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School Context

This semester I am student aiding in Ms. Z’s 5th grade classroom at Cesar Chavez

Elementary. Her class contains 25 students, about 60% are female and 40% are male. 90% of the

students in Ms. Z’s class are Latino, while the other 10% are African American. Her classroom

may not be the most diverse, but I found it interesting that 100% of her students are minorities.

All of the Latino students in Ms. Z’s classroom are ESL learners. However, Ms. Z herself is

unable to speak Spanish. Although the students are ESL learners, I believe approximately 80% of

the class is fluent in speaking the English language, but only about 20% are capable of reading

and writing, either at or above the levels that they should be for 5th grade state standards. While

grading spelling tests, I noticed that about 60% of students could write legibly and correctly spell

the words they had studied in class, while the other 40% struggled and received less than 7/13 on

their tests.

When talking with Ms. Z about her students, she informed me about 98% of the students

at Cesar Chavez are eligible for free or reduced lunch, leading me to believe the students in Ms.

Z’s room are in the lower socioeconomic class. It was difficult to decipher this fact, because all

the students are required to wear uniforms. I think their economic class would have stood out

more to me if they did not have this policy and I could see students in their everyday clothes. In

addition, I asked Ms. Z about her students with special needs. About 50% of her students have

anger management issues, 3 students are being tested for cognitive impairments or learning

disabilities, about 2 students have ADHD, and several are still undiagnosed and untested. The

range of abilities in her classroom varies, as I have mainly noticed that the attention and memory

of her students is the largest struggle. Ms. Z has told me that due to the behavioral issues of her

class, it is hard to maintain control and keep her students focused.


Ms. Z’s classroom is a safe environment. She has decorations and motivational posters on

her walls, carpet squares, a reading nook, a space for small group instruction, and has utilized the

tiny space to the best of her ability. I enjoy how she has 5 tables of students, each grouped by

continent in order to create structure. It is easier for her to call on tables and give out economy

points with this classroom procedure of labeled groups. However, because her classroom is so

small and there are 25 students in such a congested space, it makes it difficult for Ms. Z to

incorporate large group kinesthetic activities. Overall, I think the physical arrangements suit Ms.

Z’s teaching style, because she has provided multiple areas for engagement for her students to

feel welcome and comfortable in. They understand they can go wherever they need to go to be

the most successful, and this is how I want my students to feel.

Cesar Chavez is a prekindergarten-5th grade elementary school. 502 students attend Cesar

Chavez, and the minority percentage of students at the school is at 96% (Public School Review,

2018). There is a teacher to student ratio of 18:1, however, Cesar Chavez remains in the bottom

50% percentile in its overall school ranking, with extremely poor math and reading literacy skills

(Public School Review, 2018). In addition, I have not noticed any tracking occurring in the

school. Based on my observations, the students are simply passed on from grade to grade

regardless if they are at the skill level required to move onward. For example, in my math lesson

today, the students needed to solve double digit multiplication equations, but still struggled with

their basic times tables and addition (skills they should have learned and mastered in previous

grades). The school curriculum is taught 30% virtual (for subjects such as math or reading), and

70% teacher-student based learning. It appears Cesar Chavez is pushing for more online learning

with the introduction of Chromebooks and the purchase of several new learning programs for

students to actively engage in.


The local community is an interesting mix. Every morning students are dropped off by

bus at Cesar Chavez (regardless if they attend Cesar Chavez), and another bus will come to pick

them up to take them to their designated schools (such as the Southwest Community Campus). It

appears Cesar Chavez is the focal point of pick up and drop off for students attending other

schools, as it is closer to their houses. About 70% of students are dropped off by bus or car in the

mornings, while about 30% walk to school with an adult. I have been informed by several staff

members at the school that many families remain in the local neighborhoods, but may move

around from house to house. Also, the majority of the students at Cesar Chavez belong to

migrant workers. Ms. Z shocked me the other day when she told me many parents do not allow

their children to attend field trips (due to their illegal immigrant status), and are afraid their

children will be taken away from them. Overall, the community of this school seems very tight

knit. There are local Latino businesses everywhere in the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as

a library, Hispanic center, a neighborhood community foundation, and at least 10 churches.

Resources

Public School Review: Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School (2018). In Public School Review.

Retrieved September 26, 2018.