I walked out of the meeting. I walked to my room. I gathered my things. I headed to my car. I held my head high. As I drove home, I turned onto the expressway and finally let go. Tears streamed down my face as I made the ugly noises of sobbing. I wasn't going to let them see it. I wasn't going to show that they'd broken me.
These were not the tears of sorrow nor hatred. No, these were different tears. The tears of frustration, exhaustion and futility. The tears of someone who sees the flaws, yet can't fix them. The tears that have been building slowly this whole week. In one deluge of emotion, I let it all out on my car ride home.
Oh, they were very complimentary. They told us that our school was wonderful. Our students were calm, polite and helpful. Our teachers were attentive. Our building was immaculate. But our test scores were down and they couldn't find anything wrong, so they told us what we already knew. We need more parental involvement. As I looked over my list of parents I've been trying to reach since sometime in the fall and pondered the children who haven't seen their parents in a decade or more, I agreed with this assessment. I fail to see how we can fix it easily, but I agree we need more parent involvement.
And then the words were spoken. "You just left too many students at the Apprentice level." It was here that I realized that it was only the test scores that mattered. If this was simply the problem, then we could have saved the hassle of the audit and just let them make a decision from our obviously horrid test scores, which have only gone down once, the time it landed us in an audit. But the problem is the language used. We "left" them there. I didn't leave these children there. My coworkers did not leave these children there. We brought them as far as we could in the little time we have with the little support we get. Watching a student go from never having read a book to finish his first novel is a success. However, he's an apprentice after the test, so it's a failure. Nevermind that when he came in he was drawing freaking pictures for ORQ answers. Nevermind that he was completely off the scale when he entered our classrooms, let alone ranking a Novice or Apprentice. No, we left him there by working hard with him and raising his spirits to allow him to believe he would graduate from high school. This is a failure.
We heard what we already knew. Despite all the preparations, data and cooperation, it wasn't enough. I'm struggling to find out how we could have worked any harder. I'm worried about our kids. For many of them, the teachers in the building are the only stability they have. The idea of losing us has sent most of them into a tailspin. Our kids don't deserve this.