I caught wind of this story a few minutes ago reading twitter. Man did it piss me off.
Here’s the ground work: A city school in Rochester, New York gave essentially an extra-credit assignment to its students. One that I think was actually a fantastic assignment.
When school officials handed out copies of The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, they said they hoped students would connect with the abolitionist’s struggle learning to read at a time when African-Americans were largely prohibited from becoming literate.
I absofuckinglutely love this as an opportunity for students. I even love that it wasn’t presented as a mandatory assignment but rather incentives were given and students could choose to not only read but also respond. Responding from an educator’s perspective is key to understanding how well students connect with the material. It can convey if a student made text-to-self, text-to-text, or even text-to-world connections, all of which happen when a student understands a material implicitly. Beyond what responding can provide as a formative assessment of reading skills, it can also provide assessment tools for student’s abilities as writers.
In other words, great assignment.
That may be the only thing they did right.
That’s exactly what 13-year-old Jada Williams did, drawing a parallel between Douglass’ experience and those of many of her classmates in the City School District. And in an essay that she turned in at School 3, she compared illiteracy among city school students — about 75 percent cannot read at a level appropriate for their age — to a modern day form of slavery.
So a student reads the book, understands the book, and then takes the time to write how the book resonated with her struggles. Hell, she doesn’t just connect the tale to her own struggles. She connects it to those of her peers as well (a thousand points awarded to this girl for empathy uncharacteristic of a thirteen year old). This girl should win award. I mean if they are giving awards out for awesomness*…
After Jada turned in the essay, her mother Carla Williams said that her daughter started getting in trouble in class and earning poor marks.
Hmmm, that doesn’t sound like much of an award. Oh wait, her award was actually being bullied out of the school by teachers and administrators.
Jada’s mother, who said the girl had never been in trouble before, said she started receiving calls from various teachers at the school saying that Jada was acting out in class and seemed “angry.” When she came to the school to meet with teachers, Williams said that school staff members brought copies of the essay.
Several meetings, however, yielded no results and the problems persisted. Williams made the decision to transfer her daughter to School 19, but Jada was not happy there.
So why the fuck would her school turn on her for going above and beyond? Turns out she made a reasonable comparison of low literacy rates in her school and the inability of the white teachers to properly address the problem as being similar to Douglas’s own path toward literacy. Jada said in more words and far more
politely eloquently than I will…Hey there teachers, you are perpetuating our continued enslavement in society by not properly addressing our education needs.
So Jada Williams, a thirteen year old girl, stood up and told some teachers they weren’t doing their job. Some teachers, who obviously have some very thin skin, were insulted and decided to bully this bright young woman out of the school.
They should be ashamed of themselves.
*This foundation did think an award for awesomeness should be given. There are also links from there to the girl reading her essay.