Teaching in a charter that ends at 8th grade means that that my students are left making a life-altering decision at the age of 13 or 14. Many might ask: “why don’t they just go to their assigned school?” Although this decision might seem to make a lot of sense to those who have the privilege of having a quality school as their assigned school, the vast majority of my students do not have this luxury. After all, the very reason that they sought out our school in the first place was in hopes of finding a school better than the one they were assigned.
During a class discussion on equality, the topic of school came up. One of my students asserted that the decision for school should not be that difficult, student should just be able to go to their neighborhood school. After this comment, the classroom filled with conversation. I brought the class back together and asked a simple question: “how many of you do not feel that your assigned school is a place of quality education?” The vast majority of the students in the room raised their hands. Each of the students who had raised their hands had their own reason for believing the way they did.
The reality is that many of these students were assigned to schools within the same district, but were worlds apart in terms of the quality of education that they provide. Children and their parents are provided an education that is far from equitable and is determined not only by zip code, but something as seemingly inconsequential as whether they have an even or odd house number.
After doing some research, I come to you with more questions than I have answers. Each year that I spend teaching, I become increasingly knowledgeable about the inequities that are perpetuated by our educational system, but with fewer clear-cut ideas as to how to solve them. As I scan through the list of my students and the schools that they are assigned to, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that the system is rigged. But in whose favor is the system rigged? The data make it clear that it is in favor of those who are of higher socio-economic status. But does this system favor anyone? Is anyone truly winning when all of our nation’s children are not being afforded an equitable opportunity to succeed? Is anyone winning when some students are shipped to places of educational despair and chaos while others are provided with every opportunity imaginable?
One thing is for certain: If America truly wants to begin solving some of its most pressing issues, we need to start with the way that we educate our most valuable resources— our children.