Solutions, not excuses

In our time of No Child Left Behind and other accountability initiatives it is becoming increasingly common that school officials are attempting to find excuses for poor results. As I have been attending Board of Education meetings dealing with CMT and CAPT results, the two tests Connecticut uses to measure success, or with drop out rates within our school system there are constantly questions that attempt to explain away our poor performance.

Some board members seem more concerned about how many non-English speaking students we have compared to other districts than they do with whether or not we are improving as a district. They seem more concerned that changes to how the state calculates dropouts will make our district look worse on paper rather than deal with creating programs to help reduce those actual rates. This is a waste of effort and time.

While I can sympathize with those looking for justification, we need to move beyond excuses. Yes, we have a large population of students for whom English is a second language. Yes, we have a large number of students who come from economically disadvantaged households, and yes, we have a large number of students who do not have a home environment that helps secure their success. These are things every informed citizen already understands. We can accept these realities and work on solutions.

What programs can we put in place to involve more families in their child’s education and in the school community? How can we move beyond the language barrier and ensure that all students can graduate from high school with the skills needed to succeed in college or in life? What changes to our school district will help create a stronger sense of community involvement, where our schools are not just buildings of learning, but cornerstones within the neighborhood that students take pride in? These are the issues that the Board of Education should be addressing.

As long as we continue to define ourselves by our deficiencies we will never be able to move beyond them. We can not ignore the reality of our situation, but we can refuse to let it define us. We can create a school system where students, all students, succeed in spite of our challenges.