As a sixth grade teacher at MS 80, I was deeply disheartened to see recent negative news stories that have attacked our students, staff and community. Our students are upset and hurt that they have been made to look like delinquents. Simply put, what has been written about MS 80 is false—if you take the time to talk to our students and teachers, it is easy to see that there are amazing opportunities and programs at our school.
Not only are teachers coming in prepared to provide the strongest academic experience possible, students are eager to learn each and every day.
Students are taught from a wide range of texts and materials, and constantly challenge themselves to reach the highest level of learning so they can grow and prepare themselves to attend the best high schools. We use digital tools in a variety of subjects, which has allowed our students to learn and practice from programs and lessons that were previously unavailable to them. The use of digital tools has served as an excellent way for students to share their work and provide feedback, which is one of the most successful learning practices we have implemented at MS 80.
The perseverance of our students and staff has translated to significant academic growth over the last few years— chronic absenteeism has dropped, and proficiency in ELA and math among our students have grown 15 percentage points and 7 percentage points since 2014. While just a few years ago MS 80 was considered a school that was struggling, we are now a school on the “Rise,” and are transitioning out of the Department of Education’s “Renewal Schools,” program. Of course we have more work to do, but I know that we have the tools in place to allow for more success in the years ahead.
These improvements are thanks to principal Polanco’s leadership, and working under him has been the best experience an educator can ask for. Principal Polanco always offers his continued support and is responsive to the needs of teachers, students and their families. His open door policy provides everyone in the community the opportunity to chat, raise concerns, ask for help and share ideas. As a result, we have developed a culture of trust among teachers and staff at school. I know that I can seek out their advice and rely on them to help me work through any issues I am having in the classroom. I have personally grown tremendously as a teacher at MS 80 because principal Polanco empowers me to take risks in the classroom that encourage student growth and academic achievement.
Challenges exist at every school, but at MS 80 our mission is to ensure that we support and push one another as a family.
We work together as a community to address any issues of academic development or misbehavior. This can take the form of a one to one talk, a parent phone call or meeting, or a quick check-in with students to get them back on track. Since we are a family, we don’t pass judgment on one another. Instead, we band together during challenging times and work to build each other up.
None of the improvements at MS 80 would have been possible without our amazing students, who are working hard and pushing themselves beyond what many thought possible. It is completely irresponsible to generalize our students and defame their character, and what has been written and said about them could not be further from the truth.
I have had many deep and intense conversations these last few days with my students to console them and reassure them of their worth. While many of the young adults in our building face difficult odds, every day they bring a focus, determination and work ethic to class that is truly inspiring.
We will not let misinformation about our school stop us from continuing to thrive. Our students are amazing scholars who should be highlighted and celebrated for their accomplishments. Our teachers and staff work tirelessly to provide the best education possible. And our school is an amazing family that loves and cares for one another.
The future at MS 80 is bright, and I cannot wait to see what we are able to accomplish next.
Rosse Mary Savery is a sixth grade teacher at JHS 80