Ryana Jones is an Achievement First alumna and current Lafayette College student.
When I listen to the debates about charter schools, I hear people say that charters only accept the smartest students. They say that’s why they have higher test scores. As I reflect on the last eight years of my life and my experience at Achievement First, I realize one thing that contributed to my success was the amount of assistance and support that I received - this is why charter school students excel.
I specifically recall my first few months at Amistad Academy Middle School back in 2012 when I was transitioning from my local district school. I began my fifth grade year on a third grade reading level. I remember feeling discouraged at parent conferences when my teacher would lay out all the things I needed to do in order to be on track. I hated reading and at my old school, I could get away with doing very little reading as long as I could pass vocabulary and math tests. But when I transitioned to Amistad, I would read in my literature class, then again in independent reading, so my hate for reading began to change. As my first years at Amistad continued, I spent extra time during lunch and before basketball practice reading and completing my homework with my literature teacher, Ms. King. Even though at times I was discouraged, Ms. King knew that I and my other peers were capable of getting back on reading level. At the end of fifth grade, I was reading on a seventh grade reading level. Throughout my years at AF, my teachers were always willing to stay after school, spend lunch and even designate some of their weekend to make sure that my peers and I received all the help needed in order to be successful.
As I reflect upon the college process and matriculating to Lafayette, I am extremely thankful for all of my Achievement First college counselors who walked me step by step through everything from completing the common application to applying for classes and will continue to support me while I’m in college and after. Thanks to AF’s high standards and support, I not only developed a love for mysteries and dramas, but I learned that with hard work and confidence I am able to succeed in any area.
At schools like Achievement First and other charter schools, those relationships are what make students excited to keep striving for excellence. It’s not that charter schools admit only the smartest students. It is that charter schools support every student and believe in their success.