When All Means Some

The symptoms of students who are struggling at school are no secret.

Poor attendance.

Failing grades.

Behavioral issues.

If you want to know more, read: Middle School Moment | Dropout Nation and watch the video.

As with most medical issues, the symptoms of struggling students are easy to identify. The challenge is diagnosing the root cause and then doing something about it. What causes a student to miss school? Why are they failing mathematics? What is with the sudden outbursts and meltdowns in class? Experienced educators know that there are a plethora of possible causes for each one of these questions. Digging deep requires time, energy, and effort. Over time, it is emotionally draining, but that is what is required if we truly believe that all students deserve the opportunity for a quality education.

I am so incredibly fortunate to work with a staff that understands how to “dig deep.” We are far from perfect, but my teachers understand the critical role that positive relationships play in supporting students who are at risk of being unsuccessful at school. They pour into our kids, advocate, and battle every day to keep students encouraged, engaged, and on the right track. To say this is a challenge is a gross understatement. High academic expectations are a part of this process, but the real work lies in identifying root causes (different for every student) and then creating a plan to support the whole child. Even with this effort, kids fall through the proverbial cracks. Some while they are at our school, many when they move on to high school. This can be soul crushing.

It is unfortunate, but I see (and hear) far too many “educational experts” who are either appallingly misinformed, or willfully callous about the realities of providing an equitable education for all students. There appears to be a lack of understanding of what it means to educate “the whole child” and what this requires in resources and human capital. It is an issue of equity — leveling the playing field between those who have, and those who have not. I suspect that many who don’t “get it” have spent very little time in schools — and certainly not in those that are committed to serving all students.

The challenges of addressing the needs of every student occur in all schools who are tasked with serving all kids who come through their doors, but it is an especially prevalent issue in communities of poverty. If we truly believe in the potential and infinite value of every child, then resources, access, and opportunity should not be determined by zip codes.

Intentional, or unintentional, it certainly seems to me that in the eyes of many, a quality education for all really means a quality education for some.

We still have work to do.

Postscript: I encourage you to watch the Frontline episode The Middle School Moment to see the amount of time, effort, and care that is required to ensure students stay on track for a positive future. As you watch, ask yourself, are all schools equipped with the resources and human capital to provide this level of care for kids.