Glassbrook Elementary School of Hayward in the San Francisco Bay area recently embarked on an ambitious partnership with “Woke Kindergarten,” a for-profit company advocating messages of anti-police, anti-capitalism, anti-Israel, and “disrupting Whiteness.” The program, funded by $250,000 of federal aid, intended to uplift one of the nation’s lowest-performing schools. However, recent reports indicate a stark and concerning trend: declining academic performance.
Under the tutelage of Woke Kindergarten, the school hoped to confront and dismantle systemic barriers in education. The organization, described as an “abolitionist early childhood ecosystem,” aimed to teach anti-racism lessons to young minds. Their approach, however, has raised eyebrows among educators and parents alike, particularly in its effectiveness in improving academic outcomes.
You can’t make this up. A California elementary school spent $250k on a program called “Woke Kindergarten” to try to raise test scores. Test scores fell even further.
This is “Woke Kindergarten’s” homepage. They promote a “commitment to abolitionist early education and pro-black… pic.twitter.com/BOHZVP1mV5
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) February 4, 2024
The results have been less than promising. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, after two years with Woke Kindergarten, there was a 4% drop in English and math scores. Less than 12% of students read at grade level and a mere 4% show proficiency in math. These figures represent a decline in performance rather than the improvement the program promised.
Superintendent Jason Reimann of the Hayward Unified School District defended the decision, stating that the program’s primary focus was boosting attendance, which reportedly increased by almost 20%. Reimann emphasized the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment as a foundation for academic achievement. Yet, the stark reality of declining test scores cannot be overlooked.
Implementing Woke Kindergarten’s curriculum has also sparked controversy among the school’s staff. Tiger Craven-Neeley, a self-described “gay moderate” teacher, expressed concerns about the program’s focus on “disrupting Whiteness,” a concept that left many educators, including Craven-Neeley, seeking clarity on its application in an elementary school setting.
California’s Woke Kindergarten founder: “I believe the United States has no right to exist. I believe every settler colony that has committed genocide against native people, against indigenous people, has no right to exist.” pic.twitter.com/XOl9idHf1o
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) February 5, 2024
The debate extends beyond the school’s walls to the broader educational landscape. Zeus Leonardo, a UC Berkeley education professor, argues that incorporating politics into teaching is not about indoctrination but about framing education within a political context. Conversely, some Glassbrook teachers have criticized the curriculum as overly politicized, veering away from traditional educational objectives and focusing on progressive activism.
The program’s content on its website raises further questions. With sections like “Woke Words of the Day,” which include terms like “ceasefires” and “work strikes,” and guides on how to protest, the material seems misaligned with the fundamental academic needs of elementary students. This disconnect is highlighted by an anonymous teacher’s remark that the funds spent on Woke Kindergarten could have been more effectively used for reading intervention.
This situation at Glassbrook Elementary presents a microcosm of a more extensive debate in American education. On one side, there’s a push toward incorporating social justice and political activism into the curriculum. Conversely, there’s a call for a return to traditional educational values focusing on core academic skills. The case of Glassbrook Elementary is a cautionary tale of the consequences of diverting educational focus and resources away from fundamental academic skills.