From AA to AU….What a Difference a Letter Makes

When I leave school for the summer, I like to be able to detach myself from all things DISD for however many weeks it may be possible. I shut down as much as possible because 1) I want to focus on family, 2) I need a break, 3) I need time to concentrate on NWP. This is probably why I was oblivious to the academic rating change of my campus.

When I left NDHS this past June, I think most of the faculty was feeling relieved. We were looking forward to a better year because we thought we were finally “academically acceptable”. I walked away with a sense of real accomplishment because I knew we had worked so hard. I personally was taken out of my classroom away from my own students for about 12 weeks to provide additional support to “bubble” students. That was a sacrifice foy myself and my kids, but I wanted to help our school. At the end of the year, when it was announced there were no academically unacceptable high school campuses, we were refreshed, remotivated, and proud of what we had done.

Unfotunately, at the end of July, when the state results were published, this was not the case. NDHS was unacceptable due to graduation/completion rate.

We made so many gains on the TAKS…enough to get academically acceptable, but now beacuse of completion rate, we must continue to wear the scarlet letters AU.

It is completely and utterly demoralizing.

In our schools, we teach how dangerous labelling is. We try to model for our students how to avoid judging one another, how to resist lumping groups of people together and deem them inferior. It’s ironic that what we, as educators, try to embody for our kids, our accountability norms do just the opposite. Mandated tests have hijacked education. Texas’ accountability practices have put schools into groups and places judgement, and I do mean judgement not evaluation, based on the labels they thrust upon schools. Do the gurus that be really believe there is no stigma attached to being labelled Academically Unacceptable? Or, perhaps, this is their m.o. Perhaps, they hope the shame that goes along with carrying this label (in our situation for years) will be the motivator that will boost up our scores.

WRONG! What it does is make students question their own ablities. It makes teachers dread going to work because even if we know how far a student has come, it is not enough because he or she did not pass a test and/or graduate according to schedule. Regardless of Maria’s amazing writing, despite Victor’s analytic savvy, even though our kids may outtest others on district assessments, none of that matters. We have been judged as academically unacceptable, “not acceptable…not pleasing or welcome”.

I refuse to allow any of my students feel like they are not welcome. If they want to learn, I will accept them. I will celebrate what I do see happening. I will try to do whatever it takes to rid them of feeling inferior to students from other schools.

I am saddened. I am angry. But most importantly, I am an agent of change. I will continue to challange my students to become the best they can. I will support them in any way possible to foster an atmosphere that reveres real education—not one dependent on what others say, but one that hinges on a student’s self-worth, a student’s curiosity, a student’s pursuit of enlightenment, a student’s journey to understanding that education is not what others tell you to learn but rather what you learn because it is meaningful and authentic to you. Real education is what can be used again and again. It is timeless. It is empowering. It is what separates us from the mindless robots who accept without a fight what others label them. Education is not a label. It is not a title. It is not a piece of paper. It cannot be measured and documented with data alone.

There are real students. Students with stories. Students with desire to be educated despite whatever rating they are given. Students who are our future.

In honor of that future, in homage to the students I serve, I will not limit them by judging. I will revel in their successes helping them get a true, make a difference in one’s life, education.

 

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