Selected readings on US charter schools
Lately, Sci Academy and other New Orleans public charter schools have been the center of some controversy over their disciplinary policies. As a recent alumnus, I can confidently say that my time as a student at Sci Academy was one of the most academically challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever had, and that, without Sci Academy, I never would have made it to college.
Before I attended high school, I struggled with illiteracy. I was embarrassed, and so I turned to mischief to hide my difficulty reading. I refused to do my work in class and deflected my teachers’ questions whenever they would call on me. Other times I started fights or pretended to sleep until the bell rung. I had mixed feelings about school, because I thought that my teachers had marked me as a failure.
When I got to Sci Academy, I initially disagreed with the level of discipline and structure that the school expected. I did not understand why we were required to shake hands with our principal and teaching staff every morning, why we were told to walk through the hallways along lines of tape on the floor, and why we received demerits when our homework was incomplete. I did not understand why the school needed a rigid disciplinary system. My teachers told me that the system increased efficiency and responsibility to maximize learning, but I didn’t believe them.
After spending some time at Sci Academy, I transferred back to my former Recovery School District high school. This was a mistake. By then I was a different student; I went to class regularly and participated in discussions. I asked questions and tried to articulate my answers, but I wasn’t receiving the same kind of education I had at Sci.
Class discussions were rare, and we did not talk in depth about topics I found interesting, such as the Romantic and Modernist periods, as we had at Sci. Instead, when we did talk, it was hardly ever about the classwork. In the hallways, students slid on swivel chairs, ran up and down the stairwells jostling each other and got to class late without being penalized. When teachers tried to get our attention and actually teach, students talked, texted or pretended to sleep. Most of my classmates dropped out.
I realized that Sci Academy was a better fit for me, so I transferred back. I thought about how I couldn’t read until I was 14 and how I needed to catch up. It didn’t take long for Sci Academy to learn that I had been illiterate. I told them my story and how much education meant to me. So they assigned extra homework, study sessions and one-on-one tutoring. The teaching staff was patient with me and talked me through problems I didn’t understand. They always made sure I knew the material as well as possible.
It became clear why Sci Academy had a challenging educational and strict disciplinary system –to help students like me who came from low-performing schools and needed extra attention. The system really did help students learn; despite what some in the press have claimed. Ninety-eight percent of my class graduated, went to college and are still in college. I even went to the White House to meet the president and first lady and tell my story; none of this would have happened without Sci.
At Sci Academy, I flourished academically. Without a doubt, it was my experience at Sci that got me college-ready. I’m now a sophomore at Bard College in upstate New York, and since graduating from Sci I have made an effort to stay involved with the school. I’ve gone back over break to talk to students about the importance of education and what they need to know as they prepare for college. Like me, they understand what Sci has done for them. They understand the possibilities that their futures hold, and they could not be more excited. Every student in Louisiana deserves to feel this way; charters like Sci can help make this possible.
Source: Nola.com – by Troy Simon