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A Model for Urban Student Engagement and Achievement

The major source of inspiration that has driven me to become an educator is my experience working with youth who had various disabilities and who were from low socio-economic backgrounds in Oakland.  While finishing my degree at UC Berkeley, I was a mentor in several after school programs in Oakland.  I felt I was able to develop a positive relationship with many kids who were failing in school and had to deal with very challenging circumstances including having parents who had been killed as a result of gang violence. I was also a caretaker for college students with disabilities such as paralysis.  For 5 years, I used to wake up at 5:30 AM and help these students get ready for school. I learned to change diapers, provide showers, cook food, and most importantly developed a good friendship with them.  My experience as a mentor and as a caretaker convinced me that I wanted to help youth who were labeled “at risk.”  Moreover, I decided to become a volunteer in various schools in East Oakland.  I used to take the city bus #40 and go house to house tutoring students until late evenings. I would spend hundreds of dollars monthly taking students out to eat as an incentive to allow me to tutor them.   But there was only so much I could do because the students were still failing in classrooms that were not engaging them.  The joy and frustration I have experienced working with urban youth has influenced me to become an educator who can empower all students, especially “at risk” youth who are often left behind.  This is my calling.

I have been a teacher for 7 years and have always asked to teach populations that have traditionally failed or struggled in school.  I spent my first 2 years teaching history in Oakland, and then I taught English in an alternative school in Berkeley.  I moved to Sacramento in 2005 and began teaching at Grant High School. I requested to teach the most challenging group of students and was given this opportunity as a Special Education teacher. From 2008-2009, I taught algebra to 5 classes of mainstream students and experienced continued success.  As a result of my success, I was selected to be instructional coach for Twin Rivers School District. 

My greatest accomplishment in education is my success in helping students who have failed for years to consistently exceed all expectations and close the achievement gap in math.  It is important to note that my success with students “at risk” has occurred at Grant High School which is a comprehensive urban school. Comprehensive means the school has to accept all kids regardless of motivation level, skill level, parental involvement.

Closing the Achievement Gap with Students with Disabilities

In 2007, despite the doubts expressed by my colleagues, I challenged my SDC students and taught them the same algebra that the mainstream students were being taught.  Throughout 2007-2008, my SDC students took the same algebra assessments as the mainstream population and consistently outscored them! 

Closing Racial and Income Achievement Gaps for General Ed Students

In 2009, my students, who were mostly African American and Latino, outperformed the state average on the California Standards Test (CST) in Algebra I.  In the state of CA, 51% of all students scored basic and above, including 25% who were proficient. But 71% of all of my students scored basic and above, including 37% who were proficient.  Out of the 51 proficient students at Grant, 33 or roughly 70% of all proficient students were from my 4 algebra classes.  Furthermore, in terms of race, 65% of all white students in CA scored basic and above, including 36% proficient.  White students in CA had a higher proficiency rate than African American and Latino students in CA.  In contrast, 71 % of my African American students scored basic and above, including 42 % who were proficient. Also, 68% of my Latinos scored basic and above, including 29% who were proficient.  Finally, in terms of income, 62% of all economically advantaged students in CA scored basic or above, including 35% who were proficient. For my students, who were all low income, 71% scored basic and above, including 37% proficient.  Therefore, my students closed the racial and income achievement gaps

Getting Failing Students to Make Huge Progress and Inspiring Hope

Before I was their teacher, 80% of my students were far below basic and 0% were proficient based on the 2008 CST in algebra I.  When they left my class in 2009, 71% of them had scored basic and above on the CST, including 37% who scored proficient and above.  Also, their average score on the CST increased by 60 points in 1 year.

Lead Teacher and Assistant Coordinator of Da P.A.C. (Pacers Achieving College)

“Da P.A.C.” is a partnership academy between Grant and UC Davis.  The goal is to help incoming 9th graders who are far below grade level to reach calculus before graduation. In the summer of 2009, in just 6 weeks, under my instruction, 29 of 30 students took algebra, passed the district final exam, earned their credits for the course, and proceeded to take my Algebra 2 class. Currently, they are the highest performing Algebra 2 class in the district and were recently featured on News 10.  

Inspiring Teachers at Grant High to Produce Major Gains in Students’ Learning  

My success with students and collaboration with staff as an instructional coach has reinvigorated teachers who were failing many students in the past to explore new ways to help students succeed.  Last semester, the average math G.P.A. at Grant for all students in algebra increased 54%.  The percent of students in other teachers’ math classes who scored proficient on district exams increased 115%. Furthermore, there was over a 10% increase in the percent of students at Grant passing their math class.  A culture of failure at Grant has been replaced with a culture of hope and progress.     

Colleges and Universities Attended

a) Sacramento State University Aug 2007-May 2010; Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) 
b) Sacramento State University June 2006-June 2007; Administrative Services Credential
c) San Francisco State University Jan. 2006-Dec. 2006; Special Education Credential
d) University of San Francisco Aug 2003-Dec. 2005; Masters in Education; Teacher Credential
e) UC Berkeley Aug 1999-May 2003; Bachelor of Arts in American Studies

Teaching History

a) Grant Union High School, Sacramento, CA Aug 2006-Present;
- Math Teacher (Algebra I and II) all grades Sept. 2008-Present
- Special Ed (SDC) Math and English Teacher all grades Aug 2006-June 2008
b) Instructor at Fortune School of Education (Project Pipeline)   June 2010 - Present
c) Berkeley Alternative High School, Berkeley, CA Sept 2005-June 2006; 9-10th Grade English
d) Madison Middle School, Oakland, CA Aug 2004-June 2005; 6th-7th Grade; World History
e) Skyline High School in Oakland, CA Aug. 2003-June 2004, Student Teaching in History

Professional Memberships

a) Instructional Coach for Twin Rivers Unified District
b) Member of Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)       
c) Vice President of Board for Urban Administrative Leadership Program at Sacramento State

Published Books

Rajagopal, Kadhir. (January 2011). C.R.E.A.T.E.: Instructional Model for Closing the Achievement Gap in Urban Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association of Curriculum and Supervision Development (ASCD)

Awards & Media Recognition

  • Teacher of Year, State of California – November 2010
  • Teacher of Year, Sacramento County – September 2010
  • Teacher of Year, Twin Rivers Unified School District – May 2010
  • Teacher of Year, Grant Union High School- March 2010
  • News 10 Sacramento Teacher of Month- February 2010
  • Doctoral Studies Distinguished Award – May 2010
  • Distinguished Panelist for Dr.Pedro Noguera on Equity Summit at UC Davis – March 2010
  • Community Service-Learning Project by My Students Aired on Oakland Public TV - June 2004
  • Featured on Teach CA Project/ Website Dedicated to Statewide Teacher Recruitment- 2010
  • Featured in Miller-McCune Journal Article on Racism and Achievement Gap - April 2009 Issue
Engaging Students
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