Diane\'s Blog

Cynthia Walker

December 12, 2010

Dear Dr. Ravitch,

Thanks for your answers to Bill Gates.

Friday I came home from a tough week in my middle school classes: Intervention Reading where most kids are 3 to 6 years below grade level after years of Open Court and an ESL class comprised of students born here in the states or in Mexico or Central America — three different grades and three different learning levels in one class and textbooks filled with mandatory tests of reading, writing and speaking ability.

On my local news was the mayor of L.A. blasting teachers for how poorly students here are doing and encouraging parents to take over by using the recently passed CA law where parents can take over the decisions for a school that has been low-performing for four years in a row and throw out the teachers and have a charter school take over the school. This was obviously a political ploy on his part as he has been trying to take over the LA Unified School District schools for several years now and run them as part of Los Angeles; he has not been successful because many of the schools are not actually in the city limits.

This was followed by two radio talk show “pundits” who proceeded with more teacher and union bashing. Demoralized is a light word to express how I felt. Then I read a blog with your answers to Bill Gates reproduced and I can only say thank you. Oh yes, and the statements about how we are just in it for the money! That was a real laugh.

I was trained in New York City in the CUNY system and graduated from Hunter College with a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language in 1978 after taking the 30 units to get my teaching credential before I was admitted to my masters program. I have pretty much been teaching since 1974 when I went back to school to add that Masters degree to my Journalism degree. Most all of my teaching life I have worked in poverty areas like Harlem and Spanish Harlem and South Central L.A. Now I teach in an area that is across the street from Watts in L.A.,and my school is entirely in the free lunch program.

What you replied to Bill Gates was entirely right and true. My school opened six years ago and we now have a 97% attendance rate. We have consistently raised our test scores every year but we can never meet the requirements for NCLB because we have large ESL and large Special Ed populations and we always just miss our target because of that. This is despite reclassifying our ESL students to Regular English at a higher percentage rate than any other school in our mini-district. Many of my students do not eat before coming to school and most do not have regular medical care. Some are the children of illegal immigrants who had little or no schooling and do not speak more than a few words of English. They cannot help their children with their homework and the children probably had few or no school readiness skills.

It does not help our students to bash their teachers daily. It just demoralizes and disrespects those of us who care enough to spend our days teaching in low-performing districts instead of running when things get tough. I would like to challenge any one of those multi-millionaires to come to my school without the entourage and the press coverage and teach for a week so they can see how things really are in a school where children are allowed to disrupt the class repeatedly and back-talk the teachers.

Thanks for sticking up for us. Keep up the good fight.

Cynthia Walker