It is just a week before state testing and to say I am overcome with a sense of urgency is an understatement. In fact I have come to loath the phrase “sense of urgency” since this seems to be my constant state.
This urgent, restless feeling that never seems to go away is not just about the test and making AYP, it is about the children who are still being underserved in our school. It is one thing to look at our past test scores and current benchmark test scores and analyze the data; it is another to look at the faces of the children these numbers represent.
I was in two classes recently where children were sitting idly while one teacher was working on her computer and another teacher was writing grades in a grade book. Brighton’s children cannot afford to lose instructional time. I do not know of many children who can, yet this continues to happen on a daily basis (in the same classes) at Brighton. I have concluded in this work you take baby steps forward, followed, at times, by a giant step backwards. This makes sustained change seem impossible.
On the other hand, I had a wonderful conversation with our reading coach, a classroom teacher, and a paraprofessional concerning one group of struggling fourth grade students who recently have made significant reading gains. The paraprofessional daily takes this group and pulls them a second time every afternoon to repeat the morning intervention lesson. As a result, these students are improving at a fast pace and it is such a joy to see the smiles on their faces. What a delight it was for me to give this paraprofessional a big thank you.
But I'm also thinking about what one of our district’s instructional support persons, who is coming out to teach two days a week in eighth grade, told me—how so many of our eighth graders are not able to read. My assuring her that future students will not be in this shape due to the changes in our K-5 program does nothing to help our exiting eighth grade students who have been so underserved. One of our most recent strategies to assist these students is to pull them from electives and put them with a teacher and a paraprofessional, and an individualized computer program. This is a test strategy, which we hope to continue for the remainder of the year, even though I strongly believe in providing our students with electives.
If we make AYP this year, we will be out of school improvement for the first time in five straight years and two other years further in the past. This is important to our school, our community, and our district. Yet making AYP does not mean that all of Brighton’s children have received a quality education or that they have the ability to go on to become a high school graduate.
It's the faces that haunt me, not the numbers. I cannot let this go. I know this is making me become quite obsessed about the obligation of all educators—especially those who are accomplished—to help correct this wrong.