What happens when two students in New York City compare notes on their education?
Coco Rhum, a high school senior who attended middle school at M.S. 51 in Park Slope, now attends Beacon High School in midtown Manhattan, where most classrooms have computers and printers, and there are plenty of extracurricular activities like drama club, bowling and tennis. High school senior Bissiri Diakite remembers run-down materials at his middle and high school, Thurgood Marshall Academy, located just five miles from Beacon in central Harlem. “You would have your desk and chairs, as well as a smart board, in I guess, half the classrooms,” Bissiri said. “In many cases the textbooks are worn out, pages are ripped out of them, they’re written all over and we normally don’t have a full class set.” The school has only a few sports teams, including basketball and women’s badminton.
The two schools have a large achievement gap too: At M.S. 51 in Park Slope, 79 percent of students passed the state math test last year. At Thurgood Marshall in Harlem, that figure was just 9 percent. While Coco went on to attend Beacon High School, where just 25 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, Bissiri stayed at Thurgood Marshall, where 72 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. Although Thurgood Marshall receives more funding per student than Beacon, parents at Beacon raise thousands of dollars each year. This year, the Beacon Parent Association has a goal to raise $415,000, and they’re a third of the way toward reaching their goal.
On this episode of Miseducation, Coco and Bissiri discuss their drastically different school experiences and share their ideas for how to level the playing field and make sure all students have equal resources and opportunities.