During his year in the classroom, Danza dealt with the tough challenges so many teachers face: Over 60 percent of Northeast’s majority minority student population are economically disadvantaged and the year Danza taught only 58 percent of the school’s eleventh graders scored proficient in English on the state test. Danza also had to figure out what to do when half of his class failed their first quiz, when students skipped class, got into fights, and got busted for cheating.
“The question I still wrestle with” writes Danza in an op-ed for USA Today, “is ‘in the midst of a tough economy and continuous budget cutting, how do we send a message to students that being in school and making the most of their time there is important?’” Danza says his experience taught him that “teachers have no problem being held accountable by parents. In fact, they crave parent involvement.”
What teachers need parents to do, says Danza, is “persuade their sons and daughters to take part in their own education.” That can’t happen, though, if parents don’t get involved. “There were evenings when, as an English teacher hosting an open house for parents, I stood mostly alone,” says Danza. And, although he heard plenty about how teachers need to engage students, “kids have to understand that it’s their responsibility to do well—no matter who their teacher is or the quality of their school.”