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Sunday, April 27, 2008 | After reading Emily Alpert‘s article “A School Called Enlightenment” about Iftin Charter School, I am extremely disappointed in the way the school, staff, and students were represented. Emily’s focus regarding Iftin was on obscure cultural beliefs, religious dietary habits, and arbitrary incidences that the school has faced. On behalf of my students and colleagues, I feel it is necessary to present a true representation of what Iftin Charter School provides to some very special students in San Diego.

The vision of Iftin Charter School is to provide students in grades K-7 a tuition-free public education that is academically rigorous and at the same time culturally sensitive. In a caring-centered elementary school, our staff and teachers involve members of students’ families and communities as partners in the circle of education, both inside and outside of the classrooms. Students and their families distinguish Iftin as a place with highly qualified and dedicated teachers who put an emphasis on character building and creating successful lifelong learners. The director of our school, with the support of the board of directors, meticulously oversees the business aspects of Iftin with care and consideration, ensuring the future success of the school.

As with any school in the nation, Iftin puts a great emphasis on raising student test scores. Emily quoted that Iftin’s first batch of test scores were “among the lowest in San Diego.” Ultimately, Iftin’s test scores cannot be compared to any other district, because there is no other district in the state with the same student population. Some schools in the area have a few Somali students, in combination with a diverse blend of cultures, but there are no schools that compare to Iftin. In retrospect, teachers at Iftin face this as a challenge. Often, teachers arrive at work an hour and a half early, in order to prepare meaningful and effective lessons for students. Similarly, all teachers at Iftin offer after-school tutoring for students every day of the week, ensuring understanding of content matter and raising academic confidence in students of all ages. Teachers are also currently working on building an academically rigorous curriculum, aligning the state content standards with the Core Knowledge Sequence and Units of Study that focus on critical literacy. As a 501c3, Iftin’s director, staff, and teachers must take on multiple responsibilities outside of their typical duties to ensure that Iftin thrives and excels as a district, as well as a school.

While others like Emily Alpert choose to focus on the cultural taboos and negative aspects of a school like Iftin, others will continue to be advocates for the school and its vision. Consequently, we will overcome the ignorance of closed-minded individuals and obstacles that present themselves as we work hard to enhance the quality of education for our nation’s youth. In the future, our success will be measured not by test scores, but by the success of Iftin students as they complete high school, college, and post-college endeavors.

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