Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Diversity Conundrum...

It is no secret that our "gifted and talented"/advanced classes tend to be filled with white and Asian students, in both my county and in school districts across the country. Parents who know anything about our district in particular fight to get their children into the advanced classes, knowing that the quality of education and lack of behavioral disruptions in those classes far outweigh those in "grade-level" classes. How do we, then, better prepare and motivate our African American and Hispanic students for advanced classes?

Many high schools in our district have implemented an open AP class policy, which allows all Advanced Placement college-level classes to be taken by any student interested. There is not even an entrance exam or GPA/grade requirement to get into the course, as I had to cope with in high school. At my middle school, we continually try to push all capable, motivated, and potential-filled minority students into our advanced classes. Sometimes, this move is positive, and in other instances, the student needs additional encouragement and supports to thrive in the higher level class. In my opinion, EVERY child deserves access to high level classes and should be afforded the opportunity to take them, providing they have the internal motivation and external supports to be successful.

An editorial was recently published in The Washington Post that talks about a local high school's attempts to better recruit and retain minority students in their science and technology program. Over recent years, they have been more successful with their efforts. This model should be read and modeled by schools across the country. After all, we want to provide full opportunity for ALL students to access rigorous and advanced curriculums, regardless of the color of their skin or cultural background.

A Diversity Deficit

Friday, November 12, 2010; A18 

REVELATIONS ABOUT the dwindling number of African American and Hispanic students at Fairfax County's acclaimed Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology have sparked debate about achievement vs. diversity. It is a false choice. Surely a school system that is seen as among the nation's best should be capable of readying - and recruiting - a broader spectrum of its students for the rigorous academic demands of the selective school.

The lack of diversity at TJ, as the school is known, is not a new issue. The county school board created a blue ribbon committee in 2004 to come up with a plan for diversification. But, alarmingly, the number of African American and Hispanic students admitted to the school has declined since then - from 5.54 percent during the 2005-06 school year to 3.5 percent in 2009-10. This year's incoming class, The Post's Kevin Sieff reported, has just four African Americans and 13 Hispanics of the 480 students admitted. The numbers are all the more disappointing since the school is able to draw students from most of Northern Virginia, an area with richly varied demographics. African Americans and Hispanics comprise a third of the enrollment of the systems TJ draws from.

The difficulties confronting Fairfax are not unique, but its record, compared with that of other selective high schools, is inferior. To their credit, Fairfax officials aren't making excuses. "We need to do a better job of evening the playing field," Fairfax deputy superintendent Richard Moniuszko told The Post. That doesn't mean - as some critics of diversity would claim - watering down the standards. High standards and a more inclusive student population are not incompatible.

Certainly, officials should examine the admissions process to see whether there are subjective criteria that work against minority students without enhancing the quality of the student body. But we suspect officials are right that the problem is not with how admissions are conducted but with how much attention is paid to seeking out talent and preparing students at a much earlier stage. That's why it is important that officials are looking to make its honor systems more accessible and exposing students to Algebra I at an earlier age.

Also to be applauded is the formation of the Diversity and Engagement Curriculum Team to build interest in TJ at middle schools that have been traditionally overlooked. Such a team can play a big role in putting TJ on the radar screen of children and families who otherwise might not even consider the school as an option. Challenging students to raise their expectations and helping prepare them to fulfill their higher ambitions is what first-rate school systems are supposed to do.

Full article available at:

1 comment:

  1. Actually, TJ has not been successful in recent years. Enrollment of black and latino students has fallen. (Depending on your definition of "diversity," one might claim it's actually better, since the school now has a majority of Asian students.)

    The diversity committee continues to work to look for solutions, but actual results are still being waited on.