Entering my freshman year at Georgetown University, I should have felt as if I’d made it. The students I once put on a pedestal, kids who were fortunate enough to attend some of the nation’s top private and public schools, were now my classmates. Having come from D.C. public charter schools, I worked extremely hard to get here.If we take this student at face value, the first question that comes to my mind is "Why?"
But after arriving on campus before the school year, with a full scholarship, I quickly felt unprepared and outmatched — and it’s taken an entire year of playing catch-up in the classroom to feel like I belong. I know that ultimately I’m responsible for my education, but I can’t help blaming the schools and teachers I had in my early years for my struggles today.
Even though I attended some of the District’s better schools — including my high school, the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy, at the Parkside campus near Kenilworth — the gap between what I can do and what my college classmates are capable of is enormous. This goes beyond knowing calculus or world history, subjects that I didn’t learn in high school but that my peers here mastered long ago. My former teachers simply did not push me to think past a basic level, to apply concepts, to move beyond memorizing facts and figures.
Since the third grade, my teachers told me I was exceptional, but they never pushed me to think for myself. And when I did excel, they didn’t trust that I’d done the hard work. They assumed I was cheating. Now, only 10 miles from those teachers and schools where I was considered a standout, I’ve had to work double-time just to keep up.
Update: A teacher on an emaillist of which I am a member posted the following information about the above story, information that is important and germane:
Some basic facts to know when reading this article:
- DC Public Charter Schools are under the authority of the DC Public Charter Board.
- They are not under the authority of the DC Public Schools; thus, Chancellor Rhee, Chancellor Henderson, former Mayor Fenty, current Mayor Gray have no authority over them. Many comments assume falsely that they did or do.
- Likewise, the Washington Teachers' Union's contract is with DCPS; it has no contract with any of the DC Public Charter Schools, including Cesar Chavez PCS, which is the one the author attended and criticizes.