Alumna leads on-campus discuss of education reform
By Steve Seepersaud
The public school system in New York City is broken; however, instead of putting up with it, thousands of families are seeking alternative opportunities for their children. That's the premise behind The Lottery, a documentary recently screened on campus.
About 90 people - a group including alumni, current students and members of the local community - watched the film and took part in a discussion of the movie and future directions for public education.
Dahlia Rissman Graham '06 (pictured), coordinator of the documentary's nationwide campus tour, led the discussion. The Lottery follows four inner-city families who are essentially betting on a long shot by entering their children into a charter school lottery.
Graham was a fourth-grade teacher at Harlem Success Academy I in Manhattan where, in 2010, the students in her grade had the highest standardized test scores of any public charter school in the state in math. She says the school's culture, which focuses on literacy and encouraging the kids to pursue college study in the future, is a big factor in the students' success.
"Harlem Success Academy I is featured in the film," Graham says. "This [tour coordinator] opportunity was perfect for me because of my experience working with people at the school."
Sandra Gaona, a freshman at Binghamton University, attended the event and talked about her own experience as a student at New Heights Academy Charter School in Manhattan. She did not want to attend public school, so her family enrolled her in a lottery for a spot in a charter school. She graduated from New Heights as class valedictorian.
"I felt that I had an advantage in attending a charter school as I received more attention and time by teachers who were motivated to get the students into college," Gaona says. "Most of my peers and I are first-generation students attending college. Our parents were not offered the same education we are now receiving. In terms of educational reforms, charter schools provide an outlet for change. Teaching methods are more current."
The event was sponsored by the Alumni Association, Graduate School of Education and Center for Civic Engagement.