For years here in Fairfield County, Connecticut, we have produced unemployable citizens, and we may continue to do so. Yesterday's Supreme Court decision, which gave back the school system's reins to a Board of Education that was failing its students for the past seven years, says it best: we are certain that the same old system will work, the system that has failed so many young people over the past decade. We are, by default, repeating the same action over and over while expecting different results, a process Einstein defined as "crazy."
One of the wealthiest parts of the country, Fairfield County boasts some of the nation's top public schools. I went to one of those schools. My college application was treated the same as a private school applicant's. Great teacher-student ratios. AP courses. Teachers with PhDs. And competitive students who fought for A pluses and for acceptance into the nation's top colleges and universities.
Other factors that influence a child's academic future were over-present. More than 100 books in the home. Mom and Dad were college educated. And so on.
I should stop there and say that I'm not exactly a credible voice on this topic, mainly because I didn't grow up in Bridgeport, where at first the schools were taken over by the State, only to be taken back by the originally-ousted Board of Ed. Nonetheless, I will still opine for the sake of speaking out for a population only miles from where I sit that has no voice.
Now, as that article states, a "school solution [is] sought." Great, we in the world of Education Reform are happy that the powers that be are finally looking for a solution to a grotesque, humongous problem.
The indecisiveness that has been found -- and in play for so long -- has left a generation of youth facing one of the biggest uphill battles in the nation. Some of its victims attend the charter high school where I work. We're the last chance for several Bridgeport teenagers (some of our students are in their twenties) who read at 2nd and 3rd grade levels. And their math scores are the same.
There can, therefore, be no more wonderment or expression of those-darn-kids-type of statements from anyone in this state. When the allure of the streets so severely outweighs the power and influence of the schools, and when the leaders within the system itself resist even the beginning stages of reform, we must begin to accept that crime will increase, that we have let down yet another demographic of helpless youth, and that further disenfranchisement will be felt by these youth through their adulthood.
Yet these students, some of whom will end up in our hallways, will still be held accountable for the State's standards, and to strive to participate in age-old classroom activities. In their schools, they will be forced to read A Tale of Two Cities, to write essays about Hitler's rise and fall, and to find jobs in an economy that isn't even hiring the best and the brightest of today's graduating classes.
They will be forced to sprint without first being taught how to crawl, and only because other kids their age in neighboring towns -- who have been preparing for the race for their entire lives -- are running in big strides.
So, will we see the same old stuff from the reinstated Board of Ed and its few new members?
Or, is this finally the end in Bridgeport? Will the old ways be voted out and replaced by innovative educational techniques, new schools and proven social programs? Will Bridgeport get a fair shot at being a once-poor American city surrounded by wealth that reversed its course and never let another young person leave elementary school without first learning the three Rs?