"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

More from Central Falls

A former Central High student writes:

The author graduated from Central Falls High in Rhode Island in 2003.

Under the advisement of Superintendent of Schools Frances Gallo, the Central Falls school committee in Rhode Island voted 5-2 to fire the entire faculty, 93 people total, including the principal, three assistant principals and 77 teachers at Central Falls High School on Feb. 23.

. . . .

Central Falls is one of the poorest cities in the state and the country, with a median income of only $22,000. Of the 800-plus students at Central Falls High, the only high school in the city, 65 percent are Latino, most whom speak English as a second language. Yet somehow, these facts do not get taken into account when looking at test scores.

Standardized testing such as the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) is culturally biased, and does not adequately "assess" a student’s knowledge. Imagine having to take a test in another language that you barely understand. Is it really possible to do well if the student does not even understand the questions?

Many students also lack "initiative" due to the inability to pay for college. If students know they cannot afford college, then why would high school matter to them? The same teacher added in her interview with PSLweb.org: "My major concern is the number of undocumented immigrants at the school. These students and their families are in fear that they will be discovered and deported. Many of them do not finish school because they can’t go to college without papers. This is a common occurrence."

These are the real issues that face Central Falls High School students every day. I know this personally. I graduated from Central Falls in 2003. I experienced first-hand families of friends struggling to make ends meet; students trying to juggle full-time jobs needed to help their parents pay bills and also trying to finish school work on time.

I remember students skipping school, not because they did not care, but because they knew they could never afford to go to college. I know of students who were undocumented, some who were deported. Those who were not deported had no access to college due to their legal status in this country.

Life for us students was never easy, but it was our valiant teachers who helped us through our constant struggles. The Central Falls teachers not only helped their students better themselves academically, but emotionally as well. The teachers respected their students, and in return they were given respect back. What these teachers instilled in their students cannot be measured by any standardized test.

Superintendent Gallo does have one thing right, however—the students of Central Falls do deserve the best. They deserve a chance, an opportunity and the right to a higher education and equal quality of life. Most importantly, they deserve to not be treated as a statistic. They deserve change, but not the kind being handed down by the school board. . . .

What Gallo, Gist and the board tragically got wrong were to unjustly blame the hard-working teachers, many of whom spent their entire careers as dedicated educators at the school.

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