Chappelle, a single mother with three school-age children, decided this past school year to move her two daughters to a private school.
Her son, oldest of the three at 17, likes his current school. The daughters, however — Taliyah, starting her sophomore year at Lied Middle SchoolandTy’jahnae, entering the 6th grade at Perkins Elementary — were struggling.
At Lied, Taliyah was a motivated student. She worked hard and did well. Until she started having some of the problems common to kids in junior high. Despite being a talented athlete on the basketball, she found herself struggling to make friends. One day in class, raising her hand to ask a question, she was yelled at. After that, reluctant to endure more humiliation before her peers — with whom she already was struggling to relate — she began remaining silent in class.
Nevertheless, Taliyah — seeing her grades start to drop — knew there was a problem. Which, taking the initiative herself, she set out to fix. Researching possibilities on the Web, she learned of a private school and the different scholarships and programs for which her mother could apply.
And soon Taliyah was enrolled in the new, private school.
In her first year there, her mother reports, everything turned right around. Taliyah immediately was made to feel comfortable, again engaging in the classroom, and soon made friends. She won a presidential honor for academic achievement. Today, she and her friends are very positive, ambitious and engaged in their education. Chappelle says that when she arrives at the school to pick up Taliyah, she regularly finds her daughter with her friends all settled around a shady tree, studying ACT prep materials.
Taliyah — nicknamed “Sugar” — remains an exceptional athlete. Leading up to tryout season, she went and practiced with the boys’ basketball team. When tryouts came around she demonstrated both her talent and leadership. Her team members and coaches made her team captain, even though she was still a freshmen. This strongly suggests that the social issues Taliyah experienced at Lied were a product of that environment, rather than Taliyah. She led her basketball team through the playoff and to nationals (the first time that school ever made it to nationals). She played so well she caught the attention of an international organization called Down Under Sports, which invited her to their nine-day Olympics-style tournament in Australia. To get down under, she needs to raise a lot of money, and so far is about $2,000 short. The organization let her hold the spot for next year so she could keep raising the money.
Chappelle’s younger daughter, Ty’jahnae, attending Perkins Elementary, was also struggling.
“Taji” — her nickname — was doing well with homework and classwork, yet her test scores did not reflect the effort she was expending nor the growth in comprehension.
Chappelle says that the school’s solution for underperforming students was of no help. Regardless of their individual needs, all are put into a one-size-fits-all program of small groups where, supposedly, some kind of magic would somehow ensue. And though Ty is a smart girl — years before, she’d tested into first grade without completing kindergarten — no “magic” had ensued.
So, halfway through the semester, Chappelle entered Taji into a private school. There, under the school’s different approach — and its superior capacity to engage children — things quickly turned around for her. Suddenly, she found herself more and more engaged in learning and making good grades. While in public school, she’d struggled with tests — even with extra tutoring and help on the side. Now, however, she suddenly was doing exceptionally well. Now, she found she didn’t need all the extra tutoring or help from her mom and siblings. Under a different academic approach, she was at last performing to her own potential.
Two smart and energetic young women were able to succeed as soon as they found themselves in the right environment. Fortunately, they also have an intelligent and industrious mother. Chappelle has put a lot of work and sacrifice into getting her daughters the education they deserve. She works full-time graveyard, as many do here in Vegas, and makes tuition payments every two weeks. Initially she could only afford to send one of her children to private school — which meant having the tough conversations with her daughters regarding who needed to go first. Eventually, after the family found scholarships, set up a gofundme at GoFundMe.com and made extra efforts to make the finances work, both daughters were able to go.
Unfortunately, many families in similarly challenging circumstances lack the drive, knowhow and ambition that Chappelle has demonstrated, says Joshua King, who interviewed Chappelle for Nevada Journal.
“Not all kids can find the drive to get themselves out of a bad educational environment, and not all parents are as attentive and determined to make sure their kids are where they need to be,” notes King.
“Chappelle shares her worries about what happens to kids who have the same kinds of issues that Taliyah and Ty’jahnae had, but, like their parents, don’t know what to do about it.
“If there were no other means of funding, even Chappelle’s drive and determination might not have been enough. While most public school teachers want to provide a quality education for America’s children, the generic policies and blanket rules of those schools leave many kids in need.”
Chappelle also worries about politicians who want to tie state educational-scholarship funding to income caps. She herself works hard, trying to get ahead in life — hoping one day to bring in the kind of money that can mean real financial security for her family. Penalizing her for her hard work by taking away funding for her children’s’ education would not be fair, she says.
She’s no enemy of public schools, where, she says, many teachers are good. Most of them, however, seem to her way overworked and way underpaid. Another problem, she observes, is that the big public school systems are set up to educate students who fit a certain mold — a mold into which other individual students simply don’t fit.
Having seen firsthand the difference that having a choice can make, Chappelle supports school-choice programs, such as the Nevada Education Savings Accounts and the Opportunity Scholarships that lawmakers approved in 2015.