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8th Grade Graduation Blues


It’s that time of the year again…

Schools are preparing for the big day-Graduation or Promotion, as it is sometimes called; and while there’s a buzz of excitement from most students, as they complete this part of their educational journey and embark on a new one; there is a feeling of withering hopelessness for many who are regretfully not invited to participate in their graduation ceremony-to walk before their parents, family members, and friends; and receive the honor of having their name called before
the members of the audience as part of the graduating class of 2011.

Yes, most students will receive this long awaited honor, but what happens to those who don’t achieve the grades?  Well I will tell you…NOTHING; but a nothing that is cruel, and I believe without positive results attained in the long-run  They will be out-casted to sit in their classrooms, or in the school cafeteria and wait while their peers, are given their diploma and best wishes for a wonderful future. These students will not have the opportunity to experience that feeling of joy and accomplishment. Why? It’s because they did not achieve the grade point average that they should have. These students did not meet their benchmarks.

No, I am not talking about high school graduates, nor am I talking about college graduates; I am talking about 13 and 14 year old kids who are being completely ostracized from their middle school promotion ceremony for not achieving a GPA of 2.0 or higher.

Oh, but wait, there is more. They are moving on to high school. Perhaps, I should say shuffled on to high school, as forgotten members of their school community, and according to this middle school, they are graduating. However, this school watched their struggling students from the sidelines, and they ignored the obvious, which was to intervene and offer them resources; and as a result those students academically drowned.  Yes, we are talking about a sweeping of struggling students under the carpet. So, while those young students sit and wait, and contemplate their emotionally cruel punishment; and wonder where they went wrong, their peers will excitedly participate in the graduation ceremony.

To you, my young unaware friends and weary parents, I say this. It may not only be about your lack of effort or motivation, but a failed school system whose politically canned responses to parents,  policies, procedures and legalities, are stack through the roof of omittance-omittance that they failed to offer the resources that you should have been entitled to..  It may be the administration of individuals that seem to say, “Phew.. Another parent out of my hair, and another group of students out of the way,” as they make their way clear of budgetary expenses needed to attend to their academically challenged students. Yes, of course, we should mention; that group of people we voted for, known as the school board, who decided on this life altering decision for your child.

What can be said about a school whose extremely strong and gripping “No Tolerance” policy is emphatically in place, (in fact, so strong that a student can receive a 3 day suspension for placing a thumb on a sprinkler head and squirting a friend with water); but when it comes to its students who struggle academically, has a very lax and meager Response to Intervention System in place, if any at all.

Who will come to the aid and assist those struggling students, so that they can grow and acquire the skills that they have needed for so long, in order to meet their academic goals? Who is suppose to intervene to help those learners?  It seems that some schools don’t know what Response to Intervention is at all; otherwise, why was it not put into place when it was necessary, so that these young academically challenged students could have the opportunity to gain the skills so that they could achieve.

What can be said about a school whose response to a plea from parents for help for their child, is to turn its back, tell the parents that their child is borderline in having needs, but does not qualify for services; and due to budget cuts, doesn’t have the Resources to help its borderline struggling students. Its business as usual and so they continue on, teaching as they always do, and following curriculum in order to meet their deadlines; and while they do, struggling students are being left behind as their peers soar forward.  They lag further and sink deeper, as teachers tell them to keep trying, to keep up; until these students feel that they can’t go any further, and give up trying.

This is a school whose protocol is to tell its parents, “We can’t help each student, individually. We have too many students to attend to.” Then with those
patronizing looks of concern, they thumb their noses and turn their backs on those students, our beloved children, who need the extra help.  All the while students and parents become anxiously caught in the whirlwind of bureaucratic policies, and the political correctness of the education system, and so academically challenged students continue to fail without receiving the guiding hand of help that they need from those professionals, whom they have relied on to educate them.

Someone recently told me, “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” This my friends is what is taking place for our academically
challenged students at Silverado Middle School, and perhaps other schools, as well. While there is a strong focus of energy on “No Tolerance for disorderly
behavior, there seems too much tolerance where academic struggles in literacy exist, and these are eminent issues that impact students’ ability to achieve academic goals and achieve in life.

Accommodations generally take place when teachers recognize that a student is having difficulties, and then together they work to find academic approaches for solutions, to help these students succeed and achieve short term goals or benchmarks. However, at my last SST meeting, when I questioned the type of accommodations that were set in place and utilized to assist with my son’s academic challenges with literacy; their response to me was their website, a planner, their homework and grade check site, and a calendar.  As they spoke these words to me, I felt a patronizing chill of anger and reality, the rude awakening, that they would not support my son.

An (SST) is a meeting where the students in question, parents, counselors, teachers, Special Educators, and administrators meet to come up with a solution for the struggling student-HOGWASH- in my case. I have been to six SST meetings without resolutions for my son; a lot of air, but not a substansial plan of action for intervention.  Inasmuch, as students continue to fail, or have issues with subject matter, this school has done nothing or very little to help, except for classes in shadow math, or Accelerated Reader-of which I have read does little to resolve this type of student need, at this grade level.

Attention needs to be given to the core of academic problems, such as literacy issues, by school professionals to  attain positive results with intended objectives for  students who have difficulties in subject areas. In my case there was very little, if any, follow through or follow-up.

A lack of literacy comprehension is one of the root-stems of all educational problems in any subject. Without the ability to read comprehensively, all students including brilliant students, will meet with educational disaster, and many functional deficits throughout their lives. LITERACY COMPREHENSION has been a struggle for many students, and without intervention children cannot flourish acedemically.  A child who does not learn skills or strategies to help him/her gain prerequisite knowledge, in the ability to scaffold upon and understand what they are reading, cannot achieve academically.

In my case, there was never overseeing to help my child acquire strategies he was lacking, to overcome his deficit.  But in fact, he was ignored for so long and left on his own, as many other students who are struggling, and expected to show enough maturity and tenacity to rise to the occasion to initiate the need for help, while in fact  he was drowning and flailing academically, and giving up on his beliefs that he was able to succeed. He needed to be given the appropriate resources, and it never happened.

Without a flinch, or care about what happens to their struggling students; without ever giving them the help that they needed to learn the skills and strategies to keep in step academically, this Middle School has now passed the ball to the next school. As seems customary, their academically challenged students are being ditched, and now this school turns its back on these young academically challenged students, as they dwindle away
and slip through the cracks, a sad fate for many; they will be constantly reminded of their middle school, a school who failed to come through for them. Now, these students will go on to the next school, high school; with the dreams and hope that at the next school they will pick up the pieces and do academically better.

F.A.P.E: An acronym that stands for a Free and Appropriate Public Education, a Federal Law that stems from the IDEA act of 1974 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  Did you know that a child who attends a public school in the United States is entitled to a free and appropriate education to meet his or her needs? It’s not only for those who qualify for an IEP (individualized Education Plan), or who have disabilities, nor only for those who have a 504 Plan; it’s for ALL STUDENTS in public elementary through high school.  Each student is entitled to an education that is free and appropriate for them, and those who are having struggles but do not “qualify” as being disabled are also entitled to services such as; differentiated instruction to help them learn in how they learn best, and Response to Intervention to prevent or remediate their academic challenges.

My friends, I placed one of the most valuable and priceless treasures of my life in the hands of this School. I trusted them to educationally guide my child, to nourish his mind and help him learn, and to watch over him so that he could academically succeed in meeting his goals through guidance and a supportive environment; and this school failed my son, and so has failed me and my trust in them.

I received a letter of regret from school on Saturday May 28, 2011,  five days before his promotion, stating that my son will not be eligible to participate in the promotion ceremony, nor his promotion dance.  It was one of several letters that I received from them regarding my son.  Now, my son will not have the honor to walk through the procession along with his peers from the Graduating Class 2011, nor receive the blessings for a better future, by the Principle, and Vice Principle; though, he is being promoted on to high school. I will not get to see my son graduate, from middle school, as much as it would be an honor to see him proudly walk through the procession. Instead, graduation day will be filled with painful regret, and sadness for the close of one door, as he steps through the next.

Wrong doing is being done to many students, like my son, who have not done wrong, but are being punished for the failures bestowed upon them by not providing them with services and resources to help them overcome their struggles, achieve, and so succeed.

Solutions are needed to help our students who are having academic challenges in school, so that they can attain positive outcomes, and succeed in their own right; so that they have the opportunity to become positive and effective contributors in society.  Services should not only be available for those who have IEPs or 504s under Federal and State Laws and policies; but should be provided for all, and each individual student who display academic challenges for any extended period of time.

Now, I will ask… What kind of punishment is the omission from promotion ceremony for a child who is graduating from 8th grade Middle School, but is struggling in an academic undertow?  If it doesn’t have a positive solution or outcome for those students, then it is a useless punishment without a crime. It is an abusive approach from the administration to advertise to other students that their fellow students were not fit to participate. It is an extension of bullying, and it is meant to embarrass those students who did not make the grades, and remind them of their so called academic failures. It is WRONG! Educators need to focus on promoting students to be enthusiastic about learning, not turn them away from it and reject struggling students.  Refocused energy and attending to the need through responsive methods is the way to redirect students and redirect them down a path of clarity.

I say this… Present students with an educational environment that is positive, rewarding, and supportive; one that creatively fosters innovation and multi-faceted thinking; and you will meet with vibrant successful student outcomes.