Friday, September 20, 2019

Crosstown High Students Stage Walkout, Demand Change

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 1:11 PM

click to enlarge Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday. - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday.

A group of about 50 Crosstown High School students, frustrated that their voices aren’t being heard by school leaders, staged a walk-out Friday morning.


The students, mostly sophomores, joined by a few freshmen, gathered on Crosstown Concourse’s main plaza.The bulk of the group took a seat, while a dozen students made their way to the front. They took turns reading a letter addressed to the school’s principal, Alexis Gwen-Miller, along with other members of the administration and the school’s board.


“We love our school, and this comes from a place of determination to see Crosstown High succeed,” the letter reads. “But we feel as if our voices are not being heard. So, we’re not giving you any choice but to listen.”


The letter details a list of concerns, including a lack of organization, communication, and a disconnect between students and faculty and the administration and faculty. Students claim that their voices aren’t being heard and that they’re opinions aren’t being considered in school decisions.

“Students have repeatedly voiced our concerns to administration and our voices have repeatedly been ignored,” the letter reads. “There are numerous issues, which we will express fully in this letter, that have led to us, as students, feeling that Crosstown is not fulfilling its promise to give us a project-based, competency-based, relationship-driven, diverse, by-design education.”


Crosstown High School opened its doors last year with its inaugural freshman class. The public charter school now has 280 9th and 10th grade students. It bills itself as a “learner-centered” school that engages students in “meaningful project-based work and authentic relationships that will prepare them to be self-directed, lifelong learners.”

click to enlarge Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday. - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday.


The students’ main concern, that “sparked most of the current frustration,” the letter said, is the cohort model, which students say reflects a racial bias.


“Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with the cohort model,” the students wrote. “The issue is how it’s being implemented. There is an unfair distribution of students between the two, 10th-grade cohorts, whether intentionally or not, (which) limits diversity in both cohorts.”


Students claim that one cohort is made up of a “majority of black and minority students,” while the other cohort consists of “most of the white students.”


“Many of the students in 10B feel that 10A has far more privilege in terms of academic opportunities and structure,” the students wrote. “Due to the fact that cohort B holds most of the minority and black students, this seems, whether done intentionally or not, to reflect bias. Whether this was intentional or not is beside the point. Another fundamental principle of Crosstown High is that it’s meant to be diverse by design.”

The students said that the “fact that either the school deliberately segregated its students” or “ignored race as a factor in splitting up the cohorts creating an unintentional lack of diversity, shows that the school obviously isn’t fulfilling its original mission of designing a racially and culturally diverse classroom experience.”

click to enlarge Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday. - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday.
click to enlarge Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday. - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday.
click to enlarge Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday. - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday.


Continuing, the letter claims that the students in cohort B, one they say is made up largely by minority students, “faces a unique set of challenges in our education.” One of those challenges is the number of teachers assigned to the group — four, compared to the other cohort’s six.


“Our faculty is being placed with an unfair burden of last-minute preparation, coordination, and expansion, beyond what can be reasonably expected of them,” the letter reads. “As a result the education of my peers and I have suffered.”


click to enlarge Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday. - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • Crosstown students during a walk out on Friday.

Additionally, the students say that those in cohort B have not been offered participation in the school’s advisory program, in which 14 students are paired with a faculty member to receive support with social-emotional development and enhancing leadership and advocacy skills.


“This opportunity was promised to all students, yet it has only been given to the more fortunate students, 10A,” the letter reads.


Other issues cited in the letter include a shift from individualized, competency-based learning toward traditional learning styles, the school’s grading scale, which students say does not adequately reflect their mastery of their classes, and the school’s curriculum itself.


The students said it has become “increasingly obvious that we have a need for change here at Crosstown High. We have explicitly express our concerns, so the question remains: how do we move forward?”

The students proposed solutions to their concerns. They include selecting two, non-voting student representatives to sit on the school’s board, allowing a group of students to work with the school’s leadership moving forward, and a “promise from the leadership at Crosstown High that from now forward student's voices will no longer be ignored.


click to enlarge TERILL
  • Terill

“As a school that preached about valuing the student voice, we want a guarantee that the school will work with students to ensure that we have a significant influence on the current and future experience at Crosstown High.


In response to the students’ Friday action, Chris Terill, executive director of Crosstown High, said he “appreciates the approach that the students are taking.”


“One of our key competences is to express oneself boldly, and our students are doing that,” Terill said. “We are taking their concerns and we seriously value student voices.”


Terill did not detail what actions the school would take to address the students’ concerns.


Read the students’ full letter below.


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