Detroit Teen Imani Harris on School Debt: 'My Education Suffers and I Deserve Better'

February 20, 2016, 9:07 AM

The writer, who attends Renaissance High School, wrote this column for Deadline Detroit.

Imani Harris

By Imani Harris

I am a sophomore and have spent both my high school years at Renaissance. There are many good things happening in the DPS system, and specifically at my school. Unfortunately, the negative seems to outweigh the positive.

Starting with a lack of teachers and ending with underfunded programs, DPS seems to be getting worse and worse by the second. Who can we blame, and what can we do to fix it? My education suffers and I deserve better.

During freshman year at Renaissance, I was very saddened to find that the Chinese program had been cut, but kind of excited that I got to explore French.

The first week of school was very odd because my French teacher only came the first couple of days. A few weeks later, she stopped coming altogether. I did not have a French teacher that whole first semester. It was only my first semester in high school, and I already had experienced a small portion of how this debt would affect me personally.

Now, as a sophomore I am in French 2. I struggle every day because I don’t even have a real understanding for the basics of French, so how can I understand second level French? This was just the first way that the DPS debt affected me.

This year as a sophomore I had an English teacher for the first two weeks of school. Unfortunately, the teacher decided to leave, and though I know she meant no harm on my education, it still didn’t change the fact that I had no English teacher.

We went without a stable English teacher for almost 6 months. Through the course of this time we continue to receive substitutes, and empty promises of a new teacher.

Throughout those months we went through a total of 5 teachers. This may not seem like a big deal, but imagine walking in after just getting used to one teacher, to find that you have a whole different person to learn and do work for.

We also received many assignments that never went into the gradebook. This really has taken a toll on me personally. English was my favorite and subject, and having that taken away from me has hurt me more than it may have hurt other people.

Since I have parents who are strong on education I don’t worry about slipping on grammar or writing skills. But what about the students whose parents work all day who wanted to be a writer? How can we be expected to move on to 11th grade English if we don’t have prior knowledge that we need to know? How can we test well our junior year without the required information we need in order to pass?

The debt that DPS has accumulated affects students directly. Class sizes are huge, and sometimes it seems impossible to function. A teacher cannot effectively teach 40 students in a class, answer every question, and make sure we have a full understanding. We don’t have enough resources to learn.

Books are a scarcity, and Renaissance is privileged to have the books that we do have. Some classes lack books period, others have very outdated, torn-up books. Some have the luxury of having received books just this year.

Teachers are scarce as well, and as DPS continues to push them around, they will only continue to disappear.

It seems as though my education is actually paying the debt for DPS.

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