As a graduate of A.L. Brown High School and a student of education policy, I always look forward to reading Larry Efird’s columns in the Salisbury Post. However, I found myself firmly disagreeing with the premise he set forth in Do I teach at a low-performing school? on Nov. 8.
Contrary to what Mr. Efird claims, good intentions and school spirit are not enough.
A.L. Brown High School is a low-performing school.
It is low-performing because students are left behind.
It is low-performing because the vast majority of my graduating class will not receive a college diploma.
It is low-performing because so many students graduate unprepared for the workforce, higher education or anything else they wish to pursue.
It is low-performing because we live in a state that ranks 46th in teacher pay.
It is low-performing because we live in a community with extreme racial and socioeconomic inequality.
It is low-performing because for every great teacher (like Mr. Efird), there is a teacher who presupposes what his or her students can achieve based solely on their race and income level.
It is low-performing because so many of its teachers definitely care about students, but do not have the skill sets, training or tools to educate effectively.
I am proud of my high school. I still celebrate every Bell Game and reminisce about my days in afterschool theatre productions. I continue to benefit from the formative relationships I was able to build with teachers, administrators and fellow students. Beautiful moments and incredible learning do take place there. I share these truths not to tear down my high school, but because I want to build it up.
My experience at A.L. Brown led me to become a leader in Students for Education Reform, a national organization of college students working to improve education for every child. I believe that by working together, community members, educators and policymakers can improve schools like A.L. Brown so that they are able to give every student the education he or she deserves.
A.L. Brown’s low performance is not a singular fault of families, school faculty, local government or the state. It is a combination of all these things, and it is why we must work together, not against each other.
I ask that our community and policymakers embrace passionate, talented educators like Larry Efird. I also ask that our schools open themselves up to policy innovations that will help their students. Most of all, I ask that we all come to the table with full hearts, open minds, and a promise to listen. This is what will bring schools like A.L. Brown to their full potential, and this is what our students deserve.
This perspective was originally published in the Salisbury Post on November 12, 2015.