This article was submitted by Gregory Hatcher, a 2009 graduate of the Denver School of Science and Technology, a current student at Colorado Christian University and a member of Stand for Children Colorado.
Change is hard and sometimes difficult decisions have to be made to improve outcomes for kids. Over the past few months we’ve seen how difficult change can be. In November of 2010 the Denver school board voted vote to turn around six of the lowest performing schools in the Far Northeast area, which were also among the lowest performing in the district. The vote turned out to be 4-3.
Of the four board members voting yes, one was Nate Easley. Easley is president of the DPS board and the District 4 representative, which includes the Far Northeast area.
Most recently, a small but loud group of folks tried to recall Easley for many alleged transgressions, one of being his recent vote on the FNE turnaround plan. With only 6 percent of students graduating from Montbello high school ready for college in a district with a whopping remediation rate of 55 percent, I don’t understand the attacks on Easley for taking a strong position to address this dire situation.
There need to be people rallying around the fact that thousands of families choice out of the Far Northeast area because the schools in their neighborhood aren’t meeting the basic standards for their students. When looking at the graphs that the Colorado SchoolView website offers, you will see that too many schools in the Far Northeast are failing to grow and achieve around math, reading, and writing standards.
I want to take this opportunity to encourage all decision-makers in charge of the implementation and turnaround in the Far Northeast to remember that too many students have failed and are failing in the current system. All families and students in the Far Northeast deserve and need better options. They need schools that are preparing them for college and life. They don’t need schools that fail students and leave them to a future of poverty or prison.
It’s troubling to me that the criminal justice system plans for jail and prison expansion based on 3rd and 4th grade reading levels. I ask that the adults making decisions within DPS and the community work to flip this percentage. It would be amazing to hear that the criminal justice system is using 3rd and 4th grade reading levels to determine how much to reduce jail or prison capacity in Colorado.
I’m a 2009 graduate of the Denver School of Science and Technology. I currently attend Colorado Christian University where I’m studying education, and I work with Stand for Children Colorado which is an organization focused on making public education better for all kids in Denver and Colorado. During my recent testimony in front of the DPS school board I told a personal story about the differences between the education I received at DSST and what my cousin received at Montbello High School.
My cousin is just as smart if not smarter than me but he had a very different high school experience. He was a lead on the drum line at Montbello and he can point to core classes, even math, where he was pushed on just because he could play a drum, and he wasn’t the only one that was passed along without learning what he needed to learn. So what happened when my cousin went to college?
He attends Metro State, but not on the “traditional” track. His first year at Metro he felt that he was constantly going backwards trying to catch up to the rest of his peers because Montbello did not prepare him. Consider the amount of money he and his family have had to pay for remedial courses. Consider the emotional struggles he had – so much so that he had to take time off. I ask you, how many smart students like him are dropping out of college. How many students like him are we pushing on the track to either poverty or prison?
I believe every student should have a fair chance of succeeding in college and life. Schools that produce results like DSST regardless of whether they’re a charter, traditional, or alternative should not be an exception, they should be the rule. I ask you, as adults reading this article today, what are you going to do to ensure students like my cousin have an opportunity to receive a quality education? There are too many students failing in the Far Northeast, and it’s not fair, it is an injustice.
I believe that if the families and communities come together around the changes in the Far Northeast then they can and will be successful. As adults we have to remember to keep kids at the center of our conversation because ultimately it’s their future.
I’ve chosen to work at Stand for Children and go to school to ultimately make public education better for all kids. Time is not on our side. When you see and hear that 94 percent of students graduating from Montbello High School are in need of remedial courses when entering college it should spark a fire in you and challenge you to work towards turning failing schools around.
Please keep in mind that I was one of the lucky students to get into DSST, but I always remember that none of my friends who applied had their numbers called. Thinking of those friends, my cousin, and the hundreds of other stories like these keeps me motivated to continue the work to create better high quality schools for all students.
Change is hard and sometimes very difficult decisions have to be made in order to improve outcomes for kids.
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