One of the first things attendees received at a Hearing Youth Voices forum on Monday was an exam dubbed the CRAPT Test. A play on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, the exam offered a few questions on vocabulary and writing comprehension—all in Spanish.
Erick Carrion, a graduate, collected the papers and announced that most people who attempted the CRAPT Test failed miserably. The purpose of the exercise, he explained, was to demonstrate the difficulties experienced by students who take the CAPT while still learning the English language.
This presentation was one of several offered at the forum, which discussed the findings of 10 youth researchers. The group, made up of current and former New London students ages 14 to 19, interviewed 41 students and alumni at NLHS and the to find out what issues the students believe are most pressing in the .
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Chelsea Cleveland, who has helped oversee the group, said Hearing Youth Voices intends to include more youth input in matters regarding the district.
“We’ve heard complaints, but we’ve also heard really good things about the New London school system,” she said.
The students interviewed brought up concerns on a number of subjects, including racism, sexism, teacher favoritism, and the achievement gap. Although 54 percent of those interviewed said they had a positive relationship with some teachers, 80 percent reported a negative relationship with some teachers. Fifty-one percent said they had seen teachers use favoritism, often towards athletes or magnet school students. Some students said this led to a sense of inferiority.
The presentation by Hearing Youth Voices explained the findings, but also expressed the concerns in creative ways. These included poems and skits using dialogue collected from real student experiences. In one sketch, a teacher clashes with students and hopes to be assigned a class of students from the magnet school. In another, the teacher refuses to allow a student learning English to speak Spanish and says he should return to his country if he wants to speak it.
“Our goals are to change the way adults think about us and improve the schools for New London students,” said researcher Yanitza Cubilette.
Another researcher, Genesis Cubilette, gave an informational presentation critical of the No Child Left Behind Act. She said curriculum has transitioned to preparing for standardized tests and led to a “push out” policy where students who are performing poorly are forced out of school rather than assisted.
“In the end it’s only for the title and the money, because students aren’t being helped,” she said.
Laura Burfoot and Cleveland, both alumni of New London Public Schools, formed the group with doctoral student Ranita Ray after discussing how to involve youth in school policies. They did some fundraising through the to support the activities, while the and Work For It teen employment program hired the researchers. donated its space and supplies to assist the project.
This is the first year Hearing Youth Voices has contributed such data, but it plans on continuing its work.
“We consider this only the beginning, and as a group we have to decide which direction we want to continue in,” said Burfoot.
Researcher Tiyana Brown said she would like to continue the work, since she believes there are numerous other issues that can be addressed. Carrion said these include the continued as well as the lack of a theater program despite the school’s newly renovated auditorium.
Margaret Curtin, a member of the Board of Education, suggested that the group should present its findings to the school administration as well as the City Council.
“We certainly support you,” said Curtin. “We certainly don’t think New London High School is a dumb school.”
Dr. Nicholas Fischer, superintendent of New London Public Schools, offered to meet with the group to discuss future activities.
“Whenever you want to get together in my office, we can get together and talk about possibilities,” he said.
Hearing Youth Voices will make another presentation today at 2:30 p.m. at the .