Not long ago, I met with a group of leaders from an alternative high school. They had the academic and social challenges one would expect from an alternative high school. They were looking for solutions to moving students academically when the students bring with them numerous personal challenges. My thought in situations like this one is always, “They are showing up! In spite of everything else they face, these children, young adults, show up.” Okay, so maybe they don't show up every day, but they show up enough to indicate to us, the educators, the experts, that they have a desire to learn.
“They are showing up! In spite of everything else they face, these children, young adults, show up.”
The school as an organism was stuck. Stuck in a mindset that fostered inertia. Stuck in a mindset that said, "These kids can't learn, and if they can, we aren't set up to teach them."
Inertia is crippling. These kids can learn. All children can learn. The tools to teach them not only exist, but are readily available.
It is us, the educators, that have to change mindsets. We have to recognize what the children are bringing to the table. We have to acknowledge the amount of grit and determination it takes to not only survive, but thrive, in their life situations. If we are to help these fragile learners achieve college and career readiness, we must rethink our organizations from the ground up.
If we are to help these fragile learners achieve college and career readiness, we must rethink our organizations from the ground up.
By the time learners reach the high school, particularly in neighborhoods, schools, and districts where persistent failure has become the norm, their gaps may be astronomical. Many students in high schools like this one read at a Lexile that demonstrates the proficiency of a third grader. We must set up our secondary schools, especially in alternative settings, like clinics. We must perform academic triage on these students as they walk through the door. We must establish specific treatment protocols not only to manage, but to cure the symptoms with which they present: dysfluency, innumeracy, impaired lexicons, and others. These children are curriculum casualties.
If our students suffer from academic ills, we should treat the illness.
Unfortunately, many, if not most, schools still operate on the factory model. The factory school’s inertia is often supported by a corporate office (the central office) where life for the central planners is simplified through the enforcement of a single operational model in each of its factory schools. Changing a factory into a clinic to meet the needs of chronically ill curriculum casualties upsets the status quo.
If we are educators, shouldn't we be educating? If our students suffer from academic ills, we should treat the illness. What are we waiting for?