Beyond Tinsley: Two former students look back
Original post made
on May 25, 2012
Raised in East Palo Alto, Laura Martinez spent her childhood crossing the freeway each weekday to go to school. As a student in the Palo Alto Unified School District through the Tinsley Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP), she understands better than most how to navigate the divergent worlds on either side of U.S. Highway 101.
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posted Friday, May 25, 2012, 8:29 AM
Posted by The Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2012 at 1:46 am
There are EPA families who are poor but prioritize education and the kids' performance show it. They submit assignments on time, are respectful of teachers and school property, and come to school looking kempt and ready to learn. They work as hard as their PA peers and are appreciative of the opportunities they receive at PAUSD. A few are even proud and honorable enough to refuse further hand-outs and insist on paying for some of the extra expenses incurred (field trips, presentation boards, etc).
On the other hand there are EPA families who are not even that poor but clearly don't prioritize their children nor education. Forget trying to get them to help out at school, whether monetarily or through volunteer hours -- you're lucky if the parents sign and send anything back to school. Some of them arrive late, some get picked up late, some do both. Some come to school sleepy, some don't have breakfast, some never have any homework done. Even the lack of breakfast is not due to poverty but disorganization.
In average, every VTP kid requires extra resources: language tutor (born and brought up in the U.S., but no English), reading, speech, math, homework help, summer school (basically catch-up classes), etc. This is in addition to the subsidized lunches, busing, field trips, school supplies, after school activities, computers, text books, etc. Sometimes the kids misplace the provided items in which case the school would provide them with a second, and even a third so they have one to work with.
A few of these kids have had resources poured into them which exceed those spent on the rest of the class put together.
Some of these kids come to school wearing the latest Air Jordan, talk about the seasons Giant tickets they have, and sport an iPhone -- which many PA kids don't even have. But the school cannot assume they have money and make them pay their share, so they are on "scholarship."
One example how this is affecting everyone: since there's only so much money to subsidize field trips, schools have had to reduce the number of trips the classes make or choose cheaper destinations. Nothing to do with what parents of the majority are willing pay, nothing to do with what's good for the kids' exposure or learning, everything to do with available funds to provide those scholarship trips. Not all scholarships go to EPA kids, but most do.
Despite the lack of family support, schools are expected get these kids up to speed and achieve what other kids (with strong family support) do, within the same timeline. If too many poor, colored, or EPA kids are held back, the school may be accused of bias, or of leaving them behind, so only the most extreme cases are held back, and too many are not. These kids then get further and further behind as they go up the grades.
One commenter above (Season) asked EPA parents would bother applying for a transfer if they don't care about education. My guess is that they hear that PAUSD schools are great and they think that it's all up to the district. They don't realize or want to acknowledge that parents have a lot to do with PAUSD's "greatness."
I'm happy to help those willing to help themselves. The district should not have to guarantee space for accepted kids until High School. Instead, if the families don't meet their side of the bargain then opportunity should be given to the next child who may be more ready to be taken to the next level. Kids who are more likely to benefit and succeed, and thus to propel their family out of poverty.
As for the abuse of the system, we all know it's been going on. Karen is not the first, nor will she be the last. They're taking advantage of loopholes -- you can shame them, but you can't blame them.