Written by Christina M. Macalino
Despite the fact we were both born and raised in Oakland, and we lived less than two miles a part from each other, Elin and I finally crossed paths during our high school years. Since our junior year, we have been close friends, or homies as we prefer to call ourselves (not to put a time stamp on us but we graduated from high school 20 years ago). And despite the fact that we went to the same high school, she and I had a different educational experience.
I was in at least three Advanced Placement (AP) classes during my 10th, 11th, and 12th grade years. However, I clearly remember that I was never recommended for these AP classes, unlike three of my best friends. I enrolled in these classes because I wanted to be in them; I was fortunate to have older cousins who advised me to take AP courses; thus, I had my mom call my counselor to place me in these classes.
I did have a counselor that vouched for me. I would get called into his office at least once a marking period to discuss my grades, next steps, and 4-year college applications. Those meetings were definitely helpful and beneficial for not only me but also for my parents since they had no experience applying to four-year colleges.
On the other hand, I do have an older brother, and unfortunately for him, he had quite the opposite educational experience. His entire time he was in high school (or honestly his 7th – 12th grade experience), he was always placed in grade-level classes or support classes, counselors and teachers only contacted my parents when he was in trouble or towards the end of the school year when not much can be done for intervention.
Elin did not have a counselor who vouched for her – which by the way we had the same counselor. She did not get called into the office at least once per marking period to discuss grades, next steps, and four-year college applications. Instead, he inquired what job she would be seeking after high school completion. And when Elin expressed that she was seeking a college degree, he discussed community college options – even though Elin was a 3.0+ grade point average student. Despite the lack of support from her counselor, as well as the lack of collective support from teachers, Elin applied to four-year colleges with the help and guidance from a college outreach counselor, a program she was not even officially enrolled in.
Elin was enrolled in regular classes. She did not take many honors or any AP courses. She recalls being pushed by specific teachers, but did not feel the support and guidance as a collective.
And what this college counselor did not realize, Elin had an older sibling who was a college graduate who made it clear to her that a two-year college was not an option. And she also had parents who also made it abundantly clear that pursuing a four-year college degree was her next step immediately after high school graduation.
So this is our why…(well to start of with)
We want students – ALL students – to experience a quality and an equitable education. We want all students, especially Black and Brown, to be given the guidance and opportunities that will allow them to flourish as community members. What if a student does not have older cousins or siblings to give insight on college and career choices? We as educators – administrators, teachers, counselors, and all school support staff – are morally obligated to provide a quality education and equitable opportunities to all students.
And this is why Elin and I have been educators for the past 15-16 years. We are here to fight the old-school/racist/bias systemic practices that prevent student success for all from happening. We want to help educators create a collective climate and culture that provides opportunities for all students. We are here to collaborate, support, and to empower fellow educators who want to fight this fight with us and for our students.
FYI…It is immoral and poor practice to place students in Honors or Advanced Placement (or support/remedial) classes solely based on teacher recommendations. Many school districts have faced lawsuits because of this old-school systemic practice; thus, certain school boards have explicit student placement guidelines. Currently it is best practice and equitable to place students in classes based on a combination of factors which may include:
- Student request,
- Parent request,
- And/or at least three sets of data (some schools/districts do not even consider teacher/staff recommendations as a data point).
Do you have any questions, thoughts, reactions to this post? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you and have a collaborative conversation. -Elin and Christina
Podcasts related to post:
- Empowered Conversations With Elin & Christina, Season 1 Episode 2: Christina’s Educational Journey
- Empowered Conversations With Elin & Christina, Season 1 Episode 3: Elin’s Educational Journey