(NOTE: As the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals continue to accelerate, more and more US schools will be categorized by the pejorative brand: “Program Improvement School”. NCLB’s kiss of death. By 2014 as many as 90% of America’s schools could be categorized as underperforming “Program Improvement” schools. Perhaps it provides a handy label for politicians to rail on public education in general… but inside our schools, where we know our children’s names and faces, it is a different story.
This is the THIRD POST IN A SERIES as Mueller Charter School awaits its test results from the 2007-08 school year. Look for the SERIES every Monday as we get our results, assess the trends, and make strategic adjustments for the coming year.)
Any day now the results will be in.
This is the time of year when California pushes out thousands of boxes filled with green and white test summary pages that serve as verdict on a year’s worth of instruction, effort, and innovation. A year’s worth of hopes and dreams even when we know good pedagogy cannot thrive on hope. A year’s worth of teacher meetings, parent conferences, home visits, student counseling, late afternoon training, pre-sunrise prep sessions. A year’s worth of pouring through data, looking for trends, making adjustments, researching best practices, assessing our kids again. And again. A year’s worth of cheerleading, motivating, cajoling, pushing, driving, rebuking, challenging, modeling, observing, coaching, collaborating, whispering.
When UPS pulls up we will all race to the window with our hands on the glass. Like Christmas. “They are here!”
The boxes will roll up ominously—if not unceremoniously—on industrial strength cargo carts. We’ll pry their lids open and take the grade level summaries right off the top. And in a matter of moments… the verdict will be in. We know where to look. We know how to crunch the numbers. We’ve been here before. Too many times.
At Mueller Charter School our mission is to get 90% of our students to grade level. To do so requires that we overcome poverty, overcome California’s insistence on testing children in a foreign language (English), overcome family crises, overcome a community’s near collapse from escalating fuel costs and home foreclosures, overcome public policy trends that are indifferent to students’ health care needs, and overcome industry expectations that are based on a conviction that we can’t overcome any of these things.
We already know that our English language learners are at risk. Our charter is at risk too as we come perilously close to the “Program Improvement” tattoo. We won’t likely discover that 90% of our students tested at the Proficient level on the California Standards Test this past year. So we will have to regroup and find a different path. Like every year.
The students don’t report to their first day of school until Monday but already we are exhausted as we anticipate the possible outcomes on a test now three months old and an academic year whose destiny we can no longer influence.