Reality Check: The Bill Will Come Due

One of my favorite books is To Kill A Mockingbird. In it, Atticus, one of its main characters,  says something in   that I believe sums up what happen at Dr. Lydia T. Wright School last week. The quote goes,  “Don’t fool yourselves—it’s all adding up and one of these days we’re going to pay the bill for it.”

 Last week we found out that only 8 out of 65 students were going to graduate at school 89. Upon further investigation we found out that number was 17. We immediately went into action to investigate how a class of 65 students could only graduate 17 children. What we found  was some of the most startling information we could have ever imagined. School 89 had suspended 35% of their 8th grade class.  Couple that with the fact that of the district not supplying  adequate work to keep those suspended children on track and you begin to see how this school failed our kids. 

Next, we found out that parents were only notified the day before that their children were not graduating. One parent  said she had been to school for all the parent teacher conferences and was told because her son wasn’t a behavior problem his grades “slipped through the cracks.” 

So  after push back from the community and parents the district reacted and what started off as 17 kids last Tuesday morning turned into 39 on Wednesday morning, but they didn’t stop there.  The district then allowed an additional 12 kids to spend Wednesday and Thursday doing added work to graduate on Friday. So, we ended up with 51 out of 65 children graduating. 

After reading all this I believe you probably had the same question I had; how does 8 become 51 in 3 days time? What are the consequences for our children when all year they have been subjected to high suspension rates, transportation issues, literacy issues and math issues? 

The 8th grade class at school 89 was really a microcosm for what I believe our school district has been doing for years now, PUSHING KIDS THROUGH rather than educating them. 

In the book  to Kill A Mockingbird the character Atticus discusses with Jem that for 400 years White men in the south have been getting away with mistreating African Americans and at some point, they will pay the price for that. How many years has this district been miseducating our children, when will the bill come due for them? See it’s easy for the district to want to celebrate that they got 51 kids to graduate,  and many in the community believe that we won.  But the sad reality is  we are not asking the tough questions. Are those children ready to be 9th graders? We didn’t ask for them to be pushed through, we asked them to be allowed to participate in the moving up ceremony and then to go to summer school to complete their remaining work. Now we have 51 kids who are going to be freshman this year who more than  likely will not be prepared because their 8th grade education failed them miserably. 

What happens when 80% of the teachers don’t live in your district? They don’t see the kids as their kids and pushing them through doesn’t have the same effect on them because they don’t have to deal with them living in their communities.  When will we realize that those children who constantly are pushed through are the same children who may end up in prison or worse? The danger of graduating without the tools needed to be productive members of society is something this community has dealt with for years.  At some point, we must realize that unprepared children become unprepared adults and the community is forced to deal with the issues that it presents.

Our children deserve better. They deserve a sound basic education and not to be put in positions  where their exchange for 13 years of education is a jail cell or a minimum wage job or worse. At some point we must realize like Atticus said –  we are fooling ourselves and when that bill comes due because make no mistake it will come due, the ones left picking up the check will be US.