David Moreno* was a great student. In fact, he was one of my favorites. Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but we do.
David had been a student in my classes for three of his four years of high school. As a freshman in my 9th grade English class, he had perfect attendance, always did his homework, and came to class with insightful questions about the books we read. As a junior in my AP US History class, he was dedicated to understanding as much as he could about how this country worked. He attended every after-school tutoring session and every Saturday test prep opportunity that I provided.
As a senior in my AP Literature class, he was a voracious reader who took to the internet to read scholarly writings about the novels we were reading and asked for reading recommendations for the summer so that he could be better prepared for the challenges of college literature seminars.
David was the kind of student that teachers dream of having. So it was heartbreaking when David returned to school last December to tell me in person that he would be dropping out of college because the academic challenges were too much for him to handle, and he felt like he was wasting his money.
My experience with David was neither new nor unique. Every year, former graduates would come back to the high school to experience the nostalgia that comes with returning to such places after experiencing the challenges of the adult world. But they would also return to explain to the teachers who had worked so hard to prepare them for college that they would no longer be pursuing higher education because of a self-perceived lack of basic education.
This was, of course, always frustrating to hear, and I would always try to talk each student out of making this unfortunate choice, to little avail. For me, David was the wake-up call. And I knew that I was not alone. For several years, I have worked outside of the classroom doing community organizing with teachers from other schools throughout Los Angeles, and every year I hear stories that echoed my own. Why does this happen?Read More