Attendance: up. Dropout rates: plummeting. College acceptance: through the roof. My mind-blowing year inside a "low-performing" school.
It was Maria's first day at school, her first week in the United States. Her middle school in San Francisco was the biggest building she'd ever seen. It was bigger than the entire Best Buy store she'd walked through in awe on her first day in the city.
Eventually, Maria found her way to class, a special setting for Spanish-speaking newcomers. There she would practice English words for colors and numbers, learn how to introduce herself and how to say thank you. By eighth grade she was moved into mainstream classes, where she struggled. It didn't help that her math teacher started each class by saying, "Okay, my little dummies." He spoke really fast. Maria never raised her hand in his class.
One day Maria stopped by the administrative office, looking for someone to help her with multiplication. She took her spot in line behind a middle-aged woman who chatted with her in Spanish as they waited. Maria said school was really hard for her. The woman told her not to worry. "Latinas usually don't finish high school," she said. "They go to work or raise kids."