Monday, August 9, 2010

A Slightly Awkward Encounter...

Walking to the bus stop I saw a young girl with a tacky wig, skimpy outfit and bright pink lipstick. I shook my head to myself and proceeded to keep it moving. Then a squeaky voice redirected me to the young girl, "Hi, Ms. S!" I took a double take. That young girl...was a former student of mine. I couldn't help but be taken aback...

This girl, was a 13 year old in my 5th grade class back in my bad old days of teaching at Winston Educational Center (Definitely not Southeast's finest). I remember her days in my class where, despite being the oldest student (surprisingly not even by that much), she was unable to grasp many reading concepts that were necessary...oh, perhaps in the 2nd grade. Although she came in far below grade level and left below grade level, I knew that she would be passed on to the next grade. While I understand the concept of social promotion I'm not sure how much that really would help her. Turn the clock forward and I hear from one of my friends who still has the "pleasure" to be gainfully employed by Winston, that not only has she been passed, but she has been SKIPPED to the 7th grade due to her age.

While I have remained relatively quiet on my tenure at Winston I feel that this matter needs to be addressed. Grade levels, retention, social promotion, academics, etc. all have been really been deemed irrelevant at this school. I am not even arguing for this young girl, but really her original retentions proved worthless because she saw her peers being promoted despite their academic deficiencies. Of my class of 28 students, I requested that 4 be retained due to their inability or unwillingness to complete grade level work. Not a single student was retained of this class. I won't argue the case on whether retention is necessary or not, but the fact remains that simply due to statistics, children are being passed along.

While at Winston a friend of mine taught the 8th grade class. She could tell you stories that should only appear in nightmares. She was faced with a class who had dealt with the bureaucracy of DCPS and Winston and had already given up. A class of 14-16 year olds, who knew despite anything they did in the classroom that they would graduate from the 8th grade, which is exactly what happened. The principal of Winston (wonderful educator that she is....) wanted them OUT. Their scores did nothing to help the school, their age contributed to the delinquency that ran rampant throughout the school and their behavior was one of the reasons that 2 cops were permanently stationed in the school (YES. WTF?) So good ole principal gave them the boot under the guise of graduation.

This does nothing to help our youth and in reality it invalidates their educational experience. Why are the practices of many of our community schools being overlooked? Why when Michelle Rhee is gung-ho to shut down schools and completely restaff them are practices like these being ignored? This is a problem that I am sure is not just prevalent at Winston, but probably exists citywide...dare I say (countrywide) in this new age of testing craziness.

Anyway, I hope that lil girl I saw is taking her time and not trying to grow up so fast. I was too shocked and tongue-tied to ask how she was doing, but if you are what you wear, and your friends define you....then I am a little worried for her.

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