By Tanisha Bell
After its cumbersome stories of defeat and neglect, Compton Unified has risen to a higher level of improvement.
I grew up in Compton and attended four different schools there. Although I was a child, I noticed many teachers were not teaching; they were discussing who’s the smartest, worst-behaved, cutest or who they thought would be the most successful in life.
Teachers are hired to teach, help, guide and encourage, but some teachers I encountered at CUSD did the opposite.
In retrospect, certain teachers only reacted to the actions of poorly behaved students. What I can say is: I had several friends who were treated much differently than what I experienced.
These students, my friends, were the ones who did not have their parents present at home and were set in their ways of not having to report to anyone or follow directions.
Not all teachers turned their backs on these students.
There were many teachers who did more than expected as a teacher in such a low-income area. Some teachers held after-school and Saturday programs, which I was sure to take part in.
I was a student in the CUSD from pre-school to eighth-grade. I am aware of the lack of teaching, counseling and advising from many teachers and administrators. I was unaware of how much I lacked as a student at CUSD when my parents enrolled me in Downey Unified School District for high school.
The Downey curriculum was something out of this world: strategic, challenging and something new compared with what I experienced at CUSD, which was simple and mundane.
When I began attending Downey High School in 2003, my parents did their part in teaching and spending time with me, keeping me well in tune with my schooling and studies.
I was always two to three grade levels ahead in English and math, but there was still an academic challenge upon my arrival at DHS.
Although I graduated from DHS, I spent some time at Dominguez High School (DOHS) in Compton during my senior year.
Upon my arrival into DOHS, I noticed major differences in the operation, the teaching, the cleanliness and the inability to communicate with my homeroom government teacher.
I did not have a homeroom teacher for two weeks. Sometimes my class sat in the overheated bungalow, while we waited for the principal to find a substitute teacher for us.
The principal would occasionally split up my twelfth-grade homeroom class to fill in the seats in other senior government classes. This raised many red flags for me. My parents checked me back into DHS, at my request.
Below are quotes from former students of CUSD who went to Downey and other better-funded districts.
“I noticed the teaching was very different at Sussman Middle School in Downey, Calif., compared to the teaching at Walton Middle School in Compton, Calif.,” said Lacena Bell, a former CUSD student.
“I realized the curriculum was different in Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District than CUSD,” said former CUSD Isaiah Williams. “There was less crime in NLMUSD, which means students had less worries and could focus more on their homework and studies.”
The aforementioned quotes are from two students who graduated and moved on from CUSD eight to 10 years ago.
After doing research, I am pleased to know the graduation rates have improved in CUSD. According to an online source, covering the graduation years of 2011-16, it provides noteworthy information.
Individually, Compton High School (73.2%) made the biggest improvement by surpassing the previous year by 10 percent. Centennial High School (76.2%) saw a gain of 6.7 percent over the 2011-12 school year. Dominguez High School’s graduation rate (74.7%) rose by three percent.
According to the same online source, in June 2016, Willowbrook Middle School “took a trip from Compton to Washington, DC.” WMS attended the Jefferson Students Awards Foundation Students in Action National Competition and stood in representation for the greater Los Angeles and CUSD.
Knowing what it feels like to grow up in such a low-end area, being able take a trip to Washington, DC., and get a chance to visit the White House, must have been a dream come true for students who, I am certain, felt like they would never have or find a way out of Compton.
I am certain this trip has shined a brighter light on the fact there is always a way out from being in a dungeon, as long as we continuously strive.
What brought this significant change to CUSD are the workings of students, parents, administrators and teachers, according to an online source.
For all students to excel, succeed and prevail in life, regardless of their location or race, it is very important and motivating to give students a chance to see something new, learn something new, and help them feel they are important, appreciated, and very much a factor in helping the world go round.
We are one.