Education often fails English-learning students

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Common discrimination in high schools in 2018

It was two weeks before graduation day when my cousin was informed he wouldn’t be graduating from Bear Creek High School.  He hid in his room for days crying, staring at his cap and gown he bought the week before in preparation.

He didn’t want to tell any of us, but there was one person he especially didn’t want to face – his mother.

When he finally built the courage to tell her, she cried, but not because she was angry or even disappointed; she cried because she knew how badly her son wanted to graduate.

My cousin’s mom speaks little to no English, but it didn’t stop her from walking into the high school to ask if there was anything her son could do to fix this.

All she understood was the word “no.”

She said the school’s response to the situation was: “Why didn’t he try harder?” and “Why didn’t he ask for help?”

School officials should have asked themselves if they tried hard enough.

My cousin and I went to the same school, but we experienced it differently.

I almost didn’t graduate myself, but school was never hard for me. If it was it was because of my own doing.

The biggest difference in us? I had two English speaking parents who could afford to live in a predominantly white neighborhood. My cousin lived with us, for his high school years, but didn’t in those formidable years of school that would determine how he did at Bear Creek.

I saw, first hand, how hard my cousin worked to graduate. I felt guilty.

I felt guilty because what came so simple for me to understand and comprehend was a challenge for him.

While I acknowledge there are a handful of instructors and counselors who are good, some only seem there to pay their bills.

My first two years of high school I saw my counselor twice and both times she made me feel like my questions and concerns were stupid. I stopped requesting to see her.

It wasn’t until my junior year when I got a new counselor that things started improving.

That counselor checked in on me regularly. This counselor was an advocate for education. He didn’t wait for students to come to him, he came to them.

If we continue to keep the mentality that if a student needs help they should ask, then we are going to continue to have students like my cousin – who don’t graduate.

I have friends and family who still go to Bear Creek and feel like they can’t talk to their teachers when they don’t understand something, because they are embarrassed in front of the entire class.

The school failed my cousin. The education system failed him before that.

I believe the first thing that needs to be changed is the counseling system, I understand the counselor to student ratio is substantially different, but we need more.

It’ll cost, yes. But what you get in return is a higher percentage of graduating students, particularly students who are English-language learners.

Stockton is full of diversity. As much as we acknowledge that, we also seem to disregard it when trying to meet student needs.

We have more students whose first language isn’t English filling the schools in our community and we need to do better in guaranteeing them a fair education, and experiences where they feel comfortable asking questions.