Sun Serial: A Mother’s Journey | Part 4 — The unsettling score

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Editor’s note: In the coming weeks and months Worcester Sun will chronicle the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor — and aspiring small business owner — Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. This is the fourth in an occasional series in which we plan to illuminate the acute struggles of families with limited resources; and how families and entrepreneurs alike can navigate the political landmines and red tape to start their own business, and make a difference.

Giselle Rivera-Flores and her daughter, Brooklyn

Courtesy Giselle Rivera-Flores

Giselle Rivera-Flores and her daughter, Brooklyn

Have you ever doubted your very own instincts? Had that gut-wrenching feeling you get inside that painstakingly determines your next move on a path of obscurity?

This is a feeling I feel all too often.

I attend meetings with families like mine to hear about their personal struggles with their children’s academic achievement in the Worcester Public Schools.

They are not merely stories of language barriers or short-term discrepancies in academic success. Rather, the tales I relate to from these families are of the inequitable disadvantages some students experience through the public schools.

My daughter, Brooklyn, is not the only public school student in Worcester enduring difficulties in academic success due to learning disabilities and a lack of increased educational support.


A Mother’s Journey: Check out parts one, two and three of our first Sun Serial.


Now, when I say there is a lack of educational support within the school system, I am fully aware of the funding process and the funneling of the funds to each school for academic and structural needs. I understand the process, but I do not understand how the children of Worcester can be expected to achieve success — in testing like MCAS and PARCC — and complete such a rigorous workload — with Common Core standards — if they are ill-prepared.

If you are following the current debate between supporters of continuing statewide MCAS exams and the piloting of new standardized testing, PARCC (intended to better prepare students for college), then you are likely aware that the results of the practice exams given to some students in Massachusetts during spring of 2015 were recently released.

Most students were “less likely to score in the ‘meeting expectations’ range than MCAS students were to score Proficient or above,” according to the Oct. 20 release from the Department of Education website: http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=21258.

[Editor’s note: The report also indicates that a) the data are meant to be used as a baseline for future analysis; and b) the success rate of MCAS in its first year was significantly surpassed by year-one PARCC scores overall.]

With a Nov. 17 state vote looming over the debate, the daunting notion that students are unprepared for standardized exams is inexplicable to me. Although the shift to a new standardized exam like PARCC can cause a wider gap in academic achievement in students, especially in students from a low-income household or a secondary-language household, it is not the testing that should be debated.

The part that concerns me, especially with the education of my daughter, is the fact that there are 33 percent of students not meeting the satisfactory requirement — “proficient” or above — to pass the MCAS exam statewide. An exam introduced to Massachusetts nearly 20 years ago.

To solve the problem of the gap between what the children are learning in school and what is needed to pass these standardized exams is, simply, time.

There is a void in the inner city and in the path ahead for the children of tomorrow — and I say that in the least clichéd way possible. There has to be a spot to ignite the awareness, implement the support and pave the way for the students.

Each student should be able to receive additional time with teachers, school faculty, volunteers, tutors and so forth, without burning through the pockets of their families in a strong effort to give these students the competitive advantage they need to succeed.

When looking into the Worcester Public Schools and glancing at the report card given by the Department of Education to each school, I noticed that Brooklyn’s school ranks at the 14th percentile in school performance. While the elementary schools in Massachusetts as a whole rank at an average total of 57 percent proficient in language arts, science and math, Brooklyn’s school ranks at 15.5 percent in a total average of the same subjects.

Let us go back to my original question. Have you ever doubted your very own instincts?

I can say I have done so repeatedly, but as of today, my path to opening a tutoring center for low-income students to gain the extra time they need with one-on-one instruction is clear.

There is a void in the inner city and in the path ahead for the children of tomorrow — and I say that in the least clichéd way possible. There has to be a spot to ignite the awareness, implement the support and pave the way for the students.

Currently, Brooklyn continues to participate in private tutoring lessons at $15 per hour every Saturday for two to three hours. I look at her at the end of the tutoring session and she gives me a look of satisfaction, as she has been able to find progress with a little extra help from her tutor.

Her tutor has told me she’s also noticed the lack of fundamental support throughout the state’s public schools due to some levels of learning disabilities. As of now, though, she is sparking a chain of events and helping me build a foundation for my daughter to excel in her academics.

Not only am I grateful to have found a tutor for $15 an hour, but I was able to find a tutor who understands the struggles of the everyday student. Better yet, I think I just may have found my first hire for the tutoring center.

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