10.05.2009

All Schools Are Not Created Equal

I have a lot of good things to say about the school that my children attend. I also get defensive fairly quickly.

Over the last year or so, the school has garnered some good (local) press. It has been hard fought. But the inevitable snark and meanspiritedness that has occasionally followed has been tough to take.

In a nutshell, there's been a lot of "that's what happens in mostly white schools" and mutterings about rich, privileged kids. There has also been whisperings that some of the good things that are happening somehow aren't fair or deserved.

Let me take a deep breath.

First, to clarify, the school that my children attend is like many, many schools in Philadelphia. It's culturally diverse. In truth, by percentage there are more black children than white children. And about 5% of the school is classed as Hispanic.

Terms like "rich" and "privileged" also aren't fair. The majority of kids at the school qualify for free lunch. The remainder is mostly solidly middle and working class. There are a few professionals but nobody with the kind of "Gossip Girl" flair that would catch your eye.

You want to know the secret to our success? It's not a race thing and it's not a money thing. Nobody's in our pocket and we aren't pulling any strings. The real secret is... get ready... we have the perfect combination of staff and parents who care.

I know, you're disappointed. You were hoping for something more dramatic. But that's all there is, really. The parents at this school wanted something more for their kids and they went out and got it. Long meetings, lots of letters, planning committees, begging for funds, starting our own programs... And teachers and administration who care and won't accept just "okay" for an answer.

And that's our dirty secret.

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