Staff Blog

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 PROGRESS REPORT

Posted on

GUESTS

Cosmo A. Taormina, attorney at law, was a guest speaker for the criminal evidence class. He explained the role of both the defense and prosecuting attorneys, the importance of proper evidence collection, and courtroom testimony, especially by an expert witness.

Officer Thor Binder of the Zurich, Switzerland Police Department, while on vacation, stopped by the ARTC to visit and accepted our invitation to speak to the POPP junior class. The students asked many questions and seemed to be most impressed with the amount of traveling Officer Binder had done.

He talked about the differences between the two countries’ crime fighting techniques and he admitted that his department looked to the U.S. when they were in need of updating their tactics in dealing with dangerous criminals. The students seemed impressed that he learned three languages – French, German, and Italian, in school, as well as “picking up” English through his many visits to the UK, U.S. and Australia. He also told the students that his police academy training lasted two years.

West L.A. College President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh visited POPP, met with the staff and students, and took a tour of the ARTC. We hope that with looming budget cuts, coupled with the recently reported misuse of tax-payer supported funding by some community college students, POPP will be recognized as a successful program worthy of continued support.

LAUSD Assistant Superintendent Michelle King, and Nader Delnavez , Director, Special School Programs, visited POPP, met with staff and students, and took tour of ARTC. The tremendous investments of time, energy, personnel, and money made by the LAPD, through Chief Beck and Assistant Chief MacArthur, West L.A. College, through President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh and Professor Charles “Buck” Stapleton, Roberta Weintraub, through her Police Academy Magnet Schools Foundation, as well as the continuing partnership with LAUSD, through Superintendent Deasy, was highlighted and discussed. Both Michelle King and Nader Delnavez pledged their continued support in their search for a sustained funding source for the LAUSD POPP staff position.

NatalieTorres, who oversees all the LAPD youth programs, met with the POPP staff and offered to facilitate POPP recruitment during the cadet Saturday training academy. LAPD trains over 600 high school aged cadets each year and so the opportunity to recruit prospective POPP students will be enhanced dramatically. POPP recruiters can schedule follow-up visits to the local divisions to continue the recruitment process. This cooperative effort between the two premier LAPD youth programs, one under Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, the other under Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, will enhance and facilitate the department’s goal to “grow” their own police officers.

Captain Veenstra donated a laptop computer to a deserving POPP student. She told him she used it while earning her master’s degree. Sgt. John Amendolapurchased and installed upgrades for the computer to provide more power and storage capacity. Let us hope the student will use this computer to earn his master’s degree!

POPP graduate Jessica Castanon spoke with the junior class on the importance of developing good study habits through effective time management. She also announced to the class that she has earned her A.A. degree (our third from the first graduating class to do so), and has only three more classes to complete next semester to qualify to transfer to a four-year university. Jessica is currently working part-time at Loyola-Marymount University’s, LMU, department of public safety. She plans to continue her education at LMU where, as a university employee, she can take classes at a cost of only $30 per unit (in contrast, the current cost at the community college is $36 per unit).

ACTIVITIES

Sgt. Amendola accompanied 11 POPP students on a week-end camping trip to Joshua Tree National Monument to take part in their 75th anniversary celebration. The trip was sponsored by Medicines Global Outdoor Youth Ambassador program, which provided the camping equipment, food, and registration fees. The students learned rock-climbing basics from some of the top rock climbers in the world who were present during the weekend event.

POPP cadets completed over 500 hours of community service since September. A beautification project at the ARTC consisted of outside planting, raking, spreading ground cover, and inside hanging 100 new pictures and arranging new furniture all donated by LAPAMS.

POPP Officer Steve Erickson arranged for 80 POPP students and their guests to attend a fund-raiser event to “America’s Funniest Videos”, which raised over $1600 for POPP. Two POPP students were selected as the “best dressed” for which they each received a $250 cash prize from ABC studios. A second visit to the show has been scheduled for November.

Roberta Weintrab, Ira Krinsky, Charles “Buck” Stapleton, Sgt John Amendola, Sister Gertrude, and Jeff Burgess met with Cal-State University Los Angeles President James M. Rosser and Vice President for Student Affairs Anthony R. Ross, to discuss a possible partnership with CSULA’s department of Criminal Justice and West L.A. College exclusively for POPP transfer students. Anthony Ross agreed to work with Professor Stapleton, West L.A. College, to develop the transfer program details.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the group was treated to a “behind the scenes” tour of the L.A. County Sheriff/LAPD crime lab which also houses the CSULA’s Criminal Justice department.

EMPLOYMENT

As of this writing, a total of eight current and former POPP students are in the testing process with both the LAPD and LA County Sheriff’s Department. Due to the resent transfer of 40,000 state prisoners to county jails, the LA County Sheriff’s Department is hiring an additional 500 deputies to handle the increase. The state is allotting $24,000 per prisoner per year to the counties to cover the cost of incarceration.

This presents an outstanding opportunity for our POPP students to start their law enforcement career. A hiring opportunity such as this, in light of the fact there have been over 12,000 law enforcement officers laid off this year, does not occur very often, so the POPP staff have recommended that students take full advantage of this rare opportunity to start their law enforcement career. POPP staff is assisting the students in completing the applications, background packets, and conducting mock oral interviews.

EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH

In the Vol. 35, No 3 Fall 2011 issue of Educator; a quarterly journal of educational research and ideas, an article entitled, “The Early College Challenge: Navigating Disadvantaged Students’ Transition to College”, by James E. Rosenbaum and Kelly Iwanaga Becker, discussed successful “early college high schools” (ECHSs), which are described as partnerships with high schools and community colleges. The article identified the following five areas where ECHSs help poorly prepared disadvantaged students become college-ready:

1. Provide a package-deal curriculum leading to content and skills mastery
2. Foster motivation by offering incentives and bolstering students’ confidence
3. Keep students on track by providing frequent mandatory guidance and closely monitoring students’ progress
4. Manage the transition from high school to college
5. Explicitly teach study skills

While many of the interventions ECHSs employs start as early as the ninth grade, it is important to note that POPP, serving as the capstone for the LAPAMS program, is a bridge program for seniors making the transition from high school to college and, unlike the ECHSs, has the added support of a career-specific partner in the LAPD. The POPP/PAMS curriculum starts in the 6th grade and for the Cadets who pursue this opportunity it provides an outstanding road to success.

Provide a package-deal curriculum leading to content and skills mastery.

POPP has developed a comprehensive, sequenced, four-semester program leading to an A.A. degree in Administration of Justice. In addition, POPP had provided two, four-week English workshops, which includes a writing skills component, as well as on-going tutoring throughout the year.

The college classes offered to the high school students are listed in the Articulation Agreement between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Community College District that allows them to receive “dual credit”, earning both high school credits and college units. The “Report Writing for Peace Officers” college class is supported by an adjunct writing lab taught by our English Specialist (a retired LAUSD credentialed English teacher) and the tutors, and has been approved by the district to meet the 12th grade English graduation requirements.

POPP provides the training for state security guard certification and P.O.S.T. 832 PC peace officer certification. We assist POPP students in placement in both private security and peace officer entry-level jobs within the criminal justice system.

Foster motivation by offering incentives and bolstering students’ confidence.

In addition to the security guard (which takes place at the end of the first semester) and peace officer training, West L.A. College issues skill certificates to students at the completion of each semester. Obtaining security and peace officer certifications, which lead to employment in the criminal justice career field (especially when teenage unemployment is at 50%, all-time high) is a huge confidence builder. The time and money saved by earning college units while still in high school also act as powerful incentives.

Unlike traditional ECHS where students take college classes either on a college campus or at their high school site, POPP students take all their classes at the LAPD training academy, in a professional work-place environment, where they rub elbows with actual LAPD recruits as well as veteran officers.

This unparalleled first-hand exposure to the law enforcement career field, which cannot be duplicated on either a high school or college campus, gives the students a sense of being special, bolstering their confidence and improving their self-esteem. Indeed, the POPP students would have never had the opportunity to talk with the visiting police officer from Switzerland if our program was on a high school or college campus.

Keep students on track by providing frequent and mandatory guidance and closely monitoring student’s progress.

All college instructors and professors who teach at POPP share their test scores and other assignment grades with the POPP staff. This provides an on-going picture of the students’ academic progress and allows for additional tutoring as needed. In addition, the English and Biology tutors work closely with the West L.A. College staff to provide specific, focus tutoring tied directly to the course material.

The POPP schedule, which runs from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm, Monday through Thursday, has built in a total of 15 hours per week for both classes devoted strictly to tutoring. Students who receive Ds of Fs on tests or assignments are counseled and are required to attend additional tutoring sessions during class breaks, lunch, and after class.

Recently, the staff found out that a failing student worked a full-time job until 1:00 am during the week. When queried, the student admitted he did not have to work full-time and agreed to work part-time on the week-ends in order to give more time to study and get adequate sleep during the week. His grades have improved and he is on track to pass all his classes.

Manage the transition from high school to college.

Most high school college counselors have time to help only those seniors who plan to attend a four-year college directly out of high school and, therefore, do have much, if any, time to prepare the vast majority of seniors for community college. These mostly “C” students have virtually no clue what awaits them when they start community college after graduation. The sad reality is the California High School Exit Exam, CHSEE, sets such low standards that it misleads students. “Most students are surprised when, three months after passing the (CHSEE) state exam for ‘high school competency’, they fail the (college English and math placement) test for ‘college readiness’.” (Rosenbaum and Becker, pp 16).

POPP, on the other hand, provides a high-school-to-college transition program that directly supports high school seniors while they take actual college courses. On the first day of the mandatory four-week “pre-academy” (which starts before the beginning of the regular fall semester), the high school seniors are given the Cal-State University Northridge English placement test. The tests are scored and the results are used by the English Specialist and the tutors to assist each student master the reading, comprehension, and writing skills needed to be successful in college and as a police officer.

The students receive extensive tutoring throughout the fall semester followed by a second four-week intensive English workshop during the winter break. The students then take the West L.A. College English placement test to gage their improvement. The English tutoring continues throughout the spring semester, culminating with the students taking their English placement test a second time in late June.

The goal of the program is to “tutor” them out of the remedial English classes so that they can start the second year at POPP qualified for college English. In addition, all students will be able to successfully write three prompted essays in 90 minutes (which is the requirement to pass the LAPD entrance exam) by the time the graduate from POPP.

POPP high school seniors earn a total of 18 college units with the possibility of earning an additional 12 units, via grade by exam, once they start the second year at POPP.

Most high school seniors will be able to graduate with their A.A. degree within two to two and a half years, depending on the number of math and English classes they need to take.

Explicitly teach study skills.Study skills are taught during the four-week pre-academy and are constantly reinforced throughout the semester. The use of flash cards (which are provided), cohort study groups, student-prepared study guides for tests, and on-going tutoring in all subjects consistently hammers home the importance of study skills.

Sadly, most POPP students have been able to pass the 11-12 years of primary and secondary education without having to develop even the most rudimentary study skills, let alone having to actually read a textbook.To rectify that deficiency, student cohorts are assigned textbook chapters and must present them weekly to the rest of the class using a variety of teaching methods, including, but not limited to, power-point, video clips, fill-ins, outside resources, personal experiences, games, guest speakers, and test questions.

Students are taught how to skim the chapter to get an overall view and then each cohort member focuses in on a portion of the chapter and becomes an “expert” in the subject matter. Students are not allowed to read from their notes, but must present the material adlib using their own words.

POPP staff regularly checks to see if students have their flash cards, three-ring binders containing all their handouts, and spiral notebook containing their notes. The art of note-taking, which is essential for police officers to master, is difficult for English Language Learners, which comprises the majority of our POPP students. Tutors and staff are constantly encouraging students to take notes during class to improve their skill level.

The article ends with the following statement:

“ECHSs (and POPP) seem to offer a simple solution: just incorporate college courses into high school. In fact, the reality of ECHSs (and POPP) is much more complex and much more promising.”

We have learned much during the first two years POPP has been in operation. We continue to learn more about our students and how best to serve their needs and best teach them those skills vital to their success. “Knowing that most low-income students live in stressful environments, successful ECHSs (and POPP) provide frequent advising, support, and problem solving.” (Rosenbaum and Becker, pp. 20)

FUTURE ACTIVIITES/EVENTS

On Thursday, December 8, POPP will host the first-ever “Women’s Fitness Challenge”, which will test the physical fitness of all POPP females against the female “Jack La Lane”, aka Roberta Weintraub. Those POPP women who outscore Roberta in push-ups and sit-ups, complete the running events, and score at or above the 50% mark on the LAPD PFQ (physical fitness qualification) test will receive a special prize. Chief Beck and Assistant Chief Mac Arthur have been invited to the event and we are hopeful they can make time in their busy schedules to attend.

We have added a reading component to our Winter writing lab and have chosen the book, “The Things They Carried”. We are in the process of obtaining a classroom set, so if anyone has a spare copy of this book, we will gladly accept it as a charitable donation to POPP.