This school year marks the first time in twenty years that I am not taking part in the first day of school. As a recently nationalized American, I can’t help but think about the current state of the public education system in the country I now call home.
I grew up attending school in both Latin America and the U.S. This experience provided me a unique perceptive, as I always found it mind boggling to think about the learning disparities from one U.S. public school to another.
The way I described this to my family back in Venezuela was by quoting Dickens (my favorite author), “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” For such an elaborate and successful public school system, the learning gap is too wide, and the best of the system can be overshadowed by the worst. In the Dallas public school system, there are two extremes that reflect this dilemma: a top fifteen school and a school with the seventh highest dropout rate in the country.
Growing up in Venezuela, it felt like everyone attended a private school and, in actuality, everyone around me did. In Latin America, public school systems hardly exist and, sadly, the average student drops out by the fifth grade.
When my family moved to the U.S., after reading so much about the gap in education mainly by the U.S. Hispanics population in public schools, my parents choose to enroll me in private education. This was clearly a generalization, as not all Hispanic students fall behind in public school, but it is a frightening statistic.
For a Hispanic migrating to the U.S., being held back in school is not something you want to take a chance on if you can prevent it. It’s hard enough to deal with making new friends in a foreign place, learning a new language and adjusting to new customs and cultures.
It is unfortunate that in most of Latin America, private schooling is usually the only path for those that seek higher education, thus it is hard for many of us to part from our preconceived notions.
It is also unfair to compare public education between the U.S. and Latin America. However, it is not unfair to question the reason for the education gap in public school districts across the U.S.
When deciding my post graduate career path, I considered accepting an offer with Teach for America, an organization that works in impoverished public schools to provide every child with adequate education. It is programs like this that help bridge this education gap in the public school system.
For many Hispanic immigrants, private school is not an option, thus it is important that public schools have the adequate resources to ensure that all students, regardless of their nationality, do not fall behind and add to the U.S. learning gap.
Although my “back to school” days are behind me now, I’m thankful to have had such a diversified educational experience. One that has helped shape my career path and sparked my passion for education.