Guest-blog by Jazmine Miller, student leader with New York Communities for Change. She left SUNY Oswego after a tuition hike and is currently enrolled at Brooklyn College.
In 2005, after a lot of hard work and sacrifices, I graduated from Herbert Lehman High School in the Bronx with a B average and an SAT score that made me and my family proud. I was ready for the next step, on track to get my college degree, and looking forward to starting a career.
Or so I thought.
Because when I arrived at SUNY Oswego that fall, I found out how unprepared I was.
At Herbert Lehman, I was used to picking up what was covered in class easily. Once I got to college, however, I struggled at retaining all the information we were taught. It turns out that high school in New York City taught me how to pass a test, but in college they wanted me to show my critical thinking skills. I had never encountered that before; I was never given the opportunity to develop those skills. Instead of teaching me how to independently function and succeed in society, I was treated as a padded statistic by the Department of Education.
So, on top of learning new material, I had to study how to think critically rather than just how to take a test and pass it.
I was forced to spend a semester taking remedial classes despite my good grades and high test scores. These remedial classes were not covered by financial aid, so I ended up paying out of pocket to learn things I should have been taught in high school. The City ended up cheating both me and the taxpayers.
Recently, I found out that I am not the only New York City public school graduate who was cheated and entered college unprepared. In fact, only 13 percent of African American and Latino students who graduate from NYC schools are college-ready on graduation day. Thirteen percent!
You often hear the Department of Education brag about our improved graduation rates in NYC. But what good does it do to graduate more students if only a handful of them are prepared for the future and the rest will end up forced to pay out of pocket for remedial classes -- or just drop out?
We needed smaller class sizes, better resources and more support for teachers and students alike.
But instead of fighting for more funding and using existing resources to improve our schools, the mayor and Department of Education dismantled our neighborhood schools and wasted resources by starting new schools from scratch.
The schools aren't getting better. This year nearly half of the schools on the DOE's closing list are schools that were opened by the Bloomberg administration. And students like me, who worked hard in school but weren't given the education we deserve, continue to flood into college.
It's time we take a stand against Mayor 13 Percent and his failed educational policies by stopping school closings and getting schools the resources they need to make sure that students who want to go to college graduate college ready.