Harding High School graduate Jessica Gonzalez told the Bridgeport Board of Education at their last meeting that she struggled in math.
The reason: In her sophomore year, the teacher assigned to her Geometry class resigned and was never replaced.
Though Gonzalez lost almost an entire year of math, she is currently studying at Boston University and says that she’s doing the best she can to earn good grades.
What makes her story so troubling is that this was not an off year. This is an on-going problem plaguing Bridgeport and other high-poverty urban districts.
For the past four months, at least 200 Harding freshmen and sophomores out of the roughly 700 students enrolled in Algebra I and geometry were being “taught” by a revolving door of short and long-term substitutes. That means around 30 percent of freshmen and sophomores at Harding are an entire semester behind in math.
Last month, Harding sophomore Jadiel Torres, frustrated by the response he received from the administration, came out to a BOE meeting to let the members that he “had enough.”
Torres told Linda Lambeck at the Connecticut Post that for the past four months “no one tried to teach geometry.”
“Just because I live in a poor city,” said Torres. “Doesn’t mean that I deserve a poor education.”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Bridgeport has one of the lowest pass rates in Connecticut on the math portion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test. According to the Post, only 2.7 percent of Harding juniors scored at or above grade level on last spring’s state exams.
This is unacceptable. Not because students have failed, but because it’s clear as a community we have failed them.
Torres wasn’t the first student to reach out to the superintendent and Bridgeport Board of Ed.
In September, students sent letters to the administration asking for the situation to be remedied. Interim Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz said that at the time she had followed up and thought the matter was resolved.
At the BOE’s last meeting, the superintendent said that two teachers were hired to fill the vacancies at Harding, but there are twelve placements still unfilled throughout the district.
While it’s a positive sign that district leaders have finally acted, what a sad state of affairs that it took students writing letters and attending Board of Education meetings, practically begging BOE members and central staff, for a permanent teacher to be placed in the classroom.
The Board and the City of Bridgeport must do better.
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