Monday, June 28, 2010

Frowny face, or, turnarounds by the numbers

Today in my special education class we talked about particular needs of high school students with disabilities, and we looked at some numbers for students in high schools that we will be working in.

The numbers were pretty disheartening. At the school where I will be tutoring this summer (and where I have a 50-50 chance of being placed for the school year), the reported truancy rate is 53%. The mobility rate, which measures how often students move in and out of the district, is almost 40%. It's pretty hard to teach students when you don't know who is going to show up from one day to the next, or from one year to the next. In addition to that, more than 75% of students entering 9th grade at this school are reading at 6th grade level or lower. Only a handful are reading at grade level. About 15% are reading at 2nd grade or lower (including not at all).

So I was wrong to worry about seeing 150 students a day. On a really good day, I may see 90 or 100 of them.

Our job is to close the achievement gap, and at this school, that means preparing these kids to take the ACT. So these are pretty scary numbers. It's not that I wasn't aware of these problems before--far from it--but somehow they seem much more stark to me today. As our teacher said, "often you have a year or less to do as much as you can for these students" before they change schools or leave school altogether.

Our teacher had passed out "response cards" with a variety of responses (multiple choice, true false), including a smiley face and a frowny face. When she asked us how we felt after this review of the numbers, there was a clear majority of frowny faces. But one woman in my class showed her happy face. She said that she feels inspired to help these students and that she has hope and a drive for them to improve. And she's right--the numbers should not depress me, even though they do. They also make me feel the intense urgency of these students' need. So thanks, friend, for reminding me to hope and know that we can do better--that's why I'm here.

ADDENDUM: I learned today that the 53% truancy rate is actually a reduction from more than 60%, one year after getting turned around. Who knew that 53% would be an encouraging number?

1 comment:

  1. melissa - i figured someone ought to post a comment (and prove that they're reading your blog!). These are imposing numbers and a daunting task. I agree with smiley face (though that may be because I'm 48 hours away from vacation) that you certainly won't get a better opportunity to help students in need of good guidance. One good teacher inspiring even one kid for a year can make a lot of difference.