Friday, October 09, 2015

Harlem West: A Public School That Works for Those Potentially "Left Behind"

Nicholas Simmons, a seventh-grade math teacher at Harlem West Success Academy has an excellent article here. Students doing badly at North Charleston high and other schools in Charleston County couldn't possibly be more disadvantaged than his, whose achievements are making the rest of New York City's schools look pathetic. He explains his motivation:
My final point is much less easily quantified, but no less important. It's what drives my colleagues and me to work long hours and make ourselves available by phone or in-person to parents and students well after school hours and on the weekends.
In our view, teachers are tasked with arguably the most important public service in the country. We look upon our work as every bit as urgent as that of doctors or firefighters. The lives we attend to are just as dear, just as precious, and failure to help our students live up to their potential is just as tragic as a lost life. 
In neighborhoods like Harlem, the power of a high-quality education can be transformative. It can literally save lives and build futures. It is the one true ticket to pursuing and realizing the American Dream. Three out of four of my students are poor or "low-income". They have none of the advantages my friends and I had growing up, yet they are every bit as deserving. A world-class education is their lifeline to opportunity and a better life.
Idealistic? Yes. The question is how to replicate such success in CCSD schools, charter or not. It starts with the will to do so.

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