November 12, 2015 16:17 Age: 2 yrs

Parent Voices: Our Students Deserve a Great Education

Category: News, Home

Jessica Ramos is a parent at AF Bushwick Elementary and Middle. Ian opinion piece for El Diario NY, she calls for better support for English Language Learners and all students in New York City schools. Here, she shares her story for English readers.

Mayor de Blasio campaigned on a promise to end New York’s Tale of Two Cities. But since he has taken office, his administration hasn’t lived up to this promise.  Despite claims of improvement, the pace of change has been far too slow.  Excellence in education is still being apportioned to a lucky few, who all too often do not include our city’s poor, minority, and immigrant children.

Dream Denied, a report released this week, shows that English Language Learners (ELLs) are consistently being left behind by New York City’s public schools.  According to the Department of Education’s own data, 48% of K-8 English Language Learners in the city’s public schools failed to make any progress toward fluency in 2014. Their families - families like mine - came to this city with hopes for a brighter future. Instead, they find themselves in a city where English Language Learners are being left behind.

I have lived this experience both as an ELL student myself in New York City’s public schools and now as a mother of three children and a guardian of my younger brother. My mother moved us to the United States from Mexico when I was eight. We barely made it here. As a child growing up in Bushwick, my older brother and I attended our local zone school. When we started, we barely spoke English. We were constantly bullied, did not receive the attention we needed, and our education suffered for it.  

I was lucky. By winning our school’s Spanish spelling bee, I was able to gain admittance to and attend a good middle school outside of our zone. My brother was not so lucky. He attended our local zone middle school. He was bullied and bloodied in fights a daily basis until he dropped out at age 17. My school was a few blocks away, but the experience was worlds apart. I could not understand the unfairness of it then, and I don’t understand it now.

My brother’s experience is not an isolated one. These 45,100 children - from the South Bronx to East New York - being passed along from one grade to the next without learning the skills they need to build a successful future.

This isn’t a problem limited to English instruction. With English Language Learners’ math proficiency barely in the double digits, Mayor de Blasio needs to confront the reality that students who speak English as a second language are being left behind by our public schools.

I want better for my younger brother, my children, and all children. Every student should be a priority.  Every student, no matter their race, income, or country of origin should be served well by our public schools and should be a priority for the Mayor’s administration.  

Our children deserve the type of education so many take for granted.  Families fight to get here in the name of opportunity, now it is time to fight to have our voices heard.  We demand schools that value our students for who they are and give them the education they need to pursue their dreams. No matter the native language we speak, we have a voice with something to say. It’s time for Mayor de Blasio to listen to it and respond with faster, bolder change.

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