Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free When They Tried to Steal Our Classrooms

    Authored By Amy Lindahl

    Teachers learn that the district’s plan for a desperately needed school renovation is based on “100 percent utilization”— teachers will rotate through classrooms, losing the home bases students depend on. They organize to change the plan. 

  • Features
  • Free What Happened to Spanish?

    How high-stakes tests doomed biliteracy at my school

    Authored By Grace Cornell Gonzales

    A 3rd-grade bilingual teacher describes how administrators’ anxiety about standardized test results erodes both a school’s commitment to Spanish literacy and students’ love for learning.

  • Free ¿Qué le pasó al español?

    Cómo fue que las pruebas de alta exigencia condenaron a la educación bilingüe en mi escuela

    Authored By Grace Cornell Gonzales | Translated By Vanesa Ortiz Solís

    Una maestra bilingüe describe cómo la ansiedad que sienten los administradores escolares con respecto a los resultados de los exámenes estandarizados disminuye el compromiso de la escuela con el desarrollo de la lectoescritura en español y el amor de los estudiantes por el aprendizaje.

  • Passion Counts: The “I Love” Admissions Essay

    Authored By Linda Christensen

    Seniors write admissions essays based on something they feel passionate about, discovering at the same time that they are “college material.”

  • Space for Young Black Women: An Interview with Candice Valenzuela

    Authored By Jody Sokolower

    The story of the development, challenges, and successes of a support group for Black girls at an Oakland, California, high school.

  • Free Who's Stealing Our Jobs?

    NAFTA and xenophobia

    Authored By Tom McKenna

    As a way to deal with racial tensions between his Black and Latina/o students, a high school teacher examines the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

  • Free My So-Called Public School

    School foundations and the myth of funding equity

    Authored By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    A teacher uses her own school to illustrate how school foundations perpetuate inequality within districts and states.

  • Free Lead Poisoning

    Bringing social justice to chemistry

    Authored By Karen Zaccor

    Building on the lead-poisoned water scandal in Flint, Michigan, a Chicago chemistry teacher helps her students explore lead poisoning in their own city.

  • Ebola: Teaching Science, Race, and the Media

    Authored By Alexa Schindel, Sara Tolbert

    Two teacher educators encourage their students to think about the impact of racial and colonial biases on media coverage of science issues—and on scientists.

  • Departments Free
  • Racism, Xenophobia, and the Election

  • Fighting to Teach Climate Justice

    Authored By the editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Education Action
  • Mexican Teachers Fight Corporate Reform

  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.
  • Good Stuff
  • Saul Alinsky Lives!

    Authored By Matt Alexander

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Space for Young Black Women: An Interview with Candice Valenzuela

Space for Young Black Women: An Interview with Candice Valenzuela

Photo by Cathy Cade

A few years ago, Candice Valenzuela created and facilitated a group for young Black women at Castlemont High School in Oakland, California. She grounded her work in womanist, Black feminist, and critical pedagogy, as well as her own lived experience as a Black multiethnic woman of working-class origins and a history of trauma. Valenzuela currently coaches early career teachers in culturally relevant teaching, critically conscious pedagogy, holistic wellness, and earth-based spiritual healing.

Jody Sokolower: How did you end up running a group for African American girls?

Candice Valenzuela: I was teaching English at Castlemont High School. The school was transitioning to a focus on social justice, equity, and social change, and it was our pilot year. We noticed certain populations were struggling. And the group that stood out most was African American girls—they were the ones most out of class, the ones their teachers found to be the most challenging, and the ones who had the most complaints about school. We decided to form a class to support them specifically. At the time I was in grad school, so it wasn’t my first choice to be running such an intense group, but the principal convinced me to take it on.

JS: There is so much focus on the crisis among African American boys. Very few people—and most of those seem to be African American women—are talking about African American girls. It’s interesting that at Castlemont, Black girls were identified as the group that was really struggling. Do you think there’s a connection between the focus on Black boys and how much crisis these girls were in?

CV: I do think it’s connected. I want to preface by saying, based on my years of working with students in Oakland, almost all students feel unseen. Period. Across lines of color and gender. Ageism is real, and youth in our society suffer from a lack of voice and a lack of adults seeing them as full human beings with rights and capacities.

And then, too many of our young people experience added layering to that invisibility. With young Black women, it’s extreme.

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