Thursday, September 07, 2006

Age comes before acdemics?

Today had to be one of the most frustrating days of teaching so far. And it had nothing to do with being in the classroom.

Besides not being ready for my lessons today (which was extremely nerve racking and not good since my certification person came in my room to observe), I got to spend my entire plan period in a meeting that still makes me sick to my stomach. The whole school had grade level meetings today that basically equated to social promotion for a bunch of students. We met as a seventh grade team and the counselor went through a list of students who were two to three grade levels behind. The students who were three grade levels behind (and therefore turning 16 this year) were "critical" cases and automatically moved up to 8th grade. The other students were put to us to decide. Decide might be a strong phrase to use. Basically, we were given a name, asked for input, we gave the input and then the same set of phrases was repeated to us "In these situations age does take a priority over academics" and "think of the child, they're two years behind their peers. We have to do what's best for them." Um, excuse me? Exactly when did it matter how old you were if you couldn't read!? And exactly when was it in the best interest of a child to skip them through a grade they couldn't pass the first time around and expect them to master the material in the new grade? Only a few of my students were passed on the 8th grade, but I was required to vote on all the seventh grade students (because we have to have a consensus after the counselor uses her two key phrases 20 times to indicate to us that we don't have a choice). Not only did I have to vote on students who I had never met before, but I didn't even have information on them all. Some of them didn't have files, some didn't have recent TAKS scores. Not all the teachers were at this meeting and the ones who were didn't have grades. It was a beautiful shining example of the crap that bureaucracy puts our children through. In a mere 85 minutes we perpetuated the problem of failing children, screwed over the 8th grade teachers who have to teach them and started ourselves down a steady course towards failure.

THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING. I came here to change the flaws I see in the system and today I became a part of perpetuating those same flaws and I hate it. I hate that there are no easy answers to this. These kids are failing for a variety of reasons. Keeping them in with 7th graders is not an answer, but passing them on isn't either. I hate that a group of educators considers age a higher priority than academic ability. I realize Juan may not like being two grades behind, but how is Juan going to feel when he gets into a new grade and can't do any of that material because he can't do any of the material from the grade level before. Is Juan going to be any more motivated to work and pass and stay in school? Using the excuse that he'll drop out if he has to be a 15-year-old 7th grader doesn't really work if you put him in a position to drop out because he's an 8th grader who has no idea what's going on.

This freaking system is killing me and I've only been in it for four weeks. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we did a bunch of kids and a bunch of teachers a disservice today and the seventh grade team isn't even done. We spent so much time fighting over kids that we still have 20+ to look at on Monday.

Welcome to education in America. Welcome to HISD.

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