ABOUT MY SCHOOL
AND MY CLASSROOM
Yvonne Divans Hutchinson
King/Drew is a magnet school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is a magnet school of choice which means that a student only needs to fill out an application and be lucky enough to have it chosen at random (there is a waiting list). Because the school is a medicine and science magnet, the random choices probably are drawn from a pool that include a larger number than average of high achieving students or students whose parents have high aspirations for them.
The basic curriculum is college prep. We have an honors program and a thriving AP program (I can get you stats later). We have a special education program and and a program for ELD students. None of the featured students are in special ed or ELD, although I did have at the same time, classes that contained both categories of students. Magnet schools of choice are open to anyone, so the pool of students from which KD draws come from all over the vast LAUSD. Because of the schools' location on the boundary of Watts and Compton (both urban, poor and working class communities), LA district officials promised to allow ten percent enrollment from Compton which has its own school district. The majority of our almost seventeen hundred student population is 75 per cent African American, twenty percent Latino/Hispanic, and five per cent other, usally Asian and mid-eastern. Eighty per cent of that population is female, owing, probably to the absence of playing fields and a full scale athletic program. We field separate male and female teams in soccer, volley ball, basketball, and girls' softball.
Although the school was established about twenty years ago, the campus is only five years old, housed in a four-story, self-enclosed $65 million dollar facility (that makes it one of the most secure campuses in LA, probably another factor that contributes to its popularity). K/D is located in South...Los Angeles on the border of Watts and Compton, across the street from Martin Luther King Hospital, a major LA County Trauma Center and adjacent to Drew University Medical School.
My class, as does the school, represents a cross section of lower, middle, and upper-middle class students. The class is honors ninth grade. Everyone had high intellectual potential, but their skill levels varied, probably because they came from home schools that varied in quality, from schools with API scores of 1 and 2 to gifted magnets to tony and not-so-tony, private schools.
For example, Christian-not one of the four featured in the interview, but one of the most vocal in the class session, had barely minimal writing skills and came from a parochial school. All of the students were taking at least one other (if not all) honors classes. At our school, entering ninth graders are placed in honors English according to their middle school English grade (A or B) and/or Stanford Nine scores in English language arts and reading. Parochial students most often do not take standardized tests. Of the students who are prominently featured on camera, Van is from an upper middle class family and had extremely high test scores. Dejean, the class scribe came from a middle class family and was valedictiorian of his class at a Christian school where English instruction centered largely on (self-described) drill and kill grammar (more on that later). Natively bright, his writing and critical thinking skills lagged behind his evident gifted oratorical skills. Tiffany, the girl whose insightful comment provoked the signing demonstration and one of the interviewees, lives in Watts among a working class family of five: parents in throes of divorce, the middle of three children and is extremely bright but her achievement fluctuated because of family and emotional difficulties. Andrea, who spoke so passionately about race during the class and was also a part of the interview is the oldest of three children of a single working class mother who lives in Watts. She is singularly perceptive, often taking taking our breath away with her profound observations about life and human nature.
I continued with this class a second year, leading to astounding encounters which I plan to chronicle and add to this website.