1, 125 seniors in DISD will not graduate this year because they did not pass the TAKS test, even though many (maybe even most) of them met and passed the required courses set up by the school.
I know at least one of those 1,125. He had already sent out his graduation announcements and senior pictures and then was told he didn't pass the test. He is going to press on and work toward taking his last chance test again this summer. I'm proud of him for continuing. He could have easily decided to give up.
I am not arguing that students should graduate "just because." I have never been in favor of low-expectations for students. What I am arguing and advocating for is that our students are prepared BEFORE they get to their senior year!
I know, I know...I have teacher friends who will tell me that I can't put it all on the teachers. Parents have to be involved, too. Parents have to do some of the work at home--of encouraging children, of helping them with their homework, of visiting the school, etc. Though I whole-heartedly agree with that, I think we've got to face the reality that we're dealing with-especially in our inner-city schools.
Some of the parents I know don't have the skill levels themselves to help their kids with their homework. Some of the parents are absent or on drugs and the kids are raising themselves. Some of the parents go to the school when the school calls (unfortunately, the school usually only calls when their child is in trouble).
I haven't met a parent yet who doesn't want their child to be successful. Even drug addicted parents express a desire to see their kids succeed despite their own failures.
I wonder what would happen if the parents and the schools, maybe even the district, actually got together and communicated. What if schools and/or districts asked the parents what they needed and expected and then what if the school really listened to the parents? I have a feeling parents might have a whole lot to say. If they felt comfortable and if they felt like their statements were truly valued, I would guess that parents might be able to tell the schools some of the obstacles they and their children face on a daily basis:
- Transportation--buying groceries, taking kids to and from appointments
during the school day, getting to school functions, visiting the school...all with public transportation (very time consuming!)
- Trying to work and be at home with a sick kid at the same time.
- Access to healthcare.
- Understanding homework assignments that don't give adequate instructions.
- Preparing their child for a future of technology when they can't afford it at home and the schools don't offer it.
I'm really not trying to offer excuses. I don't want under-prepared kids thinking that graduating from high school means they're prepared when they're not. That is happening a lot these days and it's unfair to the kids as much as it is to our society. But I do think instead of failing them and considering them drop-outs at the last minute, we should be doing something different before it gets to that point. It's not fair to pass a kid through school and tell him/her that they are doing well only to let them get to their senior year and they can't pass a basic skills test.
WE, the people, are failing our kids.
We fail them when we don't provide them with the resources to keep them up with the times.
We fail them when we tell them their parents should be more involved, but their parents aren't sure how.
We fail them when we lower our standards for teachers in order to have warm bodies in the classrooms.
We fail them when we send the least qualified and least experienced teachers to the schools that need the most help.
We can choose to write it off as "not my problem" or we can get involved and be advocates whether our children are in that situation or not.