In response to the post, “A Reader Asks… Race,” a reader writes:
“When I took over my last academically unacceptable high school, I was greeted by a number of helpful adults. They all wanted to explain to me that the African American kids in deep East Texas were simply different and unlike any African American kids anywhere else. The adults continued, stating they tracked the progress of the African American students and knew well in advance that due to “those” students the school would inevitably become unacceptable. No one could have stopped it.
This was the culture of the school and it was widely accepted. The effect on the climate was devastating. The only people willing to change the culture in the school were me and the two AP’s I hired (all of us outsiders). Even the school board, that included African American members, believed and agreed that nothing could reasonably be done to correct the situation. We proceeded none-the-less.
“Those” African American kids did just fine. In fact, they did so fine the school went from unacceptable to recognized. Did I mention I am white? No, because it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I care deeply for all of my students. Student performance is not a “real” race issue. It is the issue of getting adults to do what is right for kids. That is, it is a culture issue.”
Here’s what I do know from my work with 100’s of schools.
1. Kids are kids are kids, no matter where they live.
2. Kids do an excellent job of meeting adult expectations. No matter how low or how lofty are those expectations.
3. The critical variables are the adults.
If your kids aren’t performing, you have to look in the mirror. If you want proof, I’ll give you four quick examples.
1 & 2: Both Aldine ISD and Brownsville ISD have recently won the Broad Prize, for being the best urban school district in the country. At the same time that those districts won the prize, they both shared a boarder with some of the weakest school districts in the country.
3. Hairgrove Elementary, in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, is the second poorest out of 50 elementary schools in the district. Yet their benchmarks scores are consistently in the district’s top 10.
4. Houston Elementary, in Grand Prairie ISD, is one of the poorest of over 20 elementary schools in the district. On their latest district math benchmark test, their third grade scores were first in the district and fourth grade scores were second in the district.
It’s not the kids, it’s the adults.
Think. Work. Achieve.