A Smaller, Stricter School Means More Learning

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LA Youth, Los Angeles

I like my school. It’s strict, but the classes are small. We have new books with no marks or scribbles – just our names written inside the front covers – and the students listen to the teachers and do their homework.

Things at Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter High School are better than at my old school, Audubon Middle School. The desks at Audubon had gum under them, some students wore jeans some days, even though the dress code said gray pants, and we didn’t have enough books. Sometimes I felt like the school didn’t care about the students. So the students didn’t care much about the school.

Once I asked someone who dropped food on the floor, “Why are you being so lazy?” The trash can was right next to her. She said, “I don’t feel like picking it back up.” I was angry with her. She didn’t have to add more trash to the ground.

That would never happen at Dantzler, because if you drop something the teachers will see and tell you to pick it up. But also, the students care more about the school, because they feel like the teachers care more about them. Sometimes during lunch the teachers find the students who need extra help with their schoolwork and bring them to the classroom to work with them.

I liked Audubon. I had some good friends and teachers, but I wished that it had been smaller. There were too many kids, often 30 to 40 in a class, and it seemed like there were fights almost every day, and that made it hard to learn. At the beginning of eighth grade they told us not to fight or we’d get suspended. But students didn’t really care about getting suspended and fought anyway.

And the school didn’t have enough books. In our math class we had to share with the person sitting next to us. And the books were old with some pages that were folded or torn. People had written all through the books – curse words and gang names.

I didn’t feel like I was learning that much. Students would talk on cell phones and throw stuff in class. Even I talked in class because everyone else did. In math, my grades went from Bs and Cs to Ds and Us, because I didn’t do some assignments.

When it came time for high school, I thought that I would be going to Crenshaw, but in the summer my mom told me about Dantzler, a new charter school, and she asked me if I wanted to go. I knew Dantzler would be a lot smaller than Crenshaw, so I figured that I’d like it.

There are about 200 students, and the rules are strict: no chewing gum in class, no cell phones, and they enforce the dress code. If someone violates the dress code, the punishment is strict. But it’s good that the school is strict. People definitely behave better than they did at Audubon.

The good thing about having fewer students is fewer troublemakers. Now, since the teachers can spend time teaching and less time telling students to behave, I’m learning more.

My mom thinks that I made the right choice. She says that she likes the teachers because they’re strict. I get one to two hours of homework a night. I don’t like doing homework, but it’s good because it’ll help me get smarter and prepare me for college. I think I made the right choice, too.

© 2008 L.A. Youth, the newspaper by and for Los Angeles teens, http://www.layouth.com.