by George J Elbaum
Escuela Popular began in 1986 in East San Jose as a community based grassroots school to address a growing need for English instruction in a mostly Spanish-speaking neighborhood, and has been providing educational services ever since. It has evolved into several schools including Escuela Popular High School Academy Under 19, a public charter school for grades 9-12. Its student body is 97% Hispanic, 76% Low Income, 78% learning English, 63% female, 37% male. Because of these unusual demographics, the High School Academy Under 19 provides intensive English Language Development so that students are able to meet their goal of graduating bilingual and biliterate. Students benefit from the individual attention afforded by a 20:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Per its website: “What sets this school apart from other high schools is that it accepts students regardless of whether they are at grade level. It thus meets the student where she/he is at academically and accelerates learning from that point forward. Many of our under age 19 students have not done well in traditional schools.” Perhaps as a result, academic progress is markedly lower than state average, and advancement thru the grade levels 9-12 is slower. (It’s not clear from public data, but it appears that there are considerably more students in the 9th grade than subsequent grades, indicating slow advancement.)
My presentation to a dozen+ 9th and 10th graders was organized by history teacher Jenee Donner and arranged by Penny Savryn, Education & Marketing Manager, and Veronica Siegel, Administrative Program Coordinator, of Jewish Family and Children’s Services.