The tear-streaked faces of Rasan Portlock and his 10-year-old son, Ryheim, bring to light the poignant significance of a good education. Their interview is part of a segment conducted by NBC’s education correspondent Rehema Ellis at Devonshire Elementary in Charlotte as part of a series on race, poverty, and education for NBC’s Today Show.
Ellis visited the school last week to interview Principal Suzanne Gimenez, teachers, students, and parents about academic gains at the school, where more than 90 percent of students passed last year’s math exams, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The elementary school caught the eye of NBC for this feat because the majority of Devonshire’s students are from low-income homes in troubled communities.
Five years ago, the Devonshire Elementary administration reevaluated the needs of its student body and incorporated several initiatives to improve academic performance.
Most notably, it implemented classes taught by full-time social worker Rochelle McCormick. The goal of McCormick’s class is to teach the students to be socially smart so that they can put more energy into being book smart, says Ellis in the video.
“They may go home to lights being on, they may go home to lights being off. So they have a totally different lifestyle than most kids have normally,” McCormick explains in the video.
Since incorporating efforts such as McCormick’s participation into the students’ curricula, along with a host of new teachers and programs to help students on an individualized level, the percentage of students performing at grade level has increased from 40 percent to 90 percent, with a steady, unprecedented 90 percent attendance rate.
School Principal Suzanne Gimenez says, “[Their accomplishments] dispel the myth that children of poverty cannot learn, because they are eager to learn.”