Monday, September 22, 2008

'It wasn't fair to me'

[Guest post by OCPA intern Emily Solomon]

An article in today's Journal Record examined causes of rising dropout rates in Oklahoma schools. As the state legislature conducts an interim study to assess the problem and determine solutions, we, too, must ask ourselves what needs to be done.

Andrew Grimes, a former Capitol Hill High School student, described a typical school day as one full of gangs, graffiti, and teen pregnancy. Grimes started his freshman year with 400 peers, but only graduated with 141.

Amir Jacob Darvishzadeh, another former Capitol Hill student, confirmed Grimes’ experience, and said the atmosphere was often a deterrent to learning. "Because of that, the students didn't care," Darvishzadeh said. "It wasn’t fair to me. It was a really sad experience."

One teacher, Sandy Bitner, said in her five years at the school, she knew of five students who were shot outside the building, one stabbed inside, some charged in drive-by shootings, and two charged with first-degree murder.

The interim study has found that some of the most evident causes of rising dropout rates are gangs, pregnancy, and language barriers. But, one cause many fail to see is our lack of school choice. If parents were allowed to choose where to send their students to school, they would likely send them to positive learning environments instead of defunct war zones.

It isn't fair, as Darvishzadeh said, to consign some students to unsafe and underperforming schools. It's time to give parents more choices.

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