DRPF Consults November 2007 newsletter interviewed Naomi a ninth grade student at a school in eastern Pennsylvania. She shared her feelings about being a freshman and what motivates her to excel in school.
Recently we caught up with Naomi and asked about life as a sophomore. Naomi requested that we share the following thoughts with readers.
My school has been put under the “warning” status by the government. To try and fix this, my school sends students to our sister school- which is known for it’s violence and academic failure- in the hopes that our statuses will equal out.
Our funding has been cut. We have no dances/incentives/pep rallies and every day- in every classroom – there is a sign with “76 67” on it. [our reading and math scores on the PSSA] We have frequent assemblies about how we need to work harder. The assemblies are for everyone- both honors kids, academic kids and applied kids.
Students in my school are getting frustrated. Honors kids are wondering why they’re working so hard- only to be grouped in with kids without a care about school. Applied kids are sitting back and relaxing because the school hasn’t got the backbone to take advantage of our tutoring program and force failing students to use it.
Frustrated students resist school testing.
High schools experience many of the same issues. Take Naomi’s problem. The school is consumed by standardized testing. And you know what? They are not alone. Millions of high schools across the country struggle with testing.
You may not know it but students like Naomi are in your school.
Naomi is unable to express her concern or share her worries. Now she can talk to the High School Mediator. No fear involved and solutions to her situation.
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High School Mediator Response
High School Mediator understands how you feel and why you are frustrated. Testing situations are stressful. Testing that is mandatory and determines school funding creates anxiety on campus.
Suggestions for you and your school to cope with the harsh realities of standardized testing.
Know the rules.
Learn the facts. Read about No Child Left Behind, state testing, performance ratings…anything you can get your hands on! Understand the rules and guidelines, local concerns, etc. Be open minded and open ended in your search. Simple and most important outcome – to increase your knowledge and expand your understanding.
Understanding the actions of others.
Talk. And then talk more. Find the position of others.
- Spend a few hours on the Internet. Surf key concepts.
- Informally survey different members of the school community.
- Ask about past experiences with school testing.
- Talk to other schools.
Be transparent. Share facts.
Get permission to share a report of your findings. A report that is factual, not bias or opinion based. Present at a board meeting, in the school newspaper, at an assembly. Give community members information to make thoughtful decisions. Understand different expectations, roles, responsibilities at the school and district level.
Discuss and debate point of views.
Where do you go to discuss problems in your school? If you cannot answer this question, then it is time for your school to establish a way to communicate issues. Talk to administration. See if representatives can meet with the principal. Get class officers involved. Figure ways for the school to take part in the process.
Forums to problem solve solutions.
Work with school staff to develop time and place for constructive learning. Make it relevant to class. After all, it is school. Perhaps a debate on state school resources in an Econ class. Or analysis of performance scores in math class. Create projects that will get different groups involved with an outcome and purpose. Not just a place to complain.
Ways to coexist and support each other.
Review discussions, debates, projects, key learning. Organize results. Select critical findings. Create committee with representatives from all parts of the school community.
Share ideas. Transparency, again.
Share top five findings with entire school community. Write an article for the school newspaper, post on school website, mention at assemblies. Can you think of other ideas?
Try one or two solutions.
Decide one or two findings to work on during the school year. The concern about the high and under performing students will surface again but now with more understanding and willingness to work with each other.
Spread the word.
Hear every voice. Keep the committee active. Monitor progress and address on going concerns. Always have a place for students to go if they have questions.
Many times it is the road we travel that determines the destination.