GOOD

How California Schools Turned Struggling Students Into Second-Class Citizens

Color-coded student IDs and separate lunch lines ignited controversy in Orange County.


With higher stakes associated with standardized tests than ever before, rewards like a pizza party or an extra school dance are fairly common for students who perform well. But two high schools in Orange County, California have ignited controversy for a rewards program that treated low performers like second-class citizens.

The two schools' questionable motivational tactics involved issuing color-coded student identification cards based on performance on state tests. High-performing students received black cards, the ones in the middle got gold ones, and the lowest-scoring group got white IDs. The schools then awarded discounts and perks around campus to the students with the black and gold cards.

According to The Orange County Register, black cardholders got into home athletic events for free and received "discounts to school dances and at local businesses." Students with gold card were offered more limited discounts. As for white cardholders, they were forced to pay full price for everything and had to stand in a separate, slower lunch line in the cafeteria.


Parents and community members complained that the system, which debuted last year, humiliated kids and unfairly penalized students enrolled in special education programs, or who simply didn't test well. After state education officials concluded that the program is illegal because state test score results are supposed to be confidential, the Anaheim Union School District canceled both schools' programs this week.

Ben Carpenter, the principal of Cypress High, told the Register that because the cards didn't reveal specific scores, the program doesn't violate privacy laws. And, he said, at a time when educators are under pressure to boost scores, schools needed an innovative way to motivate kids. "When testing time came around, you saw teachers who were frustrated because kids didn't care about the tests," said Carpenter. "There was nothing in it for them, other than an intrinsic motivation they may or may not have. The intent of the gold card program was to provide an incentive for all students, to say, 'Hey, there is something in this for me. I can get something out of performing on this exam.'"

White cardholder Nick Linderman told the newspaper that the separate lunch lines meant "the cafeteria runs out of the good food" because the black and gold cardholders "take all the good stuff." The system makes the 14-year-old freshman "feel like I'm being bullied because they're rubbing it in our faces that they're better than us, and the school isn't doing anything to stop it."

Some black cardholders also oppose the system. Kiana Miyamoto, a 16-year-old senior who's a part of Kennedy High School's advanced International Baccalaureate program told the Register that she's seen students harassed as a result of the program. "One IB student said [to a classmate], 'Hey, you're in IB. Anyone who has a white card shouldn't even be in IB,'" she said.

Teachers find themselves in a tough position, because they're held accountable for student performance on state tests, ranked as either good or bad based on their students' scores. But shaming kids for not scoring well on one high-stakes test isn't the best way to promote learning. Incentive programs like this may convince a handful of students to improve their performance, but they do much more to hurt students who aren't already high scorers. It must be pretty terrible to go to school knowing you're visually labeled as one of the dumb kids because of the color of your ID, even if you tried your best on the test and otherwise get good grades. It's worthwhile to reward kids for improving their performance, but there has to be a more positive, less humiliating way to do it.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user sampsyo

Articles
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science