Saturday, June 10, 2006

Leave No Child Behind (part 1)

One week to go. Two major sources of wrath on behalf of my students:

Source of wrath #1:

One of my students, fondly known to me as Kid X, is still unclear on whether he is going to graduate from the eighth grade. Or what graduation means. Or what the meaning of 'is' is.

This kid has been the bane of my existence for two years. The family is from El Salvador, and there are Complications with them that I cannot fully sort out. The kid has ADHD, interrupted schooling, and a total lack of ability to grasp complex concepts. Also low impulse control. Also, he is a reflexive liar. Also, just total failure to get what the heck is going on at school. He cannot tell time. His math is at a second grade level. My principal, however, thinks he is bright as a new penny, and that I am an idiot, so getting him help has been, er, tricky. Other teachers of his have tried to help too. No dice.

Anyway, he's always been an enormous behavior problem, but as the end of the year has approached, it has gotten worse and worse. Talking out, talking back, sitting playing instead of trying to do the work, obscenities in Spanish and English. Everything is an argument. He never listens to directions, I don't think he can.

Finally, a week or two ago I demanded to know exactly what was going on with his potty-mouthed, sassing-me self. He averted his eyes, mumbled, and chewed on a book first, but finally explained to me that he was worried about passing eighth grade and going to high school.

Now, at this school, no one gets kept back. Our principal hates retentions. They're passing everyone on this year, including another student of mine who, at the age of eleven, cannot get past L when writing the alphabet. So Kid X is going on to the ninth grade. Even if the principal were more relaxed on retention, he's turning fifteen this month. They won't keep him in middle school. No matter what.

But there are requirements for graduating 'on stage', with pomp and circumstance. Students must do community service, and an eighth grade project. And they must end the eighth grade with at least a certain, not very high, GPA. Kid X's is way below that. Cannot be made up at this point.

So I say, as gently as I can, that he's passed all of the other requirements to walk on stage, but that the grades will be a big issue. He explains that he's trying to bring his grades up, and that he spoke to the vice principal, and the VP told him to bring up all his grades, because he 'only needs one'.

I asked what that meant, and he seized a piece of paper, and began to show me. Let's say that Kid X has a 0.X GPA. He needs a 1.X to graduate, so he just needs to "add one". That's the 1 before the decimal point, you see.

Yeah. The kid's ready for high school all right.

Ahhhh, crud.

So I asked our counselor to talk to him, and she did. And when the official list of 'nonpromotes' came out, the principal met with them all to explain their status. I figured we'd be OK enough.

Yesterday, I am telling all the eighth graders their sponsor teachers for the last day of school. (They gather in groups and get taught to march for graduation and the like.) I tell Kid X he will be in the group that meets with Ms. S in the library. (This is our special ed coordinator. She's taking care of the nonpromotes next week--yet another thankless task, but whatever.)

"Who's Ms. S?" he asks. "I want to be with Mrs. F."

"Everyone has a group they've been assigned to," I say. "Ms. S. is a teacher in the Academic Center. She's nice."

"She's the teacher for the mentals!" screams Achmed, next to Kid X.

Thank you, Achmed.

"I think I'm going to be with Mrs. F," says Kid X. "I'm going to go and ask her now."

"Not now," I say.

"Am I going to graduate?" he asks.

Ah, crud.

"Didn't you talk to Mrs. Principal about that?" I ask.

He kind of shrugs.

"I think you need to talk to her about this," I say.

"You find out," he says, imperiously, "and tell me on Monday."

If Ms. S is the 'teacher for the mentals', I suspect I will soon be joining her class roster.

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