A low-performing Bay Area elementary school saw its student achievement dip even further after introducing “Woke Kindergarten.”
Glassbrook Elementary School in Hayward paid $250,000 for a company called Woke Kindergarten to train its teachers in topics like white supremacy and oppression, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
To pay Woke Kindergarten, the school used federal funds — money from a federal program meant to help boost test scores for the country’s lowest-performing schools, the Chronicle reported.
Woke Kindergarten’s curriculum, which can be used with any of Glassbrook Elementary’s 474 students, includes a “woke word of the day,” words like “strike,” “ceasefire” and “protest.” This is meant to introduce children to a “language of the resistance” or a “liberatory vocabulary in a way that they can easily digest, understand and most importantly, use in their critiques of the system.”
On its website, Woke Kindergarten says its goal is “supporting children, families, educators and organizations in their commitment to abolitionist early education and pro-black and queer and trans liberation.”
The company’s founder is a former teacher who goes by “they/them” pronouns and self-describes as “an abolitionist early educator, cultural organizer and creator currently innovating ways to resist, heal, liberate and create with their pedagogy, Woke Kindergarten.”
Glassbrook has been using Woke Kindergarten for two years of a three-year contract so far.
In the meantime, the school’s flagging student achievement has become even more dismal.
English and math scores have both declined four percentage points each. Less than 4% of students were proficient in math, and less than 12% of students were proficient in English as of last spring.
Most of Glassbrook’s students are low-income. Two-thirds of the students have English as a second language, and more than 80% are Hispanic.
The school has been on a state watch list for improvement since 2020. This school year it was bumped back down to the lowest-performing level.
Some Glassbrook teachers have raised issues with Woke Kindergarten, charging it with being too heavy on progressive activism.
A white teacher who raised an issue with the training sessions described himself as a “gay moderate” and previously sued the school district for allegedly stopping him from talking about his husband and LGBT history.
He said he asked what “disrupt whiteness” means for a third grade classroom and was temporarily banned from the training sessions. The teacher also said he was told the sessions were “not a place to express white guilt.”
The same teacher said he asked questions during a session where a trainer used the phrase “so-called United States.” He also questioned lessons on Woke Kindergarten’s website called “Lil’ Comrade Convos” and some talking about a world without police, money, or landlords.
“It slowly became very apparent if you were a dissenting voice that it’s not what they wanted to hear,” a different teacher said. “Our reading scores are low … That could have gotten us a reading interventionist.”
Hayward Superintendent Jason Reimann said the decision to hire Woke Kindergarten was more about boosting attendance rather than improving test scores, saying that, “helping students feel safe and whole is part and parcel of academic achievement.”
“We are in favor 100% of abolishing systems of oppression where they hold our students back,” he told the Chronicle. “What I do believe is we should pick providers based on their work and how effective they are.”
“I get that it’s more money than we would have liked to have spent,” the superintendent said.
Glassbrook Elementary and the school district more broadly both saw a similar improvement in attendance last year, with 44% of students chronically absent last year compared to 61% the year before.
Other Bay Area schools have tried a different approach. One San Francisco elementary school started a math intervention program that has raised the math proficiency rate from 15% to 50%.