As a minister, I often remind people who are going through difficult times to keep hope alive. Hope can help heal a family after the death of a loved one. Hope can motivate someone who has lost a job find a new one. Hope makes most things in life seem possible.
But for families who have no choice but to send their children to failing schools the message of hope rings hollow.
In Harlem and the South Bronx, where I work with several churches and run afterschool programs, I repeatedly meet parents who complain about schools where their child is not learning or doesn’t feel safe. I also meet young people who are not willing to show effort because no one at school expects them to succeed. When these families think about the future, they should be filled with a sense of promise. Instead, they are gravely worried.
This is why I stood with many Success Academy and district school parents in Lower Manhattan last month and delivered an urgent message to the city: the time has come for bold change in our public schools. 143,000 students are trapped in failing schools. The thousands of families that joined me in calling on the city to fix our education crisis believe that great schools are possible for every child. They demand — and deserve — schools characterized by inspiring teachers and rich, challenging curricula.
The thousands of families that joined me in calling on the city to fix our education crisis believe that great schools are possible for every child. They demand — and deserve — schools characterized by inspiring teachers and rich, challenging curricula.
My own children have access to a high-quality education at two Success Academy schools in Harlem. For them, hope is alive and the possibilities seem limitless. In a neighborhood where so many schools are broken — where students below grade level in math outnumber advanced students 21 to 1 — my kids are thriving.
At their schools, the principals – Mr. Loskoch and Mr. Malone – greet them every morning with a smile and a handshake. The school day is longer so the opportunities for learning are greater; all four of my children are exceling academically and discovering a passion for art, music, or chess.
Behind their success are teachers who push them to aim high and work hard; my 7-year old daughter juggles academics and chess practice on weekends and afterschool. She believes she can go all the way to nationals this year because she has competed against her peers from the Upper West Side and won.
For all four of my children, going to college is not only possible but also probable. My 11-year-old daughter talks about going to college to become a doctor and my son tells me he plans to go to his teacher’s alma matter, the University of Delaware, even though he is only in kindergarten.
Unfortunately not many public schools are giving the majority of children in this city the same opportunities. Every family, not only mine, deserves to have access to great schools where all children are pushed to succeed and follow their dreams.
If we want all children to succeed, we need to give them reason to hope. Hope is built on confidence, and confidence comes from mastery. It’s time for our city to restore hope to our children. It’s time for excellent schools where all children learn.