My Child, Left Behind

I got an email today from the local elite charter school of which my children, and countless others, remain on the “waiting list”. This school, touted as promoting high standards for Math and Science and Technology sent this email to the Unfortunate Many still on the waiting list reminding parents of the level of standards students are expected to maintain in order to matriculate into this “Academy”.

[Dear] Parents,

… Please note that our [emphasis mine] 6th grade students are enrolled in a middle school level Introduction to Algebra math class. In order to best prepare them for the 7th grade, they need to be ready for Algebra 1. If you intend to have your student remain on the waitlist in case space becomes available for the next school year please understand that they will need to have a level of understanding of ‘Introduction to Algebra’ to be successful….

They then give instructions on how to be removed from the waitlist.

This email is particularly disturbing on many levels. First, as a busy parent, I am not readily aware of what is meant by “Introduction to Algebra” and whether or not my child is currently receiving this education. How can I identify resources for students who did not have the advantage of such an enrollment into ‘Intermediate Algebra’ to utilize in order to remain competitive with those privileged to access this higher standard of learning? As a parent I would like to be aware of the curriculum that our children may not have access to because they are abandoned in institutions that are not designed to be competitive.

It is understood that there is a high demand for education that challenges our children, and that resources are limited for pedagogies that provide these opportunities. However, there I harbor a misunderstanding as to why such a program cannot be implemented within our current infrastructure and why charter schools, teachers and “lucky families” continue to abandon communities in order to further themselves, leaving others behind and wondering what’s being missed. I feel this level of extraction renders communities apart and further disenfranchises those stricken by poverty and lack of recourse. It’s quite difficult as a parent of a bright child, who is bored in his current classroom and often wonders, “What is the point of school?” to watch others and wonder what could have been, what might have been if only the entire community had the opportunity to access advanced courses. My son’s latest goal was: “To move to Boston, so he could go to Harvard… But maybe Stanford is okay too, because it’s in California.” He said this just yesterday, much to my delight.

Yet, after receiving this email, knowing that there are students in his community who already have an advantage over him, simply because he wasn’t the lucky kid in the “lottery” in a system that is designed to perpetuate otherness and less-than status, I fear for his chances of realizing these aspiring goals. These charter schools make it that much harder, that much more competitive, and that much more disheartening that we will ever be able to truly rise out of this perpetual system of oppression. It is a prime example of trampling upon others in order to gain advantage in this world. These teachers and administrators in the charter schools around the country are yanking the resources and ideas away from the public institution and instead of fixing a broken system are making due for themselves in this “dog-eat-dog” world. Why not take the charter-school ideology and apply it across the board, rather than isolating it for the privileged few?

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