Facing La Frontera

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 01 2012

What We’ve Learned


the achievement gap cannot be closed in a day. the achievement gap cannot be closed in a week. the achievement gap cannot be closed in a year.


Unit 1 test results are in. And while my students dress and speak like their more affluent peers, I am again slapped in the face by facts that show how 5 years of crappy education can screw you up.

*Note – while the stories are true, the students name are ALWAYS changed for privacy*

Let’s talk about Jenny, who turned in a decent essay. It was obvious she spent a great deal of time on it. But BASIC words were misspelled – “sais” instead of “says”, “pined” instead of “pinned,” “befor” instead of “before.”

I called mom because those are basic ELL mistakes, and we just gotta nip that in the bud. She’s too smart to be held back by something that fixable. Turns out she entered K not speaking English. She was placed in bilingual classes…but then in 4th&5th grade, some of her classes were only Spanish. Mom was never informed until she called asking what was going on. Coming to our school in 6th grade was the first time she had a predominately English education! Those poor adult decisions were not Jenny’s fault, but she can’t be at the top of her class now, like I truly think she would be, because of them. But, she was sent home with a list of 10 words that she better know before the next essay….and which I have no doubt she will!


Danny, who NEVER does his reading homework. Like, EVER. He’s a smarty though, and easily completes it after school in ‘detention.” I pulled him out of class today to ask him WHY. He easily replied that he preferred to do long homework up here because he can’t concentrate at home. There’s nowhere to work. Solution: when we have long homework, he will stay up THAT DAY, instead of getting behind by not staying until the next day. He was excited about the solution! But why are parents signing off on homework he didn’t complete?


Josh, whose mom we had a parent conference last week. Whose mom assured us that homework would be completed today. Who I personally showed an example of what completed reading homework looks like. Today, he had completed 4 of the 20 weekend reading pages, but mom had signed that he completed homework. It makes no sense. (p.s. keep him in your prayers…we’re referring him to the counselor for potential self-harming thoughts.)


Delilah and Jeremy, who barely passed last 6 weeks and bombed our unit test. Another teacher said – I just don’t know how to catch them up. They’re low and they’ve stayed low since coming here. We’ve talked to parents, we’ve discussed plans, they just can’t catch up. What do you do?!?!?


It’s frustrating, and let’s be honest. I’m running out of steam. I don’t have TFA anymore sending me video links & having conversations that guilt/inspire me to bend over backwards to try the solution that might mabye kinda sorta push them in the general direction of more achievement. It’s a little sad, because it was that shoot for the stars attitude last year that led my student to her great scholarship award. I’m sure of it. The year before, she had not been a student that anyone thought twice about…she was actually a student on the trouble-radar! So, it’s true that crazy ditch efforts might make the difference for a few students. But you have to believe enough to put forth that effort.


The achievement gap will not be closed in a day. So far this year, honestly, while I think that I haven’t widened it, I don’t think I’ve done much to substantially close it either. I lost some of my mojo at this new school…I got a little distracted. It’s time to refocus and recommit, or just get out of the game altogether.


No Responses Yet

    Post a comment

    About this Blog

    you can always change the world around you

    Rio Grande Valley
    Middle School

    Subscribe to this blog (feed)