not closed.<br />The final school I visited was Campagna Academy. The first thing that struck me was the expansive campus. I was late for my classroom observation and interview because I went to one of the cottages instead of the administrative building. Teachers dress casually and the students wear uniforms that are the same color combinations as Gary high school students, navy blue polo shirts and khaki pants. The only difference is Gary is flexible on the type of top. T-shirts and button-down shirts are permitted in Gary as long as the items are navy blue. The classroom I observed was Mr. Robert Kuprenas’ Algebra class. There were only five students present with the rest on a end of the year field trip. All five were African-American, but I noticed an obviously higher percentage of White American students throughout the school than I did at the urban schools I visited. The five students in the classroom were similar to the students I encountered when I taught at Chase Alternative school in Gary. Sometimes they unexpectedly blurted-out about something unrelated to the lesson. Sometimes they did not. It was a mixed-bag of behaviors.<br />I also interviewed Mr. Kuprenas, the only White American of the four teachers I interviewed. Mr. Kuprenas is a first year teacher at Campagna Academy. I found it ironic that both he and Mr. Sameer Thakar are first year teachers and that both he and Mr. Thakar work at charter schools. I wondered if there was high turnover rate at charter schools. He told me that the curriculum was not very organized when he arried and he had to piece together lessons for the students. I asked him if he planned on returning next year. He said he planned on returning and organizing the curriculum better. This suggests to me that curriculum is set by the individual teachers or because he is a new teacher, he is unaware of the downloadable Indiana state standards and resources. Mr. Kuprenas told me that staff works on the school improvement plan during staff meetings. They also get release time, pay, and expenses paid for professional development. He emphasized that that is something Campagna does well. Also, there is in-service professional development. Staff is given eight non-teaching days, but those days are not all for professional development. Campagna Academy is unique because it is an alternative charter school and it is also a residential facility.<br />Charter school:Thea Bowman Leadership Academy (Gary, IN)Enrollment: 1300Accreditation Status: Public Charter, Accredited Faith-based school:Christ Baptist Academy (Gary, IN)Enrollment: 104Accreditation Status: Not State Accredited No available ethnicity dataUrban public school:Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy (Gary, IN)Enrollment (2008/2009): 721Accreditation Status: Probation Suburban public school:Campagna Academy (Schererville, IN)Enrollment: 147Accreditation Status: Public Charter, Accredited<br />Comparative Analysis Charts<br />Field Experience Signatures<br />Kenneth A. Parr<br />Sameer ThakarThea Bowman Leadership AcademyMay 13, 2010B. Blanford-JonesChrist Baptist AcademyMay 19, 2010Rochell HazelettRoosevelt Career and Technical AcademyMay 19, 2010Robert KupremasCampagna AcademyMay 28, 2010<br />References<br />B. Blanford-Jones, teacher interview, May 19, 2010<br />R. Hazelett, teacher interview, May 19, 2010<br />R. Kuprenas, teacher interview, May 28, 2010<br />S. Thakar, teacher interview, May 13, 2010<br />Indiana Department of Education. School data, school snapshot.<br /> Retrieved from<br /> http://www.doe.in.gov/data/<br />