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Posts tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Markham Middle School CST scores are up!

Markham Middle School increased 8 percent of students scoring proficient or above on both the English and math sections on the California Standards Test (CST) from the 2010-2011 to the 2011-2012 school year. Last year’s statistics state that 15 percent of students scored proficient or above in math and 19 percent scored proficient or above in English. Now, 23 percent of students scored proficient or above in math and 27 percent in English. Eight percent may be a small number, but to us it’s a huge gain! I may not agree with standardized tests, but it looks like all the emphasis my team and the school placed on the CST really helped and Markham can only benefit from this. My team and many teachers worked very hard last year to prepare our students for this test and the hard work paid off. This news made my week and gives me faith that Markham can keep improving (and therefore, get more funding!) Maybe when I come back into the states in two years Markham will make double-digit increases in test scores. Good job students!

So proud! Go Watts go!

We made our mark at Markham,


Week 28: a magnificent spring break

Spring break is usually associated with lavish parties and vacations. Here at City Year, we have to do what we call “ball on a budget” (I only get paid $990 a month…minus rent, that’s not a lot!)

Last week was LAUSD spring break; all of our kids got a nice, relaxing break before coming back to school and cram for the CST. We still had service and training-related work, but all together it was a perfect week. My roommates and I enjoyed the sun with some BBQing, laying in our front lawn, beaching it up and hiking. The sun has finally come out in Los Angeles and the weather has been in the low 70s, which is beautiful beach and tanning weather because it’s not too hot. This week has reminded me how much I love Los Angeles and how hard it is going to be leave this summer. I really consider this city my home. After this summer, where’s my home going be? I don’t have an answer to that, except to that it’s time to find my next home…

Aside from my house’s spring break festivities, all of City Year Los Angeles participated in two service days. One was at the school I serve at, Markham Middle School, and another one was at Ford Blvd. Elementary School in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. CYLA does not serve at this school. However, service days like this are ways we reach students that we can’t directly work with, but can still impact.


My ear of corn. I swear, that corn took me at least four hours to paint…

Other than painting murals, we also had tutoring training. A bunch of City Year corps members who are a part of the Service Action Model Committee presented different tutoring games and techniques to us (shout out to my teammates and roommates who were facilities, good job!) We had training sessions for math, English and English as a second language. Our fellow corps members gave us tangible games and activities we can take back to school and use with our students to prepare for the CST. My favorite activity that I plan to use was a memory-style vocabulary game. The point of the game is to play memory, but with CST vocabulary like plot, sequence, simile, metaphor, etc. I think my kids will have a lot of fun with this, so hopefully it motivates them to study for the CST.

The sessions were helpful, but I wish I had the ESL training in the beginning of the year because it has been such a struggle. I think I was placed in an ESL class because I was a journalism major and have a lot of experience with grammar, spelling, writing and punctuation (I had to take a grammar, spelling and punctuation exam my sophomore and if I didn’t pass I was kicked out of the major…journalism schools don’t screw around about that). Although I have this experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be an effective ESL tutor, especially when I only speak next-to-nothing Spanish. Oh well, there’s not much I can do about it except keep trying to help my students.

I feel rejuvenated and ready to head back to school. I’m going to stop taking excuses from my students; I only have eight weeks left with them! Crazy. I don’t even want to think about that right now.

This week, my students will be forced to do one-on-one and small group work with me, regardless of how much they complain, which will focus on math and English sixth grade standards. For example, I plan to go back to the beginning if the year and work on fractions, proportions and the elements of a fiction story. How proficient!

I have a lot to look forward to for the end of the year: a trip to Vegas with the whole Markham team, beach camping with my roommates and possibly a trip to Washington D.C. to visit my best friend. All of these exciting events will help me get through any hard times to come within the next two months.

I refuse to realize that this year is ending quickly…

By the way, still no news on the Peace Corps front. As I’ve said before, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services reviews nominee’s medical packets if they are scheduled to leave within the next four months. It’s been a month since the Peace Corps received my medical forms. My nomination is for an anticipated departure date of this July-September. July is four months from April, so I’m assuming my files will be looked at soon. If not, then I guess it’s safe to say that I will probably be leaving in August or September. It’s so soon, yet so far away!


My roommate Lauren and I catching some rays on our lawn. Long live spring break 2012

P.s. I’ve reached 4,000+ views on my blog. Thanks to all that have been reading/following an alternative voice in education!

Back to the grind,


Service day at Markham: things changed, and that’s just the way it is

Few Markham students take pride in their campus. From my observations, students throw trash on the ground like their school is a dump (but with so much trash in the community, it doesn’t take brain science to figure out where they get that tendency from). Tagging is another issue at our school; you can always tell when a wall was tagged because it will be painted over in a color that’s not the same color as the wall.

But that’s not for long!

Today, City Year Los Angeles corps members from other schools showed that Markham Pride and made their mark on Markham. We transformed the school from having blank and brick walls to having colorful, abstract and inspirational murals. I remember at the beginning of the year my roommate/teammate Daniel repeated numerous times that our school needed murals. He never gave up on that vision of his. For months, he’s been working hard to make today happen. That’s what’s up.

I have never been as happy at Markham as I was today. That’s not saying I’m never happy there — I’m happy there everyday (ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration). It was just another kind of happiness; it was such an amazing feeling to see most of the corps and some Markham students working together to change this school, especially nine of my 13 roommates.

My favorite mural we painted today was Tupac’s face with a quote from one of his raps, “Keep Ya Head Up.” Tupac not only has inspirational lyrics in his raps, but his raps really resonate with our students. Our students, regardless of what they go through, always gotta keep their heads up.

We gotta make a change…
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
and let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
what we gotta do, to survive.

Today, we made a change at Markham that will always be remembered. Well, that is until someone paints over it.

Here’s an audio/photo sideshow showcase of all the projects we completed today!

Stay tuned for a post about the student reaction’s to the murals.

Yours in service, as always,


Yes, my blogging is getting somewhere

Here’s a comment I got randomly in my Facebook inbox responding to my last article on This comment definitely gave me the chills and is not just directed to me, but everyone who works at City Year across the country.

I am an avid reader and when I read your article something told me I had to contact you. I couldn’t find your email address on the website (probably to keep people like me away!) so, I did the only rational thing someone our age does now, Facebook creep.

In all seriousness though, I want to thank you for what you are doing not only for the kids at the school you’re placed at, but for what you’re doing for the education system in general.

I am unfortunately part of the system of conflict you wrote about. I work for Michelle Rhee, yes that Michelle. I have, at times, become disillusioned by the incredible divisiveness that education reform now brings about. What I do, what individuals on either “side” do doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as what people like you and the teachers you work next to everyday do.

I wholeheartedly believe quality education is the answer to many of the problems plaguing America. Change in quality will not come from any policy made, any speech given, or any strike line walked. The change in quality will come from the passionate, caring, and incredible people like you. People like you who wake up every day with a smile on your face ready to take on any challenge thrown your way in hopes that you will help even one student achieve.

Thank you for what you are doing for the education system. Please always remember the incredible and life-altering impact you will have on the students you work with, their school, and the community that surrounds it.

I read this to my team during first circle last week and hope to share it with the rest of y’all at CY. Always remember that we are the change many of the schools we work at need.