A Bay Area elementary school’s ‘Woke Kindergarten’ aimed to abolish education barriers through anti-racism efforts but lowered test scores instead.
A low-performing Bay Area elementary school introduced a “Woke Kindergarten” program centered on “abolitionist education” that instructs teachers how to remove barriers to learning by fighting racism and oppression—only to see children’s test scores drop.
But two years into the Woke Kindergarten program, Glassbrook student’s test scores have not only failed to show much improvement—they’ve actually plummeted to new lows, per the Chronicle.
English and math scores each fell four percentage points to record lows as of last spring—with less than 4 percent of students proficient in math and less than 12 percent proficient at English.
The Hayward Unified School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it thinks the $250,000 on the program was money well spent.
Hayward Unified School District Superintendent Jason Reinmann told the Chronicle that the Woke Kindergarten program was backed by parents and teachers alike at the Bay Area school.
Mr. Reinmann added that the program raised classroom attendance by nearly 20 percent, which he suggested was more of a program aim than boosting test scores.
However, some Glassbrook teachers have expressed concern that the program is too progressive, with teacher Tiger Craven-Neeley telling the Chronicle that he was told a key objective of the program was to “disrupt whiteness” at the school.
Zeus Leonard, an education professor at UC Berkeley, told the Chronicle that Woke Kindergarten is based on a relatively new concept called “abolitionist education.”
Mr. Muhammad explained that there are five core pillars to abolitionist education: identity, skill development, intellectualism, criticality, and joyfulness.
Identity includes the basic categories of race, class, and “gender” but Mr. Muhammad said it should be seen more broadly from the abolitionist education lens, hinting at a kind of “intersectionality” associated with the oppressor-oppressed dynamic in social justice movements.
“Criticality is helping your child to name, understand, and disrupt oppression, putting your learning in the context of the state of the world, social problems, to problem-solve, to understand issues of power, justice, and equity,” the professor explained.
“At its very bottom, it’s a way to view the world where everything relevant in terms of at least social relations, has to do with the power dynamics that are in society between some group with power and other groups who don’t have as much power,” Mr. Lindsay explained.
“And the object of critical theory is to say that the groups that have power carry certain assumptions and biases and the likes, and they bake that into the systems that they create without realizing that they’re doing it,” he continued.
“So the critical theorists job is to expose those biases and uncover those assumptions, so that they can be critiqued and re-examined and usually discarded, dismantled, subverted or otherwise overthrown,” he added.
Mr. Lindsay said there’s a potentially positive aspect to critical theory, in the sense that it can be helpful to adopt a “useful skepticism” regarding various phenomena and identify areas for improvement.
However, Mr. Lindsay said critical theory has been misused by the social justice movement to look for systemic injustices without any or much attempt to understand why certain differences in outcomes exist, reducing explanations to simplistic diagnoses like “systemic racism.”