Badger Rock Charter: Where's the common sense?

Student portrait of Stephen PerezStudent portrait of Stephen PerezThe news is in -- our students can't read, figuratively speaking. In the October round of reading assessment, 37 out of 47 Badger Rock Middle School students tested scored below the MMSD mean score of 219. A score of 219 puts the student in the 68th percentile, nationally. 

Having a mean score above the 50th percentile is considered to be positive. Scoring a 219 puts the student in the range of predictable scores for a 6th grade student. Those students are on track and right where they should be.

My students at the Badger Rock charter school, however, are not on track. Only 10 Badger Rock student scored 219 or above. There are more students reading at or below the 10th percentile (13) than students reading above the 10th percentile, the district mean. Our school's performance is extremely worrisome, but not surprising.

Considering the language proficiency of many of our language learners and the number of students that are identified as special education, the staff expected below district average performance, and now after having seen the data, the challenge is clearer.

Because Badger Rock is small, has more flexible scheduling than other middle schools, has teachers that know how to interpret and apply data, and leadership that trusts teachers, we drafted an intervention plan in hours--not days, weeks or months. It would start the next day. Our students were tested on Thursday, we had a data meeting on Monday, and interventions began on Tuesday. Not bad.

From what I know about other schools, teachers are still arguing over the validity of the data, much less thinking about ways to help the kids. Our students are struggling readers. Let's help them learn to read, immediately.

This is the common sense thing to do. Yet, there have been many times in my teaching career that common sense is ignored. When you attempt to educate all kids, as we do in American public education, there are going to be performance differences. Some kids will struggle. Common sense would dictate that teachers should serve those kids more. Confusingly, that does not always happen.

Why? Sometimes it's the administration that puts up a roadblock -- we can't start a program because there is no money. Other times, it has been the contract that stands as an obstacle to intervention - you (the teacher) can't start an after school program because we (the rest of the staff) are contracted only to teach until 3:30.

The worst is when you hear declarations like, "Those kids get enough already, why do they get more?" And this is from an educator?

Because of our intervention, our struggling readers are getting 40 more minutes of explicit reading instruction three times per week. The students that are "well below" grade level in math are in similar interventions, as
well. While I wish all schools could react with the efficiency and timeliness that we do, the sad reality is they cannot, or choose not to.

 Why blame the kids, when it is the adults that are the challenge? 

This is the second column from Badger Rock Middle School teacher Stephen Perez. Read his first contribution here.



It is unfortunate that Perez's allegations are untruthful, especially when it comes to the teacher contract.  As an educator, I would wish him to be intelligent enough to read his contract and seek clarity for what he may not understand, prior to writing an article of mis-information.

"Other times, it has been the contract that stands as an obstacle to intervention - you (the teacher) can't start an after school program because we (the rest of the staff) are contracted only to teach until 3:30." This is simply a false statement. How can this teacher not know that? 

Perez editorial

I am interested in finding solutions that are not only based on common sense, but also honestly identify the obstacles to finding solutions. We need to stop the "blame game" for why some children have greater educational needs. Let's invest in all children equitably and adequately from the beginning. Some charter schools have been successful, but there have many numerous charter schools that have used their weakened restrictions to discriminate against certain students, particularly ELL and special needs students. This has been gaining more attention from the others in the community,

We all know we can do better, so let's lift all children up, not just a few.