Monday, August 07, 2006

Nothing less than 100 percent is acceptable

I've been at McReynolds for the past couple of days doing professional development stuff and it's been interesting so far. My staff, on a whole, is so new. The principal is only in his second year there and besides the five TFA teachers, there are at least five or six others who are in their first or second year teaching.

Today was our first day of getting into the nitty-gritty of McReynolds stuff. Oh boy. First we talked about our mission statement, our vision and our goals. I think things like this are really good to have, but really difficult to settle on. Today when we were going around talking about our vision for the end of the school year there were teachers who very pointedly were saying they wanted to see us earn our rating back (which means 35% of all sub-groups passing in science, 40% in math and 60% in reading, writing and social studies). There were other teachers who very pointedly were wanting to see ALL students pass the TAKS test. I can't help but whole heartedly agree and I wish we had talked about our different views a little more. To me, an acceptable rating from the state is simply not good enough. It means that we are still allowing for a majority of our kids to fail in math and science and nearly as much in the rest of the subjects. I'm sorry, I cannot walk into my class room on the first day and reveal a goal of 80% passing rate to my students. I refuse to go in with the mindset that 20% of them are going to fail the assessment tool for the year (I mean for God sakes is what we're supposed to be teaching them!!!). I said as much when we broke into our content teams and set a goal for the year. I was told by a veteran teacher that I had to be realistic and realize that some of our kids were not smart enough to pass. Before these kids even set foot in her room, she has decided that they are simply not capable of passing the TAKS test. Why even bother coming at all? Now I understand why TFA drilled the teacher mindset into us all summer. I've bought in, I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that my expectations of these kids matters in how much they succeed. I don't care if I have to answer to the administration at the end of the year. If my kids fail, they are damn well going to fail at something meaningful. I'm not willing to pick and choose who has the chance to succeed in my class. 100 percent is the only number I'm willing to accept.

Other than battling mindsets that make me perhaps angrier than I've ever been, I'm in full classroom decoration mode. After seeing the wonder that is KIPP Academy (google them, they're amazing) I plan to fully indoctrinate my kids on our theme: Knowledge is choice. Choice is power. As Jamie says, I'm going to make them into little educational cyborgs.

One week from today it all starts. I can't wait.

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