When I found out my child would be attending Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts, one of New York City’s “Renewal Schools,” I was hopeful. I went to Wadleigh when I was a girl; I knew it was struggling, but I thought the new focus and resources that came with the Renewal program meant it could only get better. Unfortunately, even with the new label, the school keeps failing its students.
When he announced Renewal Schools in November 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio made them sound as if they were at the very center of his education platform. He promised that the program would turn around chronically struggling schools.
But in Harlem, where I live, and in other neighborhoods like mine, nothing has changed. The schools are still not making the progress that parents expect and need to see. It’s clear to me that politicians like the mayor won’t do enough to shake up a very broken system; instead, the kids where I live get stuck with the same failed experience every year.
Unfortunately, Wadleigh Secondary School is a perfect example of what’s wrong. On the past two state tests, not a single student was proficient in math. The numbers have actually gotten worse since Renewal began. For that reason, I don’t call it a real turnaround plan, and neither do other parents — which is why enrollment has dropped 40 percent since the mayor took office.
My child tells me school is like a roller coaster. She works hard but keeps coming up short in algebra. In her English class, she was on the honor roll last semester but got sick, missed a few days, and her teacher removed her from the honor roll. What kind of message does that send to a kid who’s really trying? I feel as if none of her teachers are stepping up to truly help the kids based on their learning and personality needs and no one is holding the teachers and other staff accountable.
To make matters worse, my child has been bullied constantly since starting at Wadleigh. I have spoken to the principal on several occasions, but no one has taken any action.
I won’t give up. I fight every day to make sure that my child receives a quality education. I try to stay in constant contact with her teachers. But the school isn’t organized to provide the instruction she needs to be prepared for college by the time she graduates.
Every child is entitled to a quality education, but the system isn’t serving my community or my child. That’s why I applied for a spot at a charter school — I won’t let her be just another statistic. The charter we’re on the waiting list for provides real hope, opportunity, and results. Mr. Mayor: You can give a school any fancy title you want, but if you don’t make the necessary changes, another generation of children will suffer.
(The author of this piece is Lucy Garner, a parent at NYC’s Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts in Harlem. It was originally posted at The 74.)