Monday, April 13, 2015

I Shouldn't Be Here - Again

In preparation for my three-part series on the urgent need to improve the achievement of poor students in America's public schools, I am re-printing a blog post that I wrote in January 2014.

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I Shouldn't Be Here

     I am enjoying my 26th year working in education this year.  In that time I've been a middle and high school mathematics teacher, a high school mathematics chairperson and a district teacher specialist.  I've worked in the research and accountability office and I am now a supervisor of secondary mathematics--overseeing the mathematics program for 20,000+ students in my school district.  Still, had things worked out the way they were "supposed" to, I should have never done any of this.

     You see, I grew up in a lower-middle income family--which is an overtly nice and formal way to put it.  I have a brother and two sisters.  I was among the first generation to benefit from the Free and Reduced Meals program; a benefit I received from elementary to high school.

       When I was in 10th grade in 1980 the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) did a national survey of students from my class.  They followed up with us ten years later and this is what they found:  Only about 5% of the students in my economic family situation graduated from college.  (Good news: NCES did the same study with the 10th graders from 2002 and found that 14.5% of the low-income students from that class ended up with a college degree by 2012.  That's better than 5%, but still much too low.)

     So, had I followed the path that most of my peers did, I should have never went to college; and I certainly should have never graduated from college.  Which means, no teaching job, no promotions, and certainly no Master's degree later on.  Hence, I shouldn't be here.

     The reasons I AM here are many.  One of the biggest is simply public education.  My K-12 teachers never told me I couldn't go to college; they never told me I couldn't do whatever I wanted to do.

       I also had the good fortune of two wonderful parents who struggled to raise four children and to make ends meet while generally keeping a positive attitude.  I often say that "If we were poor, I never knew it."  Still, the ability of my parents to pay a greatly reduced price for lunch for four children was an incredible benefit to my family.  Who knows how much less my parents would have been forced to provide for us had this not been an option?

       And so, with help from my teachers in our (free) public school, and encouragement from home, I was able to attend college, graduate from college, and enjoy the occupational benefits of a college education--as is the case of my three siblings as well.

       Still, I always felt like I was one of the (extremely few) lucky ones.

Public Schools and Choice

       Is it true that public school kids and their public school parents don't have choices?  I'm sure that I will expose my igno...

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