Guest Writer: Katie Krisker
In the recent weeks, America has been shocked and appalled by the Washington, D.C. school scandal.
For years, D.C. has been known as the “miracle” district after reforms made by Michelle Ree, Kaya Henderson and Antwan Wilson transformed a low performing, poverty-level neighbood school into one of the fastest improving schools in the United States.
In October of 2015, the D.C. public school district made a statement headlining: “D.C. public schools continues momentum as the fastest improving urban school district in the country.”
The program uses test scores to evaluate students, schools, and educators.
Politicians and school authorities in D.C. and across America used the district and their reforms as a national standard.
However, late last year, a press report by NPR and WAMU revealed that educators and administrators, pressured by school officials to improve student performance and graduation rates, allowed many students to graduate without meeting the requirements for grades, testing or attendance.
Teachers and students alike came forward to expose the tragic truth of the troubled school district.
“I’ve never seen kids in the 12th grade that couldn’t read and write,” one teacher stated in an interview after witnessing several such students graduate in May of 2017.
After the uproar resulting from the initial NPR exposé, a city study was conducted and found that more than 900 of 2,758 students who graduated from a D.C. public school last year either missed more than 30 days of school or took makeup classes that did not meet standards.
In the wake of the scandal, many parents and educators are forced to question the honesty and academic standards of their own schools.
Anderson Community High School has a graduation rate of 94.8 percent, which is well above the state average, but that does not mean that all of those students passed the state tests they’re supposed to pass in order to earn their diploma. Of those students who graduated, 22.4 percent did so with a waiver.
Indiana schools allow waivers to be given to some students who fail end-of-course assessments, which students must theoretically pass to graduate.
Students who receive waivers can still earn their diplomas even without receiving a passing grade on year-end exams in math and English before they finish school.
Last school year, 80.8 percent of students at Anderson Community High School did not pass the 10th grade ISTEP test, which is supposed to be an indicator and stipulation for graduation. Ultimately, these numbers are meant to keep schools accountable for the education of the next generation of Americans.
So, the question must be asked: in what ways are we failing the youth in our schools today and what can we do to change it?
Obviously, there is no easy solution to the problems that face American school systems today, but small movements specific to each community can have a tremendous impact on students in a community.
Government policies will reform education, but how could they personalize it to meet the needs of the individual student? True change in schools is only possible when a community invests in its own school, students and teachers.
Tutoring and mentoring programs are one essential way to boost student performance because they are outside of the schools.
If a student is given models of achievement and the tools needed to succeed from fellow community members, they are more likely to have the confidence to take responsibility for their own education.
As students at AU, we are temporary members of the Anderson community. Each of us should find ways to be involved in the Anderson community to do the work that school reform cannot.
Katie is a junior English education major from Indianapolis, Indiana.