An offshoot of Ed Trust’s Echoes From the Gap series, drawing stories of students from behind the statistics, this blog series shares shorter narratives — brief glimpses into classrooms and hallways — that give readers an opportunity to examine educator practices and policies through the intimate lens of student experience. All stories are based on interviews or first-hand accounts, but are shared with respect for the privacy of students and the adults around them.

The Dr. Seuss book was signed in Spanish by proud parents.

A gift at graduation, after she’d learned she was accepted to college.

The first in her family.

Now it sits on the bookshelf in her dorm room, between her overpriced, required College Success book and a used textbook for Math 98, one of three developmental classes she tested into.

She’d always dreamed of the places she’d go, but she didn’t ever imagine that it would be back through the classes she had already taken.

Through high school, she marveled, she’d been a straight A student.

“I was making straight A’s. I was like, ‘I love school! I love to learn. College is gonna be easy. I’m gonna go four years and get it done!’”

But college was proving a different story, and her grades were middling at best in these remedial classes.

“My work is definitely harder than it was in high school. In high school, they gave us a lot of work, but it was busy work.

“In high school — the English teacher — she would assign us a memoir or something. Just, like, personal. She would just give us stuff like that but it would have to be five pages. It’s a lot, but it’s easy. Easy work. Here, we’re doing like rhetorical literary analyses on ethos and pathos and all kinds of stuff. And if you want a good grade, you have to really earn it. It’s not just given to you.

“I feel like I was never pushed in high school. I guess all the teachers wanted us to graduate — but I was never pushed.”

Trying to hold onto her scholarship and the fragile thread of belief that she belonged in college, she reflected back on high school with a new perspective: “If I was back in high school — I would have never said this — I would say, ‘Make me work for something.’”

It took getting to college to learn the hard way that they hadn’t.

Are educators asking enough of students? Read Ed Trust’s latest report, Checking In, which examines the rigor (or lack thereof) in the K-12 assignments given to students.