Pursuing Quality

I heard yesterday that 75% of the freshman class at the local high school failed the Math TAKS test. At this stage it doesn’t mean they have to repeat the grade, but it’s still pretty serious. Throughout the district the highest passing percentage was in third grade – still with a large percentage of failures. What are parents in a school district like this to do?

Some are moving. Our district is racially and ethnically mixed, probably 20% African American, 30-40% Hispanic, the rest anglo. We have a couple of smaller districts nearby – out in the country – that some parents are trying to move their kids to. From from the area may be moving as White Flight. Others are just looking for a higher performing district for their kids. We only have one shot at our kid’s educations, so I understand wanting to offer them the best. If TAKS performance keeps up this way, the state laws will kick in and offer kids transfer to other schools (assuming those schools will actually take them). **

I’m uneasy with the transfer idea.
1. What about the kids that are left behind? I want my kids in a safe and effective learning environment. But as a Christian I’m not just responsible for my own kids – God calls us to be a blessing to other people around us. If professional educators are right about the importance of parental involvement – and commentators like Bill Cosby are right about parental culture – then what happens to a school when the active, involved parents all transfer out? Will others in the community step and take responsibility for the kids who are left?
2. I’m also sensitive because of the close analogy to my professional situation. The church I pastor is struggling. We are on the edge financially. We have a good ways to go to activating all our members for ministry, and involved in some form of accountable discipleship. Our ministries with Children & Youth are growing, but the growing edge is with children from outside the church, many from lower income households. Some of the parents are in and out of jail. I can see how it would be easy for some families to reason, “This church just isn’t where I want it to be for my family. So we’ll move over to one of the larger churches that has it more together.” I don’t want them to do that. We’ve made progress in the past few years – and whether we continue to progress depends on sticking with it over the long haul. I can’t help but think this may be true about the school district also.

To what degree can we stay within the needy educational/church system? Part of my calling is to take something that is not what it could/should be and make it more. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I had to pastor a perfect church. So I will continue to work to make the church what God wants it to be – and to improve the schools.

** I like the idea of transfer and multiple options in education. Unfortunately, I don’t know how it will work well in small towns and rural areas.

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