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The Audacity of High Expectations

The Colorado State Board of Education is considering the approval of a state framework that would make it acceptable for a student to move up a level toward meeting grade level expectations over a two year period, meaning that it would be acceptable for schools across Colorado to graduate students who are nowhere near ready for life after high school. We will have high school graduates who will not be ready to follow their dreams, students who we have failed, who we have allowed to pass through from grade level to level only to be told they are unqualified, and unready for the challenges of college and career.

The proposed changes to the state framework, which is a tool that provides information about academic progress made by schools and districts year to year, would tell communities that schools were “Performance”-- the highest rating a school can receive-- even when student achievement is amongst the lowest in the state. Year after year, that will allow students to fall between the cracks without any insight into the struggling system that has failed that student. Parents will be led to believe that there is something “wrong” with their child rather than seeing that it is a challenge facing every family in their community. It would mean that it would be acceptable for students entering 6th grade to read at a 2nd grade level. It would mean that a student preparing to enter high school algebra classes would need support practicing long division and one step word problems.

Our children deserve better.

Families deserve to know more.

Our students are capable of amazing things, but we need to build systems to support them in their educational journey. That starts with the collective belief that they CAN achieve. Too often we let deficit mindsets and racists beliefs be prescribed to what is possible for students, especially students from marginalized communities. Regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code or how much money their families earn students can achieve anything that they set their mindsets. At TEN we KNOW that they can do it because as former teachers we have seen students rise to the occasion and do accomplish amazing things. As organizers, we know the families that support those students and with the love and support of their families our students are in good hands. It is our responsibility as education professionals to provide the same level of support, love and belief in every child so that they have the opportunity to rise to achieve their dreams.

Setting high expectations isn't “fetting over tests” it's not placing the bar at an unrealistic level, nor is it evaluating the worth of a child. High expectations are a demonstration of our values, do we believe that every child is worth educating? Do we believe that students, regardless of race is capable of amazing things? Do we believe in the ability of our teachers to instill a love of learning paired with a strong skill set grounded in real world application?

If we do then it is time to demonstrate that, because as Dr. Ron Edmonds said “We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do this. Whether we do it or not must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we have not done it so far.”

It is time to show what we really value, and it begins with setting a high expectations, because when we do, our kids will shine.


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