The PR of education reform focuses on the feel-good, beating the odds, stories about heroic teachers and and rock-star superintendents who never give up on their students.
There are the 106 original graduates of Chicago’s Urban Prep Charter school that Arne Duncan saved by shutting down the failing school that they would have attended if not for his policies. There is the boy whose Memphis Teach For America teacher taught him rugby — his ticket to college which got the boy featured in an ESPN documentary and got the TFA teacher on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. And there are the four inner-city kids who were featured in ‘Waiting For Superman’ — Anthony Black, Daisy Esparza, Bianca Hill, and Francisco Regalado. After ‘Waiting For Superman’ came out, they were even invited to The White House.
But what happens to these kids after they have served their purpose as PR pawns for education reformers?
For the most part, we don’t know.
Urban Prep had promised that they were going to publish their 6-year college graduation rate for that first class. They were supposed to do that, but never did, to the best of my knowledge. Recently one of the three Urban Prep campuses has been put on the school closure list in Chicago. This, despite it also having a 100% college acceptance rate like the other campuses.
Maybe we don’t hear much about whatever happened to the kids saved by the heroic ed reformers because for some of them they turned out like the rugby player who helped vault his TFA teacher into the 30 under 30 list.
According to the article.
Young told the story of an MICR player who eventually enrolled in Tennessee State University. “He had no family, no support. He would never have gotten into college if we hadn’t helped with his application, his financial aid, gotten him a ride to Nashville.
A year later, we found him homeless in Memphis because of a stupid $100 student affairs fee he couldn’t pay. They wouldn’t let him register for any more classes. He didn’t know who to call. It was just a disaster.”
Of course there is a lot more to this story than the “stupid $100 student affairs fee he could not pay.” But it doesn’t matter if the kid was saved by his TFA rugby coach or not. All that matters is that it seemed that way for long enough to get the guy on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.
You’d think that Davis Guggenheim, the director of ‘Waiting For Superman’ would keep in touch with his subjects — see if they graduated high school — see how they’re doing.
My own private detective skills led me to find one of them, Daisy Esparza, on Twitter. I tried to contact her, but didn’t get a response. The other three, I wasn’t able to find anything. Maybe they are on Instagram. If anyone knows anything — six degrees of separation and all that — leave a comment.