By Morgan Franklin, BTC Student
“…I co-founded an afterschool tutoring and mentoring program at High Point High School in Beltsville, just 5 miles from the University of Maryland, and just 10 miles from Walter Johnson High School. Of the entering freshmen class at High Point, only 33% graduate. That’s 33%, compared to greater than 95% at schools like Walter Johnson.”
I have always been interested in education, but up until about 2 years ago, I felt as if I was so far removed from all the problems facing our nation’s students in lower-income areas. I went to public elementary school in Howard County, Maryland, and then attended a highly competitive, academically rigorous private high school in Montgomery County. Although I didn’t attend public high high school, Howard and Montgomery Counties are both known for their excellent public school systems. Walter Johnson High School, the public high school that serves my family’s neighborhood has a greater than 95% graduation rate. Demographically, it is over 50% white. When you live in an environment like the one I did growing up, you feel as if the problem of educational inequity is so far removed, and that your individual help is not significant whatsoever. This is definitely the perspective I had a few years ago.
In the fall, I co-founded an afterschool tutoring and mentoring program at High Point High School in Beltsville, just 5 miles from the University of Maryland, and just 10 miles from Walter Johnson High School. Of the entering freshmen class at High Point, only 33% graduate. That’s 33%, compared to greater than 95% at schools like Walter Johnson. Demographically, High Point is about 54% Latino, 38% Black, 5% Asian, and 3% White. It cannot be denied that these educational disparities, often referred to using the term “achievement gap” are correlated with racial and ethnic inequalities.
A large percentage of High Point students come from immigrant families, and the mothers of many of these families are only on a third-grade reading level. According to these statistics alone, the students from these families are inherently disadvantaged due to the lack of resources at home. Therefore, High Point, and other schools with similar demography, must provide the resources to compensate for these disadvantages.
Our nation’s education system as a whole is struggling. America is not only ranked as 20th in graduation rates, but a student drops out of school every 26 seconds. That is 1.2 million dropouts per year. To put that into perspective, that’s at least 3 students since you began reading this blog post. Among many other disadvantages, dropouts are 8 times more likely to go to prison and are not eligible for 90% of new jobs. The cycle of poverty will continue to expand if we do not directly face the issue of educational inequity.
So how does Beyond the Classroom relate to all of this? Prior to joining the Beyond the Classroom Living and Learning program, I planned to attain my CPA and establish a career in the public accounting field. Although I have always had an interest in teaching, I told myself I would pursue that after working in the professional workforce for a substantial amount of time. Through Beyond the Classroom, I was given many opportunities to research and explore the issue of educational inequity that consumes our nation. My experience with the tutoring program, coupled with my Beyond the Classroom courses, have allowed me to recognize my passion for changing our country’s education system by teaching in low-income communities. I now plan to apply to the 2014-15 Teach for America Corps to pursue my dream of teaching. Therefore, I encourage all of you to follow your dreams and passions. You have the power to change the world.
Edited by Dr. Caitlin Haugen, Adjunct Instructor, Beyond the Classroom