An Update of the Inequalities in Educating Our Children!
Two years ago, my friend Julie B and I blogged about my son's 8th grade class schedule and while the responses I got from it were not totally a surprise, the response was a bit overwhelming. Our blog posts even got picked up by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post. You can access Julie B’s blog post here, my blog post here and the Washington Post article here. I knew the schedule was not right nor was it fair to my son and his fellow students at the time. Double and triple periods of test prep for PARRC. The response to the blogs were a red flag that something needed to be done. Below is my son’s old 8th grade schedule:
As always and in true dedicated parent fashion form, I reached out to the Newark Public school district and again to no surprise, I did not receive a response. You see by my son’s 8th grade year, my wife and I had already made a name for ourselves in the district as “those parents.” As rebel rousers. Simply because we would not tolerate our son being given less than what we had as a great public education being raised in the city of Newark, we were treated like the enemy. We all know Newark has been under state control for over 20 years and up to that point, a parent’s feedback on lack luster curriculum and over preparation for tests like the PARRC fell on def ears. I mean we as parents advocated our butts off. We attended city and state hearings on education, we attended school board hearings, we even started a Facebook page ParentPower Movement to try and rally up as many parents to get involved as possible and fight for whats best to preserve quality public education in the city of Newark.
8th grade came and went. My son graduated from his elementary school in Newark. One in which many generations of my family graduated from as well. It was at that time when my wife and I started to really think about our son's education and his future. Was it worth staying in a district being controlled by the state, where parents were looked at like the enemy. Were we had to fight hard to make sure our son and our community’s children got just the basics. The standard. The minimum required. How could we as parents find the continuation of this road acceptable for him? As parents we wanted so much more. More than the district could provide to us as a family. It was in those conversations and many sleepless nights, that we as a family decided the district could no longer sustain us as a family. It was a very difficult choice as we loved the city so much again being born raised and coming from generations of Newarkers. So we did our home work and searched for districts in the state that would be more conducive to our sons education and his future. We found our choice, packed up our lives and moved from Newark to Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. We gave up family free time for commutes to our jobs up north so we could hopefully provide him with a better life, better options, a better school system and improved life experiences. It was worth the sacrifice.
Fast forward two years from posting that 8th grade schedule, and my son’s schedule looks very different from that original post. It is full of variety and is exposing our son to a foundation that will, prepare him for a ever changing faced paced world. Class sizes are smaller which gives way to individualized attention from his teachers. As parents, we have gone from the enemy to contributors of his education. We have access to teachers, curriculum, and parent involvement. Is it utopia? No of course not! Some may say "you could have afforded to move you were lucky!" Actually NO! Our rent increased and we had to incur higher commuting costs to travel to North Jersey for our jobs. However, it was a hit that we were willing to take.
As much as I loved living in the city of Newark ,it is a breath of fresh air in our new school district. I say that not to be little the city of Newark, but the fight to secure above just the bare minimum to educate my child is no longer something we are burdened with. What puzzles me as a parent in 2017, there can still be such stark inequalities for our children’s education even within state lines. maybe I am just naive. You should be able to take your child from one district to another and it be a seamless transition for the student. By all means, my son had to get adjusted to our new district don't get me wrong. The intensity of the curriculum, the higher expectations from the teachers and the intimate class sizes. Children adjust quicker than we give them credit for and he learned to adapt to our new district standards and expectations. He returned to Mandarin Chinese, where he had taken it for several years in Newark only to be dismantled and replaced with computers to gear up for PARRC. He now is in his 2nd high school year of the language and thriving. Giving him a tremendous jump start on a language being used widely in the international business world. He is playing multiple sports on a Varsity level and loves this new educational experience. His schedule now is a variety of subjects. This is a copy of his Sophomore 2017-2018 schedule in Point Pleasant Beach High:
My hope in this update of our story is to paint the picture of the inequalities and sacrifices families face when educating their children. I am writing this on the heals of Newark voting to take back control of their school district from state held control of over 20 years. To send a message to those in offices of authority who will regain the responsibility and be held accountable for keeping the schools in Newark out of state control and back to the communities and families they serve. To open up the dialogue between administration and parents. To bridge the gap of inequities and differences as well as elevate the standards of what is acceptable in educating children of inner cities so that they mirror and exceed those of suburban school districts. To learn from the lessons of the mistakes made that led to a failed state run tenure that led to no real improvements. That divided and removed parents from the conversation and process of educating our children. To letting the politics go and letting parents and the community back in. The fight for parents in Newark just doesn’t go away with control of public schools being returned to the city. It has just begun. To the parents I have left behind, I hope that you fight even harder and demand even more for your children. As you see from the schedule above, it is possible. They are worth it and their futures depend on holding the powers that be accountable to provide higher standards for our future generations of young minds and leaders.