Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009 | The minimum wage has dropped. New citizens keep arriving in need of work. And the government is still struggling to craft a budget halfway into the year. Politicians chalk up their difficulties to one crucial thing.
“All that math,” said Vechea Lor, a 4th grader who was elected vice president at Joyner Elementary School this fall. “That was a little bit hard.”
Joyner is one of only four schools in California where students operate their own society during school hours, through a national program called MicroSociety that allows students to run their own government, open their own businesses, and spend their own currency in a microcosm of the world outside or a world of their own making. It is meant to link schoolwork to real world challenges and to empower students to pursue their own ideas.
Proponents of such programs nationwide say they have dwindled in the era of No Child Left Behind. Tighter restrictions on school schedules and pressure to boost test scores made it difficult to justify spending class time on what some educators saw as merely a fun experiment, even though some studies point to increased math and reading scores and better attendance in schools with the program.
Joyner is defying the naysayers. The magnet school, newly built during the last facilities bond, opened a year and a half ago and has already drawn nearly a hundred students from outside its City Heights neighborhood, pulling students from as far as Clairemont and La Mesa.
Its hope is that engaging kids in the miniature world will show them the value of reading, writing, arithmetic and other subjects, boost school attendance and student confidence and translate into higher achievement at Joyner, where the vast majority of students come from low-income families and three-quarters are learning English. Attendance has already grown since last year and now exceeds 96.4 percent.