This is cause for celebration and also increased effort
Sometimes they know just what to say to warm your heart.
They did it. Congratulations. I'm so proud.
Another year comes to an end and another group of students try to avoid summer school with last minute work.
It's never to late for a student to decide to go to school.
Not much to say here. I just hate how often I have the "Hey, I decided to drop out" conversation. We lose too many kids to the "real world" every year. Just last night I got a message from a former student that one of mine just quit. Hurts my heart. I always feel responsible.
DISD Student wants to drop out
Top Ten Positive and Negative Moments in Dallas Education 2015
Positive 02: Students Understanding Goals Negative 02: Drop Outs
Positive 03: Food Adventure Negative 03: Mike Miles Quits and Nothing Changes
Positive 04: Social and Emotional Health Negative 04: Trouble with TEI
Positive 05: Trustees Stop By Negative 05: Student Mother Kicked Out
Positive 06: Supportive Principal Negative 06: A Bad Spot Observation
Positive 07: Department Chair Respect Negative 07: Principals Lying
Positive 08: DISD Student Has Her Baby Negative 08: Parent thinks their child is stupid
Positive 09: Thanked by a Parent Negative 09: Blamed for a DISD Student Fight
Positive 10. Alex Hales and Retired Teacher Negative 10. Promising DISD Student Gets Pregnant
A former student reached out to me last night asking if it was too late to try to improve their grades and class rank.
It's November of their senior year. Yes. Yes it's too late, but the question is for what? Is it too late to try to leapfrog over your classmates that have been working their tails off for 4 years and have already submitted their early action applications? Yes. Is it too late to have your grades in a position that allows you to relax for your senior spring and embrace the senioritis? Yep. Is it too late to be in a position to give that valedictorian speech at graduation? Sure is, but is it too late to accomplish something that you can be proud of? No.
What I told this student was that they needed to work hard through the end of the year. There's also no manual that says you have to or should go right into a 4 year university straight out of high school or you will be a failure. I encouraged this student to work hard and if her goal is UT then there's no shame in take a year or two at the community college of her choice and transferring. Education is a long game in so many ways.
Why shouldn't she feel bad about herself? Both her and many of the kids in the top 8% got around a 16 on their ACT. Sure, they get to automatically go to the state schools of their choice, but guess what? Pretty much nobody is college ready so she has plenty of time to work hard, acquire the skills she needs to compete, and do something that makes her proud of herself.
The last thing I told she was that she is more than a number. I've seen her grow over the past few years and I'm extremely proud of what she's accomplished. Does she have room to grow? Sure, but it's never to late to accomplish anything. Nothing is impossible, things just get harder.
Hush child, yes you are.
Sometimes my kids from my first year text me for attention and reassurance, this wasn't quite one of those times. One of my teen moms has had a challenging last few months. She just had a baby so obviously it's not going to be easy for her being a mom and a student, but here's the problem. The schedule at her school has changed and is starting earlier than it had in the past. She was having trouble getting to school on time because she had to wait for someone to come take care of her child during the day so she could continue her education.
A few texts from me to the powers that be over there helped get it all sorted out, but the bigger problem is that she is still having trouble advocating for herself. I'm no longer there and I can't be as helpful as I used to be. Instead of dropping everything and going over there on a planning period, I told her who on campus to seek out to explain her situation and ask how this can be resolved in a way where she could graduate without having so many tardies and absences that it becomes impossible.
Of course I let all those people know in advance that she would be coming by and what her situation was, but she didn't know that and she did the heavy lifting herself. She's the one who took charge and created a more workable situation for herself. I'm proud of her. I'm excited that she still hasn't strayed from the college path she has created for herself. I get nervous sometimes, but I can't way to see her achieve her goals for her and her new child.
DISD Students that want to drop out
DISD Student Mothers
DISD Student Fathers
Taking DISD Home
When DISD Students break down
We’ve talked about attendance for credit in DISD schools last semester when the first batch came out. In theory is a good thing. If a kid is out because they are sick or injured, if their child is sick and they don’t have a sitter, or if there is an emergency, they shouldn’t be penalized just because they were out of the classroom. They are still responsible for learning, but if they can prove they have mastered the content, they should get the credit. The kids who skip and don’t know the material but still want credit, in my opinion, haven’t earned the opportunity to make it up. Why do they get it? Because schools want to look good and so they use this combined with the mandatory passing percentages at some Dallas ISD schools to make the overall picture of DISD positive.
Here’s an example. I just got 18 attendance for credit sheets. The rules are as follows:
1-8 days absent = 5 hours
9-15 days absent = 10 hours
16-19 days absent = 20 hours
20 days absent = 25 hours
21 and over = no credit without an approved appeal
Sounds reasonable right? Here’s my problem: all 18 are only required to serve 5 hours. Let me give you a little snapshot of some of these kids.
Student 1: 7 absences – 5 hours. No problems there.
Student 2: 15 absences –5 hours. A little high, but the kid had an emergency. I understand.
Student 3: 29 absences, 137 on the year – 5 hours. WHAT?!
Student 4: 24 absences, 311 on the year – 5 hours. DOUBLE WHAT!?!?
Student 5: 18 absences, 189 on the year – 5 hours. Getting the picture?
I’m not a data guy here, but how do we expect our kids to have accountability or do anything when we bend and break the rules to make ourselves look better? Maybe if it was with them in mind, the disregard of self-imposed policy would be forgivable, but it’s not even for their benefit. Really gets me down as a teacher.
All this talk about alternative graduation requirements has me thinking day and night about our requirements for students. The past two days we've written blogs about DISD students and Dallas graduation requirements. The article that sparked it all was this DMN article about letting kids sidestep the STAAR tests and graduate anyway. We'll be talking about this idea on our weekly Dallas education podcast to come out on Monday, but what has me really in thought this morning? The wrong and mixed signals we are sending our kids.
Yesterday, we talked about the potential for alternative graduation requirements in Texas, which affects Dallas ISD students. I agree that it would be troubling to start letting students side step the process by just meeting before a committee that could potentially allow them to graduate without having passed some or any of the tests. If we are going to place as much emphasis on testing as we currently do, then we have to keep that system strong. If the tests are necessary, then we shouldn't be invalidating them by making them skippable. What this highlights for me is that we aren't practicing what we preach. If we are saying that differentiating instruction is important, then we need to be differentiating assessments too for our DISD students. We've talked about differentiating instruction at length in our weekly Dallas education podcast and this is why it is so critical across the board. If attendance is important, we need to stop letting students in the Dallas education system get credit when they haven't shown up. The system is inconsistent and that's why it is struggling to produce students who are prepared and competitive. It does let the kids choose to do less. It does send the wrong signal. What do we need to do? Bring back strong vocational programs and partnerships with local Dallas businesses to give our students an opportunity to find a passion within school. Then and only then should students be given an opportunity to circumvent a STAAR and still graduate. More on that in another blog.
President Obama had a great call to action in his State of the Union address by advocating for free community college for EVERYONE! The idea of a low to no cost college education is HUGE. I'm not even talking about our national or international competitiveness. The opportunities this presents for our students is AMAZING and maybe college can really become something ALL of our kids start believing is attainable. Something I think is missing. If this is going to work we have to be honest about how our current no cost educational institutions work. We need to look at the shining lights on the hill and the hovels in the valleys of education to really make this bold vision work. If we don't take care, our community colleges will end up just like our public high schools. Click "read more" in the bottom right corner to see what I mean.
We are graduating more high school students than we were last year and the year before that. Everyone Celebrate! Pop Bottles! After we are all done patting ourselves on the back for pushing out another class of seniors that may or may not be prepared to do anything, let's reflect on how they got that Diploma.
Have you ever passed a kid because you didn't feel like doing the paperwork? Has a coach or administrator ever come to you and asked you to bump up a kid so they could play? Have you ever given a student that tries really hard that passing grade even though they did their best but got a 50? If you answered YES to these questions or any of the others running through your head, then ask yourself this, "Are more kids graduating or are we just giving more diplomas?"
The value of a high school diploma 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, meant much more than it does today. Kids graduating from today's inner city schools aren't ready for college, they aren't ready for the workforce, and, quite frankly, some aren't even ready to write their own names. We have kids walking across the stage, smiling and waving, that can't even SPELL graduation. Does everyone deserve to be happy and to feel proud of themselves? Absolutely, but that cap and that gown are a privileged. You have to earn that...or you did.
We've "upped the rigor" in our classes while lowering the grading standards and our integrity as teachers. The result is a diploma that isn't even worth the paper it's printed on. We need more teachers willing to hold kids to a high standard and administrations willing to support those teachers vs. districts that set arbitrary maximum failure rates. Let's make our students BE proud instead of just FEELING proud. Greatness is still possible in the inner city, but not if we don't force greatness upon it.
Letting things continue the way they are could very well make college the new high school, graduate school the new college, and so on.