Macklemore and Michael Bennett have purchased copies of the critically acclaimed book, “Teaching for Black Lives,” for every middle- and high-school social-studies and language-arts teacher in Seattle Public Schools.
“Teaching for Black Lives” is a collection of teaching activities, role-plays, essays, poems and art created to help educators humanize African-American people in school curriculum. The book gives examples of how teachers can connect the curriculum to young people’s lives and explores how classrooms can be designed to challenge racism.
“The contributions that black people have made to this country are integral and the struggles that kids have to go through facing all forms of institutionalized racism and discrimination are real,” says Jesse Hagopian, an editor of the book and an ethnic-studies teacher at Seattle’s Garfield High School.
Photo: Joshua Huston
“The Racial Equity in HCC Team, a network of about 100 Seattle parents, teachers, students and community members district wide, has worked hard this year to improve the racial equity of Seattle Public Schools’ advanced learning programs.
The Seattle school district offers advanced classes “for students who have been evaluated for and designated as Highly Capable.” To place into the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC), a student needs to score in the top 2 to 3 percent on standardized tests of cognitive, reading and math skills. SPS also offers Advanced Learning (formerly known as Spectrum) for students who have been evaluated for and designated as Advanced Learners.
However, both accelerated programs overwhelmingly consist of white students. In 2015, white students made up 45.6 percent of SPS population, but were 72.3 percent of HCC-eligible students. That same year, 16 percent of students in the Seattle School district were black, but only 1 percent were in Advanced Learning programs. Among SPS’s 12 percent Latino student population, only 3 percent were counted as HCC- and Advanced Learning–eligible students. This compares to data from the U.S. Department of Education from 2009 that shows black students comprising 16.7 percent of total U.S. students and 9.8 percent of students in gifted programs. Data from the USDE also shows that as of 2009 Latino students comprised 22.3 percent of students nationally and 15.4 percent of students in gifted programs. Among the 200 biggest school districts in the U.S., Seattle has the fifth-biggest gap in achievement between black and white students. Seattle’s white-black gap is also the biggest in Washington.”
Photo: Joshua Huston
“Growing up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Daniel Pak knew that music was in his blood. His father was a jazz pianist and taught him to play scales around age 6. In a few years, he had advanced to performing pieces by Mozart and Beethoven. But it wasn’t until he taught himself acoustic guitar at 13 that his passion was truly ignited. “That’s when I really found that music was more than just lessons. Music was something that would be with me every day,” says Pak.
Pak has fond memories of kanikapila, impromptu music jam sessions with friends. “We’d all go to the beach. Someone would bring ukuleles and guitars, someone would bring bongos. We’d play music and listen to the waves coming in and the palm trees rustling,” says Pak. Today — minus the beach, palm trees and crashing waves — Pak tries to “perpetuate that tradition here in Seattle.”