Breaking the Heart of Education: AYP meets McKinney-Vento

imagesWe started high school last Wednesday in my school district. Students eagerly, if not with a little trepidation, entered their classrooms with high hopes and fresh expectations. That is – most students.

The week prior to school starting, Missouri state exam testing results were released. The results were depressing.

In our state of 554 school districts, 74% did not make AYP. In my school district, all but five schools are on some level of the MO School Improvement “watch list.” My school is one of those schools.

As the gatekeeper of students entering my school, I feel a great obligation to protect the learning environment for the students who are by law assigned to our school. As a lifelong educator, I feel a great obligation to teaching students – all students. And it is here that East meets West. It is here where legal intentions are beginning to cause greater harm than good. DSC03763

In order to attempt to make AYP for the next school year, my school must have around 60% of all testing students score advanced or proficient in Algebra 1 and English 2. If I can’t create a situation where that occurs, Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MO DESE) offers specifically and mathematically determined thresholds to help us “make” our AYP Target – these thresholds are titled “confidence intervals (CI),” “safe harbor,” and “growth.” These thresholds are determined by student attendance (total population) and graduation rate. This is where we struggle on the journey – but it is trails West for us. We worked hard this year in both subjects, we knew we made significant progress with our students – and with the CI we survived in English. We were ambushed in Algebra.
Even if we change modes of travel, there will be no safe harbor for us.

And then, riding in from the East, are all the students who want to attend our great school. They are weary travelers with tales to match those of Canterbury – these student travelers are mad at their parents and have left home, they are pregnant and met Missouri “Romeos” on-line who offered them residence, they want to attend school with their summer friends so badly they offer addresses that don’t exist in order to come to our school. Test scores don’t worry them – they never have. Attendance doesn’t worry them – they are willing souls in August and September. Graduation doesn’t worry them – they hope they will, one way or another. And the tales grow. images-1

The educator in me screams “Yes! Let the children be educated.” The principal in me screams, “No! These children have homes, and their resident schools must educate them.” And McKinney-Vento says, “Yes. These children shared their sad, weary stories, and they are “considered” homeless.” And AYP says, “No. When the children leave your school for a destination unknown, you will be held accountable for their journey, and the students you legally educate will be labeled as not making adequate progress.”

If only No Child Left Behind gave credit for schools attempting to bring every child along on the journey of learning. Then every school in the nation would be clamoring for the ones left behind.

11 thoughts on “Breaking the Heart of Education: AYP meets McKinney-Vento

  1. “If only “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND” gave credit for schools attempting to bring every child along on the journey of learning. Then every school in the nation would be clamoring for the ones lefft behind.”
    AMEN I say to that and a tremendous quote. Excellent quote and article.

  2. I was also struck by that incredibly poignant quote! We try so hard but how can we possibly meet increasing standards when we’re falling short already. I’m all for raising expectations but sometimes NCLB feels like the standards are raising in an unrealistic way. But we forge on and try try try to meet them anyway!!! Off to bed so I’m fresh & ready to educate students bright and early tomorrow! Thanks for a great article! (Those green lockers look like a picture of Lafayette though…you need some BHS red lockers on here!) 🙂

  3. I was about to say the same thing about the green lockers. You haven’t gone green on us, although going green is an environmental plus, just not with lockers. Ha
    aggree with hitting the sack and going to bed.

  4. Here are my two pennies…politically correct or not. There will NEVER be 100% of our students in the upper two levels (proficient & advanced) in math by whatever year “they” have foisted upon us. Giving us deadlines has definitely gotten us to raise the bar in education, but the stark realities that you mention above…”mad at their parents, left home, pregnant, no worries about test scores or attendance or graduation”…will always be barriers to this mythical goal. And don’t forget those wonderful (I say that with true sincerity) special services students, who, even though they have very strong work ethics, struggle mightily with even the basics of math, let alone the complexities of Algebra.
    In the same way that Jesus spoke of the poor (John 12:8)…”you always have the poor with you…”, I firmly believe we will always have students (non-special and special services alike) who don’t have whatever “it” is to make them reach the top two levels in mathematics. To press upon us as teachers to in turn press upon students to (sung like Jim Nabor) “reach the unreachable star”, is akin to asking me to stick my elbow in my ear – we can try the impossible, but we’ll look pretty silly in our attempts.
    A potentially frightening question to answer is this…Will the pressure force the best of teachers out the destroy the morale of our best teachers, in turn force them out the door of this great profession, and end up hurting those it was intended to help most (our students)? My answer…? Well, to finish the passage from John…”but you do not always have Me.” I fear strongly that it may for some. I’m still LOVING this job and this profession, and I’m not going anywhere for a while. But, I don’t speak for everyone. (Note: I can’t even imagine how much stronger the heat from the pressure is at the administrative level.)
    So…what do we do in the meantime? 1) we continue to love on kids, 2) we continue to work hard at educating lifelong learners for success, and 3) we continue to work with and share our struggles and strengths with each other (and with administrators). Note that each point is a point of CONTINUATION. We will do what we’ve ALWAYS done.
    Hoops…lots of hoops. I’m still in pretty good shape, so I’ll keep jumping. And I’ll do it believing my contribution is valid and enriching, smiling and lifting up young people along the way. Listen…plain and simple…after all is said and done in the future, there will still be a need for all of us to educate, coach, inspire, coax, and encourage kids. Right now, let’s continue to do that in the public education arena. Let’s aspire to the goal of the jump in spite of the hoop!

  5. Yes.

    This is the very quote I tossed into the Twitterverse to spread word of this post. The ideas she presents here have tremendous cultural implications.

  6. I HATE the sensitivity of the Mac keyboard at times…the fact that it skips, jumps and glitches because of some accidental extra pressure or touch in some unrelated area of the computer (I’m not making excuses here – it truly does this). Anyway, to make sentence 1 in paragraph 3 read correctly…”A potentially frightening question to answer is this…Will the pressure destroy the morale of our best teachers, in turn force them out the door of this great profession, and end up hurting those it was intended to help most (our students)?”
    I’ll be sure to better proofread before submitting from now on.

  7. Sorry…one more thing. I’m all for relevant change. We must meet that challenge head on. In no way am I implying that we do what we’ve “ALWAYS done”, despite an obvious need to put sacred cows out of everyone’s misery. I embrace change. Take a look at the picture! 🙂 /Users/teacher/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Modified/2009/Aug 21, 2009/IMG_0033.jpg

  8. @MikeZiesel and @SeanNash:
    Thanks for your support. It’s hard share this part of the job and personality with the world. Those who work closest with me see it most often. I appreciate your sharing the message.

    @Jenniferhalter — you are my most loyal friend. Thank you for your continual encouragement and support. I also must thank you a gazillion times for your brain, work ethic and compassionate caring of kids!

    @SarahN and @SteveSnider: I know you all feel my pain. Teaching math in a world that changes and challenges patterns is where we live, and you all have been strong and faithful throughout the journey. We have only started to weather the changes – but I know you all know that we are in this to grow ourselves and students. Learning is an arduous process.

  9. What is incredibly sad to me is that NCLB really has no empathy for differentiated education. We shout differentiated instruction (in all its forms) from the mountaintops because WE KNOW it is best for kids. But the “even playing field” of national or state testing takes into account very little for the fact that humans learn at different rates.

    As the assistant principal at BHS, I’ve watched and actively participated in turning children (they might look and talk like adults, but really they are still kids) away because of various reasons Dr. JW mentions above. The educator in me says, wow, we have some great things working here and we might be their last hope. Like our speaker at convocation said, “Be an educator that saves a life.” NCLB constraints force us to turn kids away from the emergency room.

  10. Jeanette –

    As usual, I see in you an educator who is a student advocate. If we can ever get our educational system to recognize individual improvement on an annual basis, instead of cut-scores of arbitrary proficiency, we may be able to demonstrate Adequate Yearly Progress for most (and perhaps all) students. Given our current system, struggling learners who make huge gains, but don’t “catch up” to their peers, are viewed as making little/no progress. Those who are advanced and make zero gains, yet show proficiency, are viewed as having made adequate progress. In the better, more perfect world of the future, I foresee an educational system that encourages teachers to work with each child and assist them in making personal gains, just the way a track coach assists runners to work toward “personal bests”. Then, teachers and students will reap the rewards of their diligent efforts and be recognized for their true accomplishments.

    Until then, I’m just very glad we have principals like you who are working to assist and support every child on their personal journey toward adult life.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *