Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Another "Schools Alone" Success Story

Michael Goldstein:

Another MATCH alum had a fabulous City Year experience. I won’t use his name here, but I’m just as proud of him.

As a MATCH student, he struggled with what seemed to be depression, sometimes even becoming borderline catatonic during class. Teachers spent extra time with him; we hooked him up with an amazing mentor; arranged for some cool summer programs; sometimes I’d help him with homework at the Barnes & Noble down the street.

For months, though, we struggled with the underlying issue. Dad had died of a drug overdose, and partly as a result, mom was strongly averse to psychiatry (in part because she feared medication). Pru and I worked it and finally got him admitted to Children’s Hospital with mom’s consent, and then hooked him up with the best social worker I’ve ever met. He decided to drop out and do a GED, but he stabilized medically.

I didn’t hear from him for a while. But he walked up to me at our high school graduation last June, wearing a red City Year red jacket and a big grin. He confidently looked me in the eye, and told me that City Year was the best thing that ever happened to him. No joke — exact words. He’d mostly tutored 3rd and 4th graders at one of the struggling elementary schools in Boston, and had grown a lot as a young man.

Of course, this is a good story, but it is worth noting that MATCH considers itself a "no excuses" charter school, the kind of school loved by people who believe "schools alone" can solve our educational problems. Yet, when you look inside, you see the role of social workers and other advocates, public mental health infrastructure, negotiating parental beliefs and dispositions, and ultimately finding an alternate route which proved successful for the student.

The right thing to do, just not the story we're being sold.

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