I was born and raised in the Bronx and for most of my childhood and adolescence I attended failing schools. I, of course, didn’t know it at the time. I received good grades and passed all my classes. I sat in the front of the class because I loved learning. I thought I was a great student. Then I went to college and reality hit me. I didn’t know how to read to truly understand the deeper meaning of a book. Worse, I couldn’t properly write a paragraph – let alone an essay.
When my daughter, Iysis, was ready for kindergarten, I was determined not to let history repeat itself. My only mission was to get her into a great public school. Thankfully we won the lottery for Iysis to attend Success Academy Bronx 2. I have been amazed and shocked by her progress ever since. She knows how to write a short answer. She can also analyze books in great detail and has meaningful conversations about them. When she comes home from school, she teaches her 3-year-old brother everything she learned that day. It sounds like an exaggeration, but some days I feel that my 6-year-old daughter is learning in first grade what I learned in college.
Sadly, I have friends whose children attend failing schools because they don’t have better options in The Bronx. Our borough has 149 failing district schools! Iysis has a friend in a district school in the same grade and who has a lot of difficulty reading. Rather than give her the tools and support she needs, her teachers have made excuses; they say the girl can’t read because she has a learning disability. They have forced her parents to pay for additional tutoring because it is not offered at the school.
I went to Albany last week to let our leaders know that the failing schools crisis is real – but also to deliver a message of hope. There are great schools like Success Academy that are putting kids of all backgrounds on a successful path to college. Our leaders should look to these schools and build more like them.