Why Can't U Teach Me 2 Read? | Teachers College Columbia University

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Why Can't U Teach Me 2 Read?

Cahn Fellows Alumni Network holds roundtable book discussion
A graduate of a New York City public school opts out of her high school graduation ceremony because she’s graduated without being able to read and therefore deems the event “meaningless.”
It sounds like a movie plot, but those were precisely the circumstances of Yamilka, a young woman with a serious learning disability that went unidentified by her teachers at the Bronx High School for Career Development. After lawyers from Advocates for Children challenged the school system on her behalf, Yamilka was deemed the victim of “educational neglect” and awarded $120,000 worth of private tutoring sessions.
On February 3, a group of New York City principals and former TC Cahn Fellows gathered at TC to hear Beth Fertig, education reporter for WNYC public radio, describe Yamilka’s experience in a passage from her new book Why Can’t U Teach Me 2 Read?: Three Students and a Mayor Put Our Schools to the Test.
Sponsored by the Alumni Network of Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished New York City Principals at TC, the event also featured Carmen Farina, former Deputy Chancellor for New York City Public Schools, who, with Fertig, moderated the post-reading roundtable discussion. As well, Yamilka and her brother Alejandro, whose stories are chronicled in Fertig’s book, along with another learning disabled student, were in attendance. (All three go their first names only in Fertig’s book in order to protect their privacy.)
“The students wanted to tell their stories to help other students,” Fertig explained to the audience. “It’s important
to tell as many sides as there are to these stories.”
Stories like Yamilka’s raise a very important issue, namely, what can be done differently to prevent what happened to Yamilka from happening to other similarly-challenged students?
After, the attending principals shared their best practices and talked about ways of preventing other students from repeating Yamilka’s experience.
“Everyone is responsible for getting these kids to be readers, writers, listeners and speakers,” said John Barnes, a 2008 Cahn Fellow and Principal of the Bronx Early College Academy. “We’re teaching kids how to pass tests, but not necessarily how to be fully literate.”
Randy Asher, a 2010 Cahn Fellow and Principal of Brooklyn Technical High School, spoke generally about the need to reach all students. “Serving kids to reach their potential is not unique to kids with learning disabilities,” he said. “All kids are going to hit a learning wall at some point.”

Published Friday, Mar. 26, 2010


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